"SweetKenny" Sutton's eighth solo album "Ink!" Chosen over his newest album "This End Up" (which came out last month) for this review due to it's heavier material, "Ink!" came out on March 23rd, and was recorded over the preceding months at Waterfall Records. Featuring just Ken on vocals and all instruments, he describes this CD as a "heavy rock" fun album with freestyle playing, and you can buy it at CD Baby right now for $9.99 in mp3 format, $12.97 on CD, or 99¢ for each individual song, or on BandCamp for $12. The full album (which features full songs with vocals as well as instrumentals) can also be streamed for free on SweetKenny's website too, but support his work by buying it as well! A 10 song album running for about 48 minutes, let's begin this review with a look at the first song!
"Ink!" starts with "Shake, Shake, Shake!", which begins with the exclamation "Gee Mom, all the guys are doing it!" before launching into the actual music, and if you're familiar with SweetKenny's recent original work, the bluesy hard rock essence and riffing will fit right with your expectations. Catchy little number, Ken's Elvis-remniscent vocals return for this track, though the stop/start chorus vocals seem like a mood killer and don't flow with the surrounding verses. The song does meander a bit late, but Ken's guitar skill is on full display, and there's enough heavy action to go around to please fans! I just wish the choruses were livelier on average. Second is "Bridge to No-Where", a slower instrumental track that is reminiscent of a cleaner sounding Sykotyk Rampage, and while it doesn't reinvent the wheel from many of Ken's recent instrumental tracks, it has a very solid guitar melody, and the drum tracks are catchy for the backing rhythm! Very solid showcase of SweetKenny's range of musical talents, though the song admittedly feels more like a summer road trip song than one on the title bridge.
"This Is Not Where I Wantta Be", which is about a time in Ken's life when he felt trapped, only for God to save and help him. Despite the themes, this song is similar in musical style to much of his past work, aside from more reserved (yet lyrically strong) melodic singing. Deliberately paced, the song's structure can be a bit muddled, which contrasts the meaningful and impassioned vocals. Interesting track with a good personal message, but the previous songs seemed to be put together better on the whole. That's followed by "Burn Baby Burn", which is simply about "the things to come", though the song does feature more religious themes. Vocally, Ken's singing is more rangy and dramatic than we're used to seeing, which adds a different wrinkle, but it doesn't work too well on the shaky choruses. Muscially, it's a strong familiar composition with a constant melody, and the guitar work is a standout here! Another solid track, it should attract an audience too, but the somewhat forced singing may not be for everyone.
Song #5 is "It's All Because Of You", which is the only song on this CD to run for under 4 minutes. A song about a type of girlfriend that Kenny thinks most guys have had over the years, this has the most basic song structure yet, but it's to the point nature and direct lyrics should strike the right chord with many listeners! I like some of the vocal effects and layering, and the spoken word asides lend a lighter feel to this track that people in some types of relationships might identify with. Not the heaviest song on the album, but one of the more consistent, with a steady rhythm and melody, and it's one of the better early tracks! Sixth is "Squahanna Two Two Two Two", whose title is inspired by the 1939 Three Stooges short "Three Sappy People", and Ken provides some callbacks to the Stooges and the short with spoken word bookends. Otherwise, it's the second instrumental on "Ink!", though the song doesn't remind me of something that would fit the title subject matter, being another mid-paced bluesy hard rocker. Solidly performed though, with a good pacing, effective guitar and bass work, and a clear sense of it's purpose, so give it a listen!
"A Hard Habit (To Get Where I Want To Be)", which is about following your dreams and what God puts into your heart. By far the slowest and most reserved song so far on this album, Ken's freestyle playing style feels more muted here, and the somewhat dark tone contrasts the optimistic message, but it's nice to see some variance to his usual sounds, and his Elvis Presley-ish tone is put to good use for a song of this style! Not the heaviest track on "Ink!", but fans looking for something a little slower might enjoy "A Hard Habit"! The eighth song is "Up & Down", which fittingly, is about life's ups and downs. The longest track on the album, Ken self described it as "a great guitar song", and it is the disc's third instrumental. More of a return to form for Ken's usual freewheeling hard rock sounds, with nice rollicking drum tracks, and strong guitar licks, though like on some of his earlier material, the song does seem to trail off and go in many directions by the end. My favourite instrumental so far though!
The penultimate song on "Ink!" is "Secret Life", which is about wanting to leave a girl, among other related subjects. Drawn out slower vocals overtop of usual hard rock action, I really like the guitar on this song, which is melodic, varied, and provides some of Ken's best solo moments on this album! I enjoy the composition and heavier moments, but the vocals seem like leftovers from another unused song, and they don't fit well here. Aside from that, this is probably my favourite song on "Ink!" just on a musical basis, and it's a great way to show off Ken's skill! The CD closes with "They Like It Naughty", a slightly longer instrumental whose title probably refers to the feel of the song rather than any absent lyrics would have. Honestly, the song doesn't feel particularly "naughty", but it does have another solid guitar solo, a familiar groove, and some nice creativity to give "Ink!" a solid cap to this album. I'd probably have liked to see this song played at a faster tempo, but fans won't complain otherwise!
I hope you guys liked this month's CD review! Our next look at a SweetKenny album (likely of either "This End Up" or "Amazonian") is very possible for early 2015, but that's pending how his release schedule and our review schedule shapes up. Next month's review on the site will be of a new metal, hard rock, or punk album if released before month's end, but in case none does, we'll begin reviewing archive punk albums frequently in gaps on the calendar, so we can get up to speed on that side of the local album spectrum! For reference, we're leaning towards The Northern Tragedy's "Home Ice" EP if nothing new comes out in August, but that's tentative. Stay tuned for more soon, and for weekend concert previews tomorrow! Thanks everyone!