2018 CD REVIEW
DUST DEVIL (DEAD RECKONING)
KEVIN WELCH DANCING DUST DEVILS
“I was a panhandle dancer/ never knew where I belonged/ I'd show up in the summer/ come the winter time I'd be gone/ every little breeze that blew/ carried me away somewhere/ like any other young fool/ I thought that I could walk on air/ I'm an old dust devil waiting on the wind to die down.” - Dust Devil - Kevin Welch.
Expatriate Californian singer-songwriter Kevin Welch ends an eight year hiatus with his powerful self-produced 12th album.
Welch, 63 and living at Nowra on the NSW south coast, returned to Nashville to record with hot pickers including son Dustin on banjo, slide guitar and daughter Savannah - both on backing vocals.
Welch's sardonic biblical entrée Blue Lonesome is a salient signpost to his imagery that propels this disc with “Pharoah called up Hezekia in the middle of the night/ said what am I doing wrong man/ I can't get it right/ I'm blue lonesome.”
Then there's the whimsical The Girl In The Sea Shell who leaves the song's male lead in the hills by the creek and river to live in a sea shell down the sea on the Gulf Of Mexico.
No, she doesn't boomerang like the belle in Welch's long time writing partner John Hadley's High Heeled Shoes.
The elegant high rolling princess, torn between two diverse worlds, decamps solo from an upmarket restaurant in a limo and boards the million dollar yacht bearing the name High Heels where her husband patiently waits before they sail off in the sunset.
It's unlikely to be docked off Nowra where Welch now creates joy with his wife and new baby.
BROTHER JOHN A MARINE CASUALTY
“We used to laugh, we used to joke/ used to smoke a ton of that Mexican dope/ thought those days would never end/ look what they've done to my old friend/ brother John, brother John/ they held on to you a little too long/ they should have turned loose of you/ once you finished doing what you swore you'd do.” - Brother John - Kevin Welch.
Hadley may have created a fictitious character for High Heels but Welch's tune Brother John is steeped in reality.
He also ignites Bill Caswell's Sweet Allis Chalmers where a tractor becomes surrogate soul mate for a lost lover.
Welch re-invigorates Caswell's saga where the male lead overcomes the departure of a St Joseph's girl that tempts him to revert to drink.
Instead he dreams of a young lover but settles for the song hum of a rusty exhaust pipe as he tows a four bottom plough black dirt.
SHELBY COUNTY FLOWERS
“I grew up in Shelby County/ didn't take me long/ by the time that I was nine years old/ my dad had up and gone/ my mother she remarried to a bitter little man/ she died one Easter morning/ whispering do the best you can.” - A Flower - Kevin Welch.
Welch adopts the persona of the damaged daughter in a dysfunctional family in the pathos primed narrative A Flower.
It may be a familiar story - the pain of a young girl deserted by her father and left in the care of a mother whose new beau is a sexual predator.
But the pain is magnified when the morose mother dies and the victim rejects her sadistic attacker and delivers summary justice with a knife.
The sting is in tail of this tale as the daughter finally finds her long departed dad in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
History repeats when his second wife wreaks jealousy on the new arrival and she is forced back on the road again.
This time she heads south and finds a boy just like her dad in August who sires their child who arrives in May.
But, of course, he also leaves her holding the baby.
It segues into the fitting finale - the title track where the wanderlust character blows with the wind like the dust devils unleashed by mini-tornadoes that are famous where he was raised in Oklahoma.
Welch resurrects his weather metaphor for decisions made as his character blows through life en route to mortality.
Welch proves once again the wait was worth it after 2010 album A Patch Of Blue Sky .
Maybe he can become a Millionaire like his historic song that was resurrected as a latter day hit by Kentucky coalminer's song Chris Stapleton.
Stapleton was once a member of The Steel Drivers formed by Welch's Dead Reckoning partners Mike Henderson and Tammy Rogers.
Welch's studio band for Dust Devils includes Fats Kaplin on fiddle, pedal steel, button accordion, tenor banjo and mandolin, drummer Harry Stinson, Glen Worf upright and electric bass, guitarists Kenny Vaughan and Kenny Greenberg, pianist-organist Matt Rollings and Jim Hoke on accordion, harmonica, flute, saxes and clarinet.
Eliza Gilkyson and Beth Hooker join daughter Savannah on backing vocals on this belated but welcome return for a true talent.