“Sometimes you have to tear your f@#$*ng guts out… sometimes it’s just there. Music is a fluid thing that never flows the same way twice.” That’s how Kail Baxley describes his new album A Light That Never Dies. It just came out over a week ago, released under Forty Below Records. Baxley describes his music as “soul swagger,” as it has an older sound that also makes you want to move your feet. He really doesn’t have a sound that would fit under one genre, as he draws from folk, blues, country and roots rock in his music. Baxley writes all of his music, showing the deep connection he has with his songs. It was certainly evident when I listened to his new album A Light That Never Dies.
The album opens with the album’s title track, “A Light That Never Dies.” It has lots of rich instrumentation from a horns section to harmonica interludes. The lyrics are just okay and I thought they could have been clearer. The next track, “Mr. Downtown,” I feel the exact same way. The instrumentation is certainly good, but the lyrics are nothing special. Baxley harkens back to a more old school feel on “Tell The Falling Sun.” It has a 50s vibe to it, with it’s slowed down tempo and sultry instrumentation. This fits well for a love song like this one and sets the mood of it just right.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “The Ballad of Johnny Steel,” which is about a man named Johnny Steel of course. The instrumentation on this song has a very cool sound that is unique and ear grabbing. The heavy guitar lyrics, the drums and the horns section really drive the song. “Morning Light” is one of the slower songs on the album, with light acoustic guitar play peppered throughout it. “Better Feel Better” is one of my lesser favorites on the album, as the production is a little too noisy and can be hard to understand what Baxley is saying. The right idea is there in terms of the beat and rhythm, but it’s just too busy for my liking.
Baxley is best when his voice is allowed to shine. That’s exemplified in “Owe.” He sings about owing debts with a constantly strumming guitar driving the song in the background. The violin interludes really give it a punch too. This is a bluesy country song I can enjoy. “Still Wonder” is an interlude of a piano and background vocalists that leads into “Troubled Souls.” It’s a nice touch, as it sets the tone for a haunting song like “Troubled Souls.” The spacey guitar riffs in the background of it only add to the suspenseful mood that’s being created. The lyrics are very open to interpretation and I think each listener will come to a different conclusion on what they’re saying.
The penultimate song on A Light That Never Dies is “Chasing James Dean.” It has a very outlaw-ish, rebel theme, with a poster boy of this attitude James Dean being part of the song. Again I would love to hear more depth in the lyrics, as it would paint a better picture in the listeners’ heads. The album closes out with “Mirrors of Paradise,” the only song Baxley has ever written with someone else in the room. It draws on a visit from an old friend when he was doing a show in San Francisco. It’s a soaring song with a relaxing, soothing tone that can hook the listener with its fantastic instrumentation. It’s a beautiful song to end the album.
As I said in the beginning of the review, this is an album that is unfair to pigeonhole under one genre. There’s a melting pot of influences throughout it and certainly made for some interesting music. The instrumentation is the definitive high point of A Light That Never Dies. It’s very rich, high in quality and draws the listener in. While the lyrics are certainly from the heart, I was wanting a little more in this department. Then again I’m a stickler for lyrics, as it’s the whole basis for storytelling in a song. There are some high points in this album and a few low points, but overall it’s worth a listen in my mind. It’s not exactly country music, but good music nonetheless. If you like Hozier type music or something in the vein of like a Mumford & Sons, this album is worth checking out.