Kyle McKearney “Down Home”

Independent, 2021

From “We Will Rock You” to “Down-Home” is quite a journey for Kyle McKearney.

What links ‘We Will Rock You’ the loud, bombastic stage musical that uses Queen’s extensive catalogue to a gentle, delightful album of pure Americana? The answer is singer-songwriter, Kyle McKearney. McKearney spent six months in the touring version of the rock musical playing in places like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver and New York City but he realised that he was missing his family and it led to some serious soul searching the result of which was his debut solo album ‘Down-Home’.

After spending lockdown putting out a series of cover songs from his basement, he hooked up with producer Russell Broom and put together a band that consisted of Mitch Jay on pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, dobro and acoustic guitar, Lisa Jacobs on bass, Lyle Mulzan on drums and most importantly, McKearney’s wife Sara whose superb harmony vocals add a delightful layer to each track, at times making it almost an album of duets, especially on ‘Celebrating’ where Sara goes solo for a verse. All the musicians are excellent especially Jay whose pedal steel playing is a delight, often paired with his splendid banjo palying. Broom’s mix gives all the instruments space to shine although on one or two tracks, Mulzan’s drums could have been a little lower in the mix.

McKearney has a distinctive voice that varies from honey-dripping smooth to whiskey-smoked edgy depending on the songs. The eight tracks on the album also vary, from the almost swamp rock of ‘Keepin’ It Simple’ to the countrified ‘Each And Every Day’ taking in the rocky ‘Rock And Roll Song’ along the way. The lyrics encompass many Americana tropes such as lost love, bar-rooms, drinking, highways, buses and summer rain but they’re never clichéd and always interesting.

McKearney was born in a small town in British Columbia and is proudly Métis (of mixed indigenous and European ancestry) and although now based in Calgary, he spent a lot of time in Nashville and those different roots go to make ‘Down-Home’ an interesting album that stands out from the crowd. Apart from his stint in a rock musical, McKearney has bounced around the music scene for a while. He joined his father’s band out of high school – the song ‘Tough Or Die ’seems to be all about that relationship. He then formed various bands, often playing with brother Shade and at times veered towards writing and performing pop songs – it looked as he was searching for something. As McKearney said When I was out there, I didn’t know if I wanted to write or record or be an artist anymore. I had just done it so many times, with so many groups’. Thankfully he seems to have found himself and his musical métier and ‘Down-Home’ could the first of many superb Americana albums from a man who seems content in his own skin – the album even ends with him whistling – and most comfortable being with his family – down home.

8/10
8/10

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