It’s been five years to the day since Welcome To Ashley put out Beyond The Pale and I heard Coley Kennedy’s voice for the first time. I’ve counted myself as a fan ever since, be it with WTA or his more recent work with The Buddies. His voice has a quality that just holds your interest. He could be singing about making pasta or some other completely mundane thing and it would be entirely captivating. Now he’s back with Black Vincent, a new project that touches some of the same themes as his other albums in a more somber way.
Teardrop Deluxe hits a lot of highs with these downers, but never as high as the third track, “When We Was Young.” The spare echo-y guitar that opens and closes the song feels like a solitary man walking through the desert. When that instrument is joined by voices singing in harmony as the song picks up steam it’s like he’s found an oasis of acceptance. That feeling is fleeting, though, as the voices fade away and the lone guitar continues until the song goes down over the horizon.
On “Smilin’ Jim Is Down Again” Kennedy changes up the vocals for a Bowie-esque delivery. There’s a great mix of piano and electric guitar that clash against one another to add to the peculiarity of the tune. It’s almost like a dream sequence, reaching a fever pitch when the piano-guitar combo meets in the middle and shakes the whole thing down to the ground.
Recorded to tape over a three-day period in Nashville, the album doesn’t sound like anything else Kennedy has been a part of despite featuring a lot of the same players. The usually energetic frontman slows things way down and allows the songs to survive in a vast space. Producers Justin Collins and Adam Landry use that space to create an atmosphere of nostalgic longing throughout all nine tracks.
After years of fast-paced songs that felt like a mix of punk and country, this is not what I was expecting from Kennedy at this point. Like Beck releasing Sea Change, it’s a complete 180 from the usual. And also like Sea Change, that’s a good thing. The album has some heavy moments, like the final minute or so of “Her Love,” with crashing cymbals landing all over the place, but for the most part it’s a measured piece that allows the listener to come to it rather than being in your face.
I can’t say that one is necessarily better than the other, but Teardrop Deluxe is certainly a welcome change of pace. Like a lot of people, I appreciate when musicians grow along with their audience, and when Kennedy sings “I soldier on until I’m numb. You’ve made your move, I’m done,” I know that he’s faced his hard times over the last five years, as we all have.
You can check out the full album on Black Vincent’s bandcamp page. It’s also available for physical purchase as a CD for $12 (digital is $7 but then you don’t get liner notes and artwork).
Coley Kennedy – Voice
Justin Collins – Guitars, Keys, Vocals
Pete Javier – Guitars
Scott Collins – Guitars, Vocals
Jeremy Barrett – The Bass Guitar
Adam Landry – The Drums, Keys
Kim Collins – Vocals, Toms