With his emotional lyrics and strong musicianship, Kevin Henry's debut album, East on Sunset, boldly announces that a significant new artist has begun what should be a long, fruitful career. Henry was the winner of the 2000 Los Angeles Music Award for Best Male Singer/Songwriter. His new CD is influenced by everyone from Billy Joel to Björk, and he punctuates his songs with diverse instrumentation by mixing acoustic guitars and stark pianos with trip-hop productions. East on Sunset was recorded at Smart Studios, which is owned by producer Butch Vig, and is where Garbage, Nirvana, and Smashing Pumpkins often recorded. The most appealing element of East on Sunset is that Henry's songs all deal with the themes of love and disappointment in a large city. The album's 12 songs function as the internal monologue of a man fluctuation between hope and fear. The CD begins with the upbeat "Space," which describes the struggle between optimism and pessimism that defines the CD: "You come in singing 'it's all right' when it's not right/'It's all good' when nothing good can come of this. I say ... give me a little space." Henry sings like a man hurt so many times that he wonders if hope is even healthy. On the second track, he observes, "Years pass by (and) I might recall this all so beautiful, like it never was," and concludes, "it is easier to go." Love on East on Sunset is overwhelming and yet still life's purpose. Far from a blunt diatribe, the album captures the anger of a suffering romantic and his regret the morning after. Henry rationalizes his profound pain by hoping for an eventual catharsis, but is too intelligent (or pained) to believe it. In "One of the Good Guys," he sings of the curse of better days: "life is no good without love/but life's never good enough for me." The goal may be healing, but life is colored by rejection too often to ignore., and though Henry yearns for companionship, he is acutely aware of love's uncertainty and is hesitant to be vulnerable. His lyrical style is profoundly confessional and emotional. It is clear that Kevin Henry has been steeped in the masters. "Easier to Go" is a classic ballad with a pinch of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, while "Torch"'s lyrics of resilience and self-abuse sound like a newly discovered Billy Joel song. Musically, Henry also explores a wide range of feelings. "Nothing Matters" has the frantic angst of Garbage's "Only Happy When It Rains" and the frustrated dynamics of Luscious Jackson's Naked Eye." "Space" has a haunting keyboard part that signifies loneliness, while a stuttered and looped rhythm gives it an upbeat sound. Henry is not afraid of his voice, and is even less afraid of having something to say. He shares with other balladeers, from Ben Folds to Elton John, and shares their pain and sense of humor. "Nothing really matters after you," he declares in "Nothing Matters." "I know I won't feel you anymore, when my heart is face down on the floor." Kevin Henry's debut album sounds like a musical diary where each song is a reminder from the pessimist on one shoulder to the optimist on the other, saying "don't forget how you felt the last time." Henry mines emotionally raw territory creating one of the most solid debuts of the year. (East on Sunset also includes the song "New Year" which was featured in an episode of NBC's Friends.) Recommended if you like Jackson Browne, Ben Folds, George Michael, Billy Joel, and Elton John.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by JT Griffith