Not all acoustic singer songwriters are created equal. Because there are so many in the music world today, we spend a lot of time sorting through the ordinary and the exceptional. I’m here to say that Wes Kirkpatrick is in that category of acoustic artists that can usher listeners into a comfortable place. More influenced by country than folk, Kirkpatrick gives us a welcome relaxing sound on his self-titled album out this year.
From the opener “Bridges” we get a sense of a heavily country influenced sound. The lyric, “on a mission to burn some bridges,” seems no less the witty country writing style which so loves to turn cliché phrases on their heads. It’s a nice start. Kirkpatrick turns things down a little for “Too Late,” a sort of sorrow-filled song that highlights a difficult conversation with an ex. It’s certainly no toe tapper, but it’s the kind of introspective writing that can highlight an artist’s maturity.
The full harmonic, “There Are Days,” fits in with the current trends in country music with groups like Lady Antebellum and the Band Perry. It also captures the common folk mentality prevalent in much of country music. “There are days I don’t want to call my bluff, fix my ways…” The construct leaves an intriguing half sentence that lingers, then fills in with a variety of fragments that finish the thought. It reminds me, in some ways, of something Tim McGraw might sing.
“So please don’t let me down because we are just starting out…” Sometimes in music you hear a line that, when written does not look particularly profound, but when sung really comes through. The entire song “Don’t Let Me Down” falls into that category. It seems so simple, but it’s really not. It’s about real murkiness in relationships. Anyone who has had a successful relationship and worked through any type of issues can relate to this song. After all, trust is the crux of it all. Please, don’t let me down…
“Sad Eyes,” with its minor chords and melodic turns makes a welcome change of pace in the album. Still heavily country, it approaches the genre through a different style. “You’re left lookin’ at those sad eyes lookin’ back. You remember all those bad, bad lies. You shouldn’t have. So come back up for the last breath if you can.” This is a story of reconciliation and renewal. Even though it is a sad song, it is ultimately about hope of redemption. It’s all wrapped in a soft but effective melody.
The guitar work on “Gamblin’ Man” is really good and it makes for a nice playful mood. It has a sort of island feel to it. It’s also a gambler’s narrative all too familiar to many people. “I’m gamblin’ man gonna play this hand, win or lose ace and jack it’s up to you.” It’s a storytelling song. The last song “Escape” talks about someone’s “last days” in a juxtaposed “up beat song with depressing lyrics” kind of way. It also features an organ that gives the track a completely unique character compared to the rest of the album.
All told the album is enjoyable for fans of country music. The variety of styles even within the broad “country” label is admirable. Kirkpatrick managed to address a number of human emotions and attitudes as well. It makes for a nice contribution to the world of independent country music.