Sunday, March 31, 2013

SweetKenny - "Doo Hickey" Review!!

Let's end the month with an Easter present, that being our 45th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and today, it's of Dafter, Michigan solo guitarist Kenneth "SweetKenny" Sutton's fifth original solo album "Doo Hickey"! Released TODAY (and recorded) through his independent label Waterfall Records, this is Ken's first of at least two scheduled 2013 albums, and it features him on all instruments, save for the guitar, which he shares along with frequent collaborator Scott Schroen on the first 5 tracks. As of this writing, "Doo Hickey" can be purchased for 99¢ a track on CD Baby, Amazon, & iTunes, with physical discs available on CD Baby as well, though note that the full mp3 album cost there is almost double what is is on other sites. As well, the whole EP (which has just 6 songs under 22 minutes in total length) can be streamed on SweetKenny's website, so click here to check it out before buying, and each song title is linked to it's streaming cop! Without any further adieu, let's begin with the album's first song, "Prescription X"!

"Prescription X" starts with an almost surf rock intro, and it in this short song (one of two under 2 minutes long), it feels very condensed, almost like Ken started verses early to fit the shorter runtime. The heavier guitar riffs are good, and Ken's singing (which has a higher tempo Elvis-esque tone here) fits well for the mood of the song, but it all feels very rushed compared to longer later tracks on "Doo Hickey", and I'd like to hear this song even with a minute of extra runtime. Second is "I'm Lost Without You", which has a slower pacing to start, with almost a bluesier hard rock tone, but the structure does feel more natural than on the opening song. I like the groove of this song, which has a laid back mix of styles, and Ken's lower singing fits the mood very well! The spoken word asides add some levity without taking away from the song (which surprised me a bit), and overall, if you like a bluesy take on progressive rock, you'll like "I'm Lost Without You"! I just wish there was more of a solo, and maybe a bit less repetition.

Third is "January Guitar", an initially softer number that definitely seems to call upon Ken's Elvis tribute past vocally, before building out of nowhere into a more aggressive and scratchier chorus, then fading back. The instrumentation is effectively intricate, but the choruses feel too abrupt and jarring for a change to the song's feel otherwise. That said, Ken & Scott's guitar work is very nice, the singing's effective, and it has a floaty essence that's a welcome change, so it works on that level, but I'd liked to have seen the verses and chorus flow in a more natural way. Next is "I Met A Girl", which has a bouncy riff to start and some effective old school-feeling vocals, and it definitely feels like a song from the 1970s in tone! That said, the guitar work does seem somewhat repetitious, and the structure has some messy transitions (though not as obvious as on "Prescription X"), and I would like to hear it a bit longer than it is. The pace and Ken's singing work well though, and this is a solid rocker for what it is!

Second last on "Doo Hickey" is "Alone", which is the EP's shortest track, and it reminds me of a bit heavier and better structured variant of "January Guitar", and it has a nice guitar melody and good melodic rock singing! That said, it's way too short, and it feels like just the first part of a longer song that wasn't completed, but for it's length, it works as a mid-tempo rock original! Now if only it had more of a guitar solo. This album closes with by far it's longest track "It's Like Darkness & Cold Rain", which is also the only purely solo song on the EP. Maintaining a darker slow pace, Ken's Elvis-esque singing flows well with the backing instrumentation, and he gets ample time to show off his guitar skills in the middle of the song, but it feels like this song could have used a heavier interlude or some sort of tempo change to break up the song, which feels overlong at 7 minutes in length. That said, this song shows Ken's multiple instrument skill nicely, and though it's somewhat of a down note to end "Doo Hickey" with, his talent can't be questioned!

So, what's the final word on SweetKenny's newest EP? I liked a lot of it, but there were some things I'd have fixed. On the positive side, Ken Sutton has a nice vocal range that suits the material, whether he's channeling his Elvis influences or employing a grittier side of things, and both his and Scott Schroen's guitar work shows a lot of talent cultivated over decades of experience! The songs show a variance of influences too, so there's a little something for everyone, though myself, I took to "I'm Lost Without You" the most of the 6. There main aspect of "Doo Hickey" that I'd like to see amended on future albums is the song structures, either for repetition, short length, or rushed/messy transitions. Had those been addressed, each song could have really stood out even more, as there's a lot of good in this EP! Also, while this isn't a universally heavy release, Ken shows aspects of it here, and on earlier albums like "Jennifer's Box Of Junk", you can see a lot more as well. Overall, while imperfect, there's a lot to like on "Doo Hickey", and hopefully "Perception" builds on it with even more quality SweetKenny work!

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