Naked to the World

Pilgrim's Kiss

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Pilgrim's Kiss is a songwriter's record. Front man Kevin Fisher is not a powerhouse vocalist. His voice is simple, direct, and unpretentious. Though he occasionally employs a gravelly vocal affectation in a misguided attempt to enhance the emotional impact of his delivery, his primary -- and most effective -- strategy is to get out of the way and let his songs speak for themselves. And speak they do. Fisher's songs are equal parts craft and inspiration, setting sensitive and literate lyrics to memorably measured hooks. His lyrics are simple but elegant, direct but deep. Fisher's collegiate literary training has obviously not gone to waste. Its impact is subtle but evident in songs like "Weep Like a Willow," which describes a Prufrockian hero with gentle whimsy in a waltz time structure that draws lightly from medieval balladry. Fisher is supported by a first-rate folk ensemble that embellishes his songs with liberal doses of fiddle, viola, and mandolin. At 14 tracks and 55 minutes, Pilgrim's Kiss is a bit overlong and a few of the weaker tracks could easily be omitted. "Give Your Hand," "Fifty-Four Years," and "Breaking Up" are particularly dispensable; they are centered around overused lyrical premises (a man suffering through a former lover's wedding, the death of a longtime spouse, the breakup of a relationship) and Fisher has little to say about them that hasn't been said before. But the disappointments are a few and far between on Pilgrim's Kiss, and for every slight offering there are several gems.

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