Artists: The Kevin Critchley Outfit
Back in the summer of 2006 I was at Alun Parry’s Acoustic Slice event handing out flyers to advertise the new It’s A Frog’s Life Acoustic Podcast (still going strong at itsafrogslife.net/podcast, by the way!) when a young man shoved an EP in my hand and said “Have a listen to this. You can play it on your show if you like it.” That man was Kevin Critchley, and the EP was called Think It Over.
I get a fair number of CDs from musicians wanting to get played on the show – some of them very good, and some of them… er… not quite so good, but I listen to each and every one of them. So when I climbed into the car to head home I slipped the EP into my car’s CD player and pressed ‘play’. And I was blown away by what I heard! The energy, power, and passion in the four tracks on that EP were astounding, the musicianship was top class, and the songs were very well-written. The only problem was… there were only four tracks!
Therefore when I heard that Kevin was in the studio recording a full length CD – Scars – I was rather excited. After all, since 2006 Kevin Critchley has transformed into the Kevin Critchley Outfit by adding a combination of regular and guest musicians to create an even bigger and better sound than before.
Of the thirteen songs on Scars many of them are in the KCO’s distinctive signature style. Tracks such as Caves, Scars, Without Him, Abuse, and Play It Cool, are minor key, dark, powerful, brooding, and perfect for Luke Moore’s cello and Josie Pearce’s viola and violin. Cushioned Walls deviates from this template only far enough to add an underlying piano track. Desire is in the same vein, and as an opening track is the perfect introduction to the KCO sound for anyone new to their music. And if you close your eyes to listen to Louise you’ll be instantly transported to the bazaars of Marrakesh or the markets of Old Baghdad.
If, following Louise, you were to keep your eyes closed while you listened to the next track, Temptuous Eyes, you’d find yourself plucked off the streets and deposited very firmly into a late-night lounge bar. The excellent, Temptuous Eyes contains all the classic elements for such a song – soft percussion, syncopated rhythm, muted trombone solo, sultry vocals.
The KCO sound is nothing if not versatile, and the album’s second track Sunshine is, as the name suggests, a great summer song. In a style reminiscent of Katrina and the Waves, or the Brand New Heavies, Sunshine has the potential to become a massive summer radio hit given the right support and a bit of luck. While you’re at it, you might as well add My Love to the same category – songs to brighten your day. Finally, Thank You is a beautiful piano ballad with string accompaniment. And the album finishes with the haunting Tranquility.
So far I’ve mentioned the songs, the instruments, the music, and the different styles, but the common factor that pulls them all together is Kevin’s incredible voice. His vocal range is stunning and never forced, and his singing can move from powerful and passionate to gentle and forgiving, sometimes even within the same song.
Time to end with a joke. What do you get if you take Kevin Critchley, Luke Moore, and Josie Pearce, add JJ Rio on bass, Paul Walsham on drums and percussion, and Hannah Platt on backing vocals, then hook them up to the National Grid and ask them to start playing? The answer is… enough free power to keep all the iPods in Liverpool fully-charged for the next twenty years. OK, so it wasn’t much of a joke, but the sentiment is there.
And ‘fully-charged’ is probably the best way I can think of to describe Kevin Critchley’s music. I just want to know how many guitar strings Kevin broke while recording the CD!
Graham Holland © 2009
Liverpool Acoustic – liverpoolacoustic.co.uk
Scars, by the Kevin Critchley Outfit, is available from 6th April 2009 on Amazon MP3 as a digital download.
We’ll let you know where and when it becomes available to buy either online or in person as soon as we have the information.
Of course, you can always buy it direct from the band at one of their gigs, such as the headline gig at Bumper on Hardman Street on 25th April!
Graham Holland is the owner and editor of the Liverpool Acoustic website, and runs Liverpool Acoustic’s award-winning live music events with local musician Stuart Todd. In real life he’s a Web Development Officer, has been producing podcasts on a regular basis since July 2006, and runs a number of websites for other organisations. He lives in Wavertree with his husband and their cat Xiao Hei.
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