Jamie Kent - All American Mutt
The third album from Jamie Kent, All American Mutt, signals a new peak in Kent’s short career thus far. He has hacked out quite a trail for himself since his 2009 debut with the release Neoteny and the latest studio platter amply illustrates his development as a performer and songwriter. Kent has distilled his passions and aims down to their purest essence and possesses an unique style that spans virtually the entirety of American music instead of confining himself to some narrow artistic corner of the genre. Rock, country, funk, blues, and folk exist side by side here in often various permutations. David Brainard, a respected Grammy nominated producer, mans the boards for Kent and helps stage these songs in the best possible sonic light. Only one song out of the ten is not written by Kent alone.
Such all encompassing efforts make for singular releases. “All American Mutt” is a bit of a cataloging song, but it chooses a varied target and basically turns this track in a sweeping melodic assessment of his own place in American life. Kent’s singing has a relaxed confidence you can discern from the first line and sometimes it seems like someone grinning from ear to ear, reveling a little in his own facility with the language and music. “Look Up” is the exact opposite as a composition. The opener never sounds cluttered, but this first ballad never risks cluttering for a single second of its duration. The song is able to breathe free and easy and it gives room for Kent’s voice to move around. His emotive skills are outstanding but never overdramatize the lyrical situation. He paints things with a broader brush on the unabashedly commercial “Last Call”, but it never gets painfully obvious. Following it with “Home Again” is a surprising move. The arrangement is pure yearning honkytonk that never lays possible affectations on too thick and emphasizes its melody.
Fiddle, banjo, and mandolin form an unlikely instrumental trio to get “Be Your Man” over with the listeners thanks to its colorful and quirky sonic charm. Listeners will be able to hear the genuine relish that Kent takes in singing this song. The folk-influenced singer/songwriter balladry of “Safe” can scarcely be better conceived. The precise and often quite lyrical acoustic guitar matches itself up nicely against Kent’s voice and the spaciousness of the musical arrangement gives it a nicely dramatic quality. “Red Rover”, however, is the album’s best ballad. It proceeds slowly and with great patient while vocalists Kent and Michaela Anne focus on their phrasing with such success that their aesthetic beauty of their voices is easily a secondary concern. There’s a last jolt for listeners buried deep in the track list with “Sheila”. Huey Lewis and his horn section from backing band The News team up with Kent to unleash their gleeful ode to a bad news heartbreaker. It isn’t anything older music fans haven’t heard before, but Kent and his partners on the song pull it off with great panache. There’s something for any listener on All American Mutt.