Monday, May 28, 2012
Kenny Olson Cartel - S/T
This one I shoulda seen coming.
If I'd only read the credits before I popped the CD in, I wouldn't a been so surprised. Right there, in the "Thanks" section were all the clues I needed that this, Kenny Olson dude, wasn't just some regular guy. First name I saw was Billy Cox. Former Hendrix player. That's cool. But it doesn't stop there. The Hendrix Family. Hmmm. Not Jimi, as in "for inspiration" but a direct thanks to the Hendrix family. Does this cat know them? Eddie Kramer? What Who is this guy?
Turns out Kenny Olson does know those folks, and more, and more importantly, he's someone we should all know as well. Just pop over to his website and you'll find glowing endorsements from Paul Rogers, Keith Richards, Santana, and James Hetfield. He's the former lead guitarist for Kid Rock and played for the Hendrix family on the Experience Hendrix tours. He's played on albums by Kid Rock, Billy Cox, Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams Jr, R.L. Burnside, Five Horse Johnson, Bif Naked. Even Run DMC.
So what does all that mean for us?
It means we got a killer album of fiery blues-fueled rock terrors with a bucketful of Motown soul and a heart as mean as the Motor City. From flaming blues numbers like "Rebel with a Cause" to heavy-psych metal explosions like "Loaded" to steamy ZZ-Top-inspired barnburners like "Up All Night" all the way to heartfelt/heart-lost ballads like "Can't Feel," Kenny Olson Cartel is about as solid a debut as I'd heard in years. Guests pop in and out, like Billy Cox on bass, and the sinister cool vocals of Tantric's Hugo Ferreira without ever overwhelming the show. Nor does the steady rotation of lead vocalists steal from the consistency of the album.
But I gotta say that Kenny taking the microphone himself for the heart-rendering, self-revelation song of "Phoenix Will Rise," steals the show for me. Not that he's the strongest vocalist here, he's not. But when you listen to the lyrics and realize the dude is pouring his heart out from the doorstep of his own demise, it's some powerful shit. He prayed for an angel. And she came, pulling him from the abyss.
All the way through the band is tight as a bankers sphincter, and Kenny's guitar flies in multicolored and many-textured hues. Heavy, bluesy, psychedelic and pure, out-and-out, unadulterated rock. "Water" kicks in the killer deep textured vocals of Paris Delane to produce a flat-out rockin' new gospel standard. "Sweet Rosie's" works as rock or blues with the singing of Brandon Calhoun, while "Left Sock" leans toward the funky and quasi-rap of his brother Kid Rock, for a jaunty, just-got-paid blast of fun. "Heaven on Earth" is pure soul and blues, percolating with sex and slippery fluids. "2B or Not 2B" takes the rap/rock/blues to the extreme with a terrorizer of bluesy metal with a speed vocal delivery. "Psychedelic Lap Dance," is a five-minute plus instrumental guitar orgy with full-on slippery happy ending. Jimi woulda been proud.
Yep. When the CD first arrived. I'd never heard of Kenny Olson before.
You better believe I've heard of him now.