Godfathers of Americana


By Paul Shugrue
Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2007

Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplin have collaborated on two highly satisfying albums as a trio, but now that they are joined by Kane’s son Lucas on drums, they’re ready to get serious about being a band. Kane was one half of the O’Kanes, a hit-making country duo in the ’90s, and Welch has been an independent Nashville recording artist since 1990. The multi-instrumentalist Kaplin has made his name as one of the top session players in the country, dubbed “this generation’s Ry Cooder.” Kane Welch Kaplin features some of the slickest picking, singing and songwriting this side of Nashville and proves that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Shimmering acoustic guitars, sparse, plucked banjo, fiddle and pedal steel interact beautifully with Kane’s aching baritone and Welch’s higher and slightly more expressive vocals. This is folk music played with jaw-dropping instrumental intensity, humor and drama. Story songs like “I Wish I Had That Mandolin,” “Last Lost Highway” and “Dark Boogie #7” leave a lot to the imagination, telling a much longer tale than the lyrics would indicate. “Red Light Blinking,” for instance, has the singer traveling from hotel to hotel, and every room he stays in has a red light blinking on the phone, but he never checks the message.

Kane Welch Kaplin lacks the political incorrectness of You Can’t Change Everybody and moves further away from the bluegrass leanings of Lost John Dean, the two albums that preceded it, but the restlessness of the new songs suggests that they are constantly moving forward. That’s what real bands do.

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