Stephen Kellogg goes a little more country on his latest album, but that is far from being a bad thing. Songs like â€œA (With Love)â€ and â€œSatisfied Manâ€ could have come straight out of Nashvilleâ€™s Music Row, rather than from the mic of Massachusettsâ€™ native Stephen Kellogg.
Eight albums into his career (not counting a handful of EPs), The Bear is the best so far from the already impressive, folk-tinged, roots-based singer songwriter. Despite a few nods to country, songs like â€œShady Esperanto and the Young Hearts,â€ complete with handclaps, prove Kellogg still knows how to play pitch perfect rock. As prolific as Ryan Adams or Willie Nelson, Kellogg still manages to turn in a full albumâ€™s worth of solid tracks â€“ each one nearly as impressive as the next. There are one or two exceptions â€“ the song â€œDoâ€ just doesnâ€™t seem to fit with the rest. Regardless, what makes The Bear stand out from his other records is the way the songs slip in and out of genres showing influences as diverse as The Band and The Beatles and Kris Kristofferson and Cat Stevens.
The fact that this collection still sounds remarkably cohesive is that much more surprising. If his latest in any indication, Kellogg is just hitting his stride; I canâ€™t wait to hear whatâ€™s next and if history is any indication, we wonâ€™t have to wait long to find out.
Top tracks: â€œThe Bear,â€ â€œShady Esperanto and the Young Heartâ€ and â€œAll Part of the Showâ€
Rating: 8.9 out of 10
Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers – The Bear/CDs/2009/13 tracks/Vanguard Records/www.stephenkellogg.com