As songwriters, performers, innovators and founders of the influential Dead Reckoning record label, Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch have made a career of letting the song lead the way. In the process, they midwifed a new genre of American roots music, blazing a trail for other artists to explore and develop. Yet their modus operandi remains the same: to craft and compose with no goal other than to let the song realize itself. In 2003 they joined forces with Fats Kaplin, the renowned multi-instrumentalist and "this generation's Ry Cooder", to create an Americana super group that makes music with roots parameters but in the spontaneity and vibe of a jazz recording. Joined this time around by Kieran's son Lucas, Kane Welch Kaplin picks up where Lost John Dean left off featuring an entire album of roots music gems from the pens of the original Godfathers of Americana. The groove is tighter, the tunes sparser; they've gone from being a group of accomplished individuals to a solid soulful unit. Album cover art painted by Kieran Kane.
The third in a series of albums by guitarists, singers, and songwriters Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch along with multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin is somewhat deceptively titled, as Kane's son Lucas is also aboard, making it a quartet. His restrained and meticulously placed drums and percussion shadings help give this warm folk its heartbeat. Kane Sr.'s startling and bizarre folk-art cover painting (his work also adorns the group's previous albums) is the boldest aspect of this low-key project. Kane and Welch's stripped-down songs shimmer with Southern heat, lazy, lovely, and measured. They trade vocals and harmonize on a set of 11 originals and a closing cover of the public-domain tune "What Are They Doin' in Heaven Today?" that trod down dusty back roads at a languid yet deliberate pace. Kaplin's slithery fiddle and Kane's high, lonesome banjo on "Callin' You" capture the song's somewhat cautionary lyrics with help from stark yet taut percussion. Nothing is rushed, forced, or molded into commercially accessible pop. This is pure, unfiltered folk, hotwired from the spirit and soul of the participants and sprinkled with religious imagery. These musicians long ago quit compromising, instead creating music that is austere, sincere, and honest. Kane Welch Kaplin isn't meant for background listening; it's made to be absorbed while reading the lyrics and concentrating on the passion, subtle talent, and earnest approach of an American collective that just keeps getting better. --Hal Horowitz