Ah, yes – the tricky second album. We’ve all seen it before, haven’t we? A new artist comes along and blows us away (or at least mightily impresses us) with an original and highly creative debut album. You can tell that only the very best songs from at least a decade of songwriting have gone into making the first offering the best it can possibly be. It’s not surprising, therefore, that so many musicians come a cropper when they try to repeat the glories of their first album the second time around.
You’ll be pleased to know then there are no such worries here. Local singer/songwriter Tony Kehoe has followed the 2006/7 debut CD It’s No Coincidence with a collection of songs that are equally impressive.
The album – Not Everything Must Lead To Nothing – opens with an organ roll that took me somewhat by surprise. However, the keyboard is quickly joined by Tony’s distinctive guitar-playing and equally distinctive voice as he launches into Cry For No Reason, a really catchy number that had me singing along in no time. Tony has only been playing the guitar and writing songs for around eight years, but his songwriting shows real maturity, with clever, incisive lyrics and memorable melodies.
Outside Of The In-crowd starts with guitar, followed by tambourine, then harmonica. Any artist who employs the harmonica in their songs automatically gets my attention, and when it’s played well (as it is here) it’s even better. I’m sure there are plenty of musicians up and down the country who’ll be able to relate to this song as the feel excluded from seemingly closed circles because their face, music or attitude don’t fit, or because they don’t know the right people to know.
Which Way Should I Go? has Tony’s trademark syncopated, lilting time signature plucked out on the guitar, with lyrics jam packed full of philosophical questions. And the acoustic guitar solo is supplemented by panpipes. Yes, you read it right… panpipes! And you know what? They actually work well, adding to the floating, ethereal feel to the song.
As far as I’m aware, Tony Kehoe can’t play the panpipes, so this is probably as good a point as any to mention Paul Robotham’s contribution to the album. Paul not only recorded all of the songs at his own FYNK Studio, he also co-produced it, and added most of the extra instrumentation, from keyboards and drums to panpipes and flutes.
The rest of the album contains a variety of moderately paced songs (Blame London, Beginning Or The End, Best Kept Secret, I’m Lonely Too, Blind Leading The Blind) and slower songs (Fantastic, Alaska, Mr Knowall Man). The quality of the tracks on this album is very good, although with a sound reminiscent of something from The Beatles’ Help! album I’m Lonely Too doesn’t seem to fit as well into the overall feel of the album.
However, in my opinion this album is worth buying solely on the strength of two of its tracks. Fantastic is another slow, lilting ballad, with a hauntingly effective, echoey electric guitar effectively setting the atmosphere. But perhaps, surprisingly, the best track on the album is the one where Tony doesn’t play guitar at all (sorry, Tony!). The understated solo piano on Alaska is a perfect accompaniment, allowing Tony’s vocals and the excellent lyrics to take centre stage.
This is a very good album full of songs that are well written, well performed in Tony Kehoe’s unique style, and expertly complemented by musician and engineer Paul Robotham. This album is a real credit to Tony and his love of music.
Tony continues to write songs and perform them on the Liverpool acoustic scene, and is a regular at the Come Strut Your Stuff event at the Egg Café. His hard work was rewarded recently with a gig supporting Martin Carthy at the Sefton Park Palm House, and he’s playing at the Liverpool Acoustic Live gig on Friday 24th April 2009. A third album is already in the planning stage, and given Tony and Paul’s track record we can look forward to something just as fantastic.
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.