Saturday, October 29, 2016

SweetKenny - "Gator's Bayou" CD Review!!

It's now time for our 88th monthly CD review, and for this month, we're taking our seventh look at an album by Dafter, Michigan solo hard rock musician Ken "SweetKenny" Sutton! While I deliberated reviewing April's solo album "In Your Face" this month, I felt it was too old to be  a "new" release, and we prioritize new albums for our reviews, so we're instead taking a look at his most recent release, the instrumental score album "Gator's Bayou"! This came out on June 27th, marking our second review of his score/soundtrack albums, following our review of "The Hitman Files" in January. Like most of his recent original output, Ken recorded this at at Waterfall Records earlier this year, and he intends "Gator's Bayou" to be used in action/adventure projects with elements of comedy, inspired by 1960s and 1970s films of that kind. Featuring Ken himself on all instruments, "Gator's Bayou" is available for $7 via his official Bandcamp page, and can be streamed for free there too, but consider buying it to support his work!

Featuring 11 songs clocking in at around 31 minutes in length, let's begin this review with the first track, "Gator Bait"! Ken describes this as a take-off of the theme song from the film "White Lightning", and it has sort of a down and dirty southern rock flavour that honestly does sound like it could be the theme for a southern action film set in a swampy wetlands area. Sort of hard to describe, but it sets the tone well for the score as a whole! That's followed by "Sheriff on the Hunt", which Ken says is a "funky 60's style track", and despite what I said about the first song, this is the one he mentioned having a bluesy swamp feel. Personally, I find the first song better matches that, and I don't really get a "sheriff on the hunt" vibe from it either, but the songs has thematic similarities, and the guitar picking and bluesy tone don't hurt either! This song also feels like a fuller composition that would be better suited to live performance, and if intended for that environment, it works!

Third is "Making Moon at Night", obviously referencing illegal moonshine production and running, and while Ken calls this a "very cool track", it's only that in stops and starts to me. At it's peak, the song is up tempo, bluesy, and fast paced, and easily the heaviest song to date, but mid-way through, the song drops off and becomes reserved and drawn out (maybe this stretch is intended to reference making moonshine and not running it?). Everything picks up at the end, and for it's bookends, the song works well! Then we have "", which has another strung out Southern blues instrumental vibe, but it allows Ken to deliver some fun guitar riffs! The eeriness suggested by the title creature doesn't really climax here though, and the song does seem to drag on a little bit, though for it's first half, it's a very effective piece of the overall puzzle!

Song #5 is "Bootlegging", which no doubt follows closely in the intended script with the third track, and I'd argue that this song feels the most like a song from one of his traditional albums out of anything so far! It has some nice backing effects, including snake rattles and howls, but the rest is a mid-tempo blues rocker that doesn't necessarily feel like it was meant to be on a score. Good guitar and bass work, effective tone, but I'd be interested to hear the song with vocals and a heavier overall style. The album's shortest track is next, namely "Caught in the Act", and it takes a definite turn from earlier tracks with more of a techno vibe, odd considering the police implications of the title. In it's own unique way, the keyboard parts give some ominous vibes, but the song ends too abruptly, and if it wasn't for the score's overall intent, I'd say it felt like a filler track.

Next is "On The Run From The Sheriff", whose title gives away the intended point of the script. Desptite the title alluding to a chase from police capture, the song feels more like it's the backing music for a tense jailbreak or escape. It has some unique effects and sound-bites, including some catchy drumming, but the guitar's certainly not at the forefront here, and to me at least, it's just an interesting diversion to change the pacing of the score. Eighth up is "The Swamp at Night", which Ken describes as "kind of a spooky track" wherein you can picture yourself in a dark swamp. Given the tones and background noise, this at times feels like you're on a submarine rather than a swamp (albeit, a submarine with a rattlesnake), but it does have a spooky disconnect at times, and fits along with earlier tracks where the guitar takes a back seat to other musical effects!

Ninth is "Smugglers & Runners", in what you could call the third song of the moonshine trilogy on "Gator's Bayou". In another example of a song featuring mismatched elements compared to it's title, a computer-like siren effect is frequently heard here, despite not referencing a chase or escape from the law like earlier songs had. That said, I love the marching drum beat, and it has an overall cool sound that suits it's effects and post-production, even if the title doesn't seem right, and it's my favourite of the score's less guitar-driven songs! The penultimate song is "Just Before The Crossroads", which ends the more experimental stretch of the album by returning us to the general sound of the opening 5 tracks. The song has the bluesy feel of the first half, complete with some foreign musical touches, and while it's not a "heavy" track, it's nice to get back to the basics, more or less!

The album and score wrap up with "Gator's Bayou - Main Theme", which is fittingly the album's longest song, and presumably the intended song for the credits if this was used in a movie. Aside from some added effects and snake rattles, this track is a nice and casual blues number that's drawn out without dragging on, and it wraps up the score well in familiar territory!

So, what are my final thoughts on "Gator's Bayou"? Overall, this is (once again) hard to review compared to our usual base, as it's a score and meant to represent the sum of it's parts. That said, when compared to last fall's "Hitman Files" score album, "Gator's Bayou" isn't as consistent in evoking the intended themes and settings, especially in the four-song section late where the songs seemed to trade the guitar for effects, post production, and techno touches. I found that the first half and last two songs were much better at creating the intended mood and environment, with bluesy riffs, some heavier material, and tinges of country to go along with them. SweetKenny hasn't been as prolific this year as he has been lately, releasing just 3 score albums and one traditional release in 2016 as of this writing, but he remains a creative artist thinking outside the box, and while I prefer "The Hitman Files", "Gator's Bayou" is definitely worth checking out if you're in the mood for a unique score with some cool themes, so do that above!

I hope you guys liked this month's CD review! Next month on the site, we hope to review a new album, but that depends heavily on if I obtain one that gets a public paid release. For example, Telephone & Address' "Are Your Now or Have Your Ever" is out for sale, but I don't have a copy yet, and it's not available for streaming yet either. Also, I do have an advance copy of The Apocalypse Afterparty's "Bufflesnort", as have others, but it's not publically on sale yet, and they haven't announced a timeframe in that regard. If neither lines up for November, and nothing new comes out otherwise (check our next "Where Are The New Albums?" post next week for possibilities), we'll dip into the archives, but just for clarification, we will not be looking at a SweetKenny, RedD Monkey, or Din album next month, as we are within our 6 month buffer periods on them to avoid showing a bias towards or against any bands. No matter what album comes next, look for our 89th monthly CD review next month, and stay tuned for more news and notes soon! Thanks everyone!

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