Kevin Devine | Put Your Ghost to Rest (Capitol)

cd_devineDevine bares his political teeth on "The Burning City Sweet," opening with "Forty million refugees with no place on this earth to call home" before revealing America's secret weapon: "Atlas had those shoulders/ we've got Ambien and Jamison's and blow."

 

For me, the appeal of music is in the following order: voice, music, lyrics. Therefore, having someone like Kevin Devine in my list of favorites is something of an anomaly. With him, it's the lyrics, first and foremost, that you'll notice and respect. Oh sure, for a stripped-down singer-songwriter, he's pretty well versed on the acoustic guitar. And his backing band, especially live (when he introduces them as "the goddamn band"), can really rock it out or draw it down, depending.

What I'm trying to say is that Devine's reedy yet competent voice isn't usually what I'm drawn to. But the intelligence and thoughtfulness of his lyrics, combined with the simplicity of his delivery, deserves recognition.

cd_devine-picPut Your Ghost to Rest is Devine's major-label debut following a string of three self- and indie releases. Opener "Brooklyn Boy" sets the stage well, with Devine reflecting over a perfectly picked guitar, "Alone at last, to figure how you got this way." The backing instrumentation here is sparse but perfect, never overshadowing Devine's own contributions.

"Just Stay" is a quietly swirling yet powerful song that captures the art of creation: "The morning's hot and harsh, my notebook fills itself/the words come thick with sweat but it feels like someone else/is writing all of this, someone I just can't believe./When I mop my brow, set my pen back down/still me, still me." As the chorus joins in and the music swells, Devine tries desperately to reassure himself as well as his audience, "I'm OK, OK?"

The folk influence is a bit more predominant on "You'll Only End Up Joining Them." As usual, the story here is the focus, of evaluating the choices between life and death. "Less Than, More Today" pulls out the pedal steel and the melancholy country tinge before giving way to the more upbeat, near-singsong "Like Cursing Kids." "Go Haunt Someone Else" advises, "You're never a victim so own what you did, son/ make what you are." Devine bares his political teeth on "The Burning City Sweet," opening with "Forty million refugees with no place on this earth to call home" before revealing America's secret weapon: "Atlas had those shoulders/ we've got Ambien and Jamison's and blow."

Even with the stories and wordplay, the 12 songs here begin to seem a little long before the album's through. Capitol Records seems a strange home for such a political, passionate singer-songwriter such as Devine, but if they can bring him a larger audience, it could work. In any regard, the greater availability of Put Your Ghost to Rest is reason enough to be grateful-that, of course, along with the very existence of old souls like Devine. B | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: David Bazan, Bright Eyes (sorry; it had to be done)

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply