Kevin Meisel

Coal and Diamonds

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Kevin Meisel is a lyricist of extraordinary gifts, painting his tales of small town tragedy with provocative imagery and fascinating character studies, although he can send the listener running for a dictionary ("barcarole," "tule"). Musically, he's on the folksy side of alt-country, with his picked acoustic guitar at the center of the arrangements, occasionally augmented with fiddle and mandolin (only two tracks have drums and bass). His smoky voice has a small range, but he wisely writes melodies that make the most of its expressiveness. When the words and music come together on the best cuts, there are some brilliant moments with inspiring choruses and chilling verses ("Red Moshannon," "Trainwreck at Cajon Pass," "Little Magnolia"). On the other hand there are a couple tuneless forays into Nebraska territory ("Tethered Angels") and the embarrassing half-in-Spanish "Seeds I've Sown." The high points are well worth listening to over and over, and anyone who has an interest in contemporary folk should make this a priority.

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