After taking a break from the burden of songwriting with 2003's Ten Thousand Mornings, Peter Mulvey returns in 2004 with Kitchen Radio, an album filled with new compositions. As with Eliza Gilkyson's recent release, Land of Milk and Honey, Mulvey has serious things on his mind but he's not about to spell them out in any obvious way. In "29 Cent Head," it's evident that all isn't well in the land of the free, home of the brave. But even while certain problems are stated -- all elections are the same, priests are perverts, and no one cares -- the song's setup and elliptical images are too artful to reveal its overall purpose ("...When you look behind the curtain to where the puppetmaster sat/There's just an empty chair/And the strings are lying flat"). Mulvey takes an equally oblique approach to songs about relationships. "Falling" seems to be about a guy meeting a girl who is able to break down his defenses, despite his demons that tell him to hold back. But the story is sketched so vaguely, it's really hard to tell who's doing what for whom. Depending on one's point of view, this method of writing is either more poetic than the typical protest and love song, or frustratingly obscure. Even the listener wishing for greater clarity will nonetheless appreciate the simple arrangements and clean production of Kitchen Radio, highlighted by acoustic and electric guitars and vacillating between tasteful folk and rock. Kitchen Radio is a well-wrought effort with a nicely honed sound that will please anyone who enjoys thoughtful songwriting.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.