Stephen Kellogg

South, West, North, East

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Connecticut-based roots rock troubadour Stephen Kellogg delivers a sprawling, 20-song effort that branches out -- literally -- in multiple directions without ever losing its identity. South, West, North, East is just the second of Kellogg's solo releases since he put his longtime band the Sixers on hiatus, and over the course of its four distinct sections, he stretches out using four different co-producers, bands, and studios around the country. It's certainly an ambitious concept, but Kellogg's thoughtful take on Americana proves malleable enough to absorb his chosen geographies and bend them to his means. Beginning in the South and winding his journey clockwise around the country, he fades like the seasons from the country-rock twang of "High Horse" to the lonesome Western expansiveness of "Mother and Child" and onward through the regions. Representing the North, songs like "Greta Girl" and "Wolf" begin to take on more experimental rock and folk-leaning affectations, and by the time he returns to his home turf in the East, the music and its production are at their most vibrant, with colorful synths and anthemic pop choruses painting the landscapes of "Galaxy" and "Barricade." Essentially a collection of individual EPs, the sequence of the full set hangs together remarkably well thanks largely to Kellogg's steadfast songwriting, which may play around with various stylistic forms but doesn't stray too far from his warm Americana core. The album really does manage to resemble a journey, and by the time he delivers the poignant ballad "H-O-M-E" in the final section, the distance traveled feels palpable and rich with experience.

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