CD Reviews 10 May 2006

New Kentucky QuarterNEW KENTUCKY QUARTER – Carry it Around

(2006   Self-Release)

Wow, this EP is good.  If there is a single fault to be found, it’s that at five tracks and sixteen minutes there is simply not enough.  Chock full of hooks that go directly to that pleasure center in your cerebellum, Carry it Around also satisfies that yearning in your gut to rock.

TNKQ haven’t abandoned the Coldplay-esque sentimentality entirely on Carry it Around, but they’ve beefed up the sound, adding Justin Bricco (who also plays in the Blueheels) on electric guitar to up the energy quotient dramatically.  This is especially true on “Soldiers,” a fantastic piece with the perfect blend of distorted guitar and melody.  The signature shift to ¾ time in the chorus is brilliant.  “We Never Know” follows in a similar vein with a beautiful Beatles-esque chord that expertly brings the first chorus back to the second verse and an extended instrumental coda that drives the song home.  At 4:08, this is the longest track on the album. 

 To say that this band knows how to boil things down into clear, precise musical statements is an understatement of their craft.  The beautiful opening strains of the first track, “Like the Stars,” are signature NKQ: “Even with a heart of gold / Windows will let in the cold” sums up love over the entire course of the human race, or at least since we’ve had windows.  Good songwriting is often indicated by how effective the bridge is and this one is killer.  The title track is a sugary, radio-friendly song punctuated by Abby Zdrale’s piano figure.  This one is poised to slay potential listeners across the land.  “The Way We Want” closes the EP with a little back-home flavor and another gratifying refrain.  At a mere 2:23, it leaves you wanting more.

These five tunes were entirely produced in about a week’s time, expertly brought to life by Justin Perkins at Simple Studios in Green Bay, who is becoming one of the hottest engineers and producers in the state.  The vocal tracks were cut in a single day.  Ron Walters, lead vocalist and the author of these fine tunes, continues to impress with his smooth, heartfelt delivery and sincerity.  Zdrale blends perfectly on backup vocals and it’s this vocal combination that is impossible to resist.  The difference in the rhythm section from the first album to Carry it Around is also significant.  Adam Cargin and Matt Rajala are in lockstep, forming a seamless underpinning to the seemingly endless supply of tunefulness that gets heaped on top.  Despite all that, the music breathes like a warm spring day.

Carry it Around clearly moves the New Kentucky Quarter from drifty Americana (They swept that category at the 2005 MAMAs) to more driving pop and rock.  In “Like the Stars” Walters intones, “I want to shine like the stars in the sky / Don’t let your love get past my heart and stuck in my mind.” It’s damn hard to un-stick Carry it Around.

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About the author

Rick Tvedt

Rick is publisher of Local Sounds Magazine, formerly Rick's Cafe, Wisconsin's Regional Music Newspaper. He is also the Executive Director for MAMA, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces the Madison Area Music Awards and raises funds to promote youth music programs.

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