Kevin Kinsella

I-Town Revival

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Given the fact that his regular band, John Brown's Body, is one of the most idiomatically perfect American reggae bands on the scene, it might come as some surprise that when he's recording on his own, bandleader Kevin Kinsella writes and sings in more of a folk-blues vein. He's no purist, thank heavens -- on songs like "Blues on Me" and the harmonica-driven "Healing in the Name," there's a distinct reggae influence in the guitar backbeats and loping, melodic basslines, and he knows how to get the most idiosyncratic studio drum sound this side of Adrian Sherwood. On "Nobody Owns Me," he combines roots rock organ, jungly drums, and a sweet, minor-key melody, and the result is exquisite -- like a cross between Robbie Robertson and Robbie Shakespeare. On "Palm Sunday," he slyly quotes from the traditional gospel song "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord" over a one-drop reggae beat. Not every song hits equally hard -- "Can't Win for Losing" keeps wanting to move into a regular beat and never does, while the Johnny Dowd tribute "Just Like a Dog" is maybe just a little bit hokey. But for the most part, this is an album that unfolds in layers and offers new delights with each track. Highly recommended.

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