Photo by Joey Wharton
It’s important to remember that there is more to our local music scene than what meets the eye in live settings. For every musician cutting their teeth on stage multiple times a month, there are countless more, equally creative and talented, releasing music online through a variety of sources. Some releases are instantly praised, entering the canon of our city’s great discography; some sit quietly for weeks or months until the right moment exposes them to the right audience; and some just toil in unwarranted obscurity, buried under the constant barrage of new releases.
With that in mind, we are happy to announce a new weekly feature by Doug Nunnally (@musicdoug) aimed at giving these releases, both big and small, their proper due. Each week, we’ll highlight a standout release from the local scene that you can currently find and preview on Bandcamp. We highly encourage you to check out each release and consider purchasing it for the amount listed, or maybe a bit more if you feel so inclined. Some weeks will be artists you know, while others will be artists you’re just discovering. Regardless, it won’t take you long to realize that Richmond’s music scene is just as alive in your personal headphones and speakers as it is at your favorite venue.
Out on Bandcamp today is one of the finest Americana records Richmond has ever released: Good Way Home by Sid Kingsley. Armed with a towering voice, clear message, expansive tone, and an all-star cast of local musicians, Kingsley has put together an incredible collection of gripping songs that freely and boldly explore the broad umbrella that is Americana.
The record starts off with the title track gloriously introducing you to the world of Sid Kingsley. Soulful ’70s progressions lead way to folk declarations both honest and bare before a delicate and winding chorus floats in, providing a musical contrast of hope to the solemn tone that dominates much of the song. The peppering of horns later in the song provides a bit of flavor for the music, moving it further away from the weighty resonance and into a realm of joyous exuberance that the conclusion takes full advantage of. An ingenious song, the only thing more eye-opening than listening to it is finding out that it’s the first song Kingsley ever wrote.
From the title track down to album closer “Postlude,” this record is overflowing with the heart and spirit of its musicians, most notably Kingsley himself who erupts at times with a bellow akin to legendary musician Levon Helm. Such is the case in his rendition of song “Moonshiner,” a roots track that will no doubt leave fans of The Band grinning from ear to ear. This bellow takes on many forms throughout the record, but the result is the same each time: Kingsley left larger-than-life, something the compositions do their very best to support.
Don’t let the generous use of the words “Americana” and “folk” scare you off though. This album contains plenty of moments of pure rock, none more pronounced or impactful as “Duncan,” one of the true stand-outs of the record that demands an immediate listen.
There’s much more to praise inside Good Way Home — the precise jaunt of “Rat On A Wheel,” the cinematic shuffle of “Postcards From Hell,” the timeless charm of “These Are The Reasons,” the spontaneous brilliance of “Postlude” — but to continue singling out specific moments and qualities only distracts from the bigger picture of the record. As much as it celebrates the different aspects of Americana and folk, it proves how malleable and boundless the genre truly is, and offers the listener a chance to test this concept out with multiple filters, from soul to blues to even jazz. The production (and mixing) of Scott Lane plays a big part in this, making this debut feel like the work of an acclaimed and sought-after producer like Dave Cobb or John Simon. The backing band, consisting of plenty of local favorites like Marucs Tenney and Kenneka Cook, also does their best to support this concept, adding their own unique flair to further test the boundaries of each song. But at the record’s core, it’s still Kingsley’s voice and hand that make Good Way Home so compelling, so cathartic, and so unbelievably spectacular. Saying this is one of Richmond’s finest Americana releases in its storied history is a bold proclamation, but dive only a minute into the first song of the record and you’ll know it’s true.
Oh, one more thing. While this feature will celebrate local recordings each week, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that the album release show for Good Way Home is taking place at Flora this Saturday at 10 PM. Admission is free (yes, free) and if you show up early, you can also catch Sammi Lanzetta, someone who will most likely pop up on here before the year is done. Make sure to pick up a vinyl copy while you’re there — I’m sure they’re going to go quick once people catch wind of the spectacular sounds housed within.