Kevin Welch

Life Down Here on Earth

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Kevin Welch is a card-carrying member of the Texas school of songwriting, and it is easy to reel off the names of some of his classmates: If you like Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, or any one of a dozen or so other literate singer/songwriters with a Southwest sensibility who have been in and out of Nashville since the 1960s, then you'll like Kevin Welch, too. Welch's obvious talents brought him a contract with Warner Bros., but despite the regard in which the school is held by aficionados, its members rarely sell records in numbers significant enough to interest a major label for long, and Life Down Here on Earth finds him on an artist-owned indie. Of course, that means he got to make the record he wanted to, and with four years between releases he had plenty of songs, not having to rely on covers as he did to an extent on 1991's Western Beat. Over familiar-sounding folk-rock and country-rock arrangements, he sings world-weary, older-but-wiser lyrics about life's travails, the doomed search for love, and the joys of kicking back now and then. The album's philosophy is contained in its opening and closing tracks. "Pushing Up Daisies" talks about how hard things can be, but concludes that "it's better than pushing up daisies," while the album's title song notes that, while your tombstone will have two dates, it's what happens in the dash in between that matters. Although Welch is worthy of comparison with the best in his field, he is also somewhat generic, which may explain why he isn't better known. His reedy voice is a ringer for T-Bone Burnett's, and his songs, while always craftsmanlike, would benefit from stronger performances. Maybe that's why he makes most of his money from song publishing.

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