This album was arranged, recorded, engineered, produced, and mixed by Kevin Bowe.
Release Date: 2012.
My discovery of Kevin Bowe's work came directly from Randy Abramson 's website, Rock Torch.The site interviews rock musicians and asks them who they would recommend the readers listen to, in terms of new music or unearthed gems. They follow a wide range of musicians from many genres, and I stumbled across an article on Alex Chilton after he died. I am a huge fan of the Replacements, Paul Westerberg, Grandpa Boy, and anything else that Westerberg wants to call his music.
Corresponding with Kevin Bowe to set up this review has been a privilege. Picking up a guitar at 13 years old, he is in this business for the love of the music and the good life. And what is the good life? Not necessarily being famous, but having the joy of writing for, and playing music with, his 'heroes'. He toured and recorded with Paul Westerberg, and they co-wrote the song, "Everybody Lies." He also recorded with Etta James, Johnny Lang, The Meat Puppets, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leo Kottke, Three Dog Night and dozens of other artists. With this expanse of recording and touring history from Bowe, I had instant respect for his experience. After just a slight amount of research, I learned that this Minneapolis writer, producer and guitarist, has scored 3 Platinum records, and written songs on two Grammy award winning albums, while working with Paul Westerberg.
This current record, "Natchez Trace" is all his own, with contributions from Paul Westerberg, Freedy Johnston, Chuck Prophet, Tim O'Reagan (Jayhawks), Nels Kline (Wilco) and Scarlet Rivera (Dylan/Desire).
When I got the record, I expected it to be witty, edgy, lyrically deep and musically sound. What I didn't expect was that Bowe and the Prophets would go beyond the horizon of the punk song-writer field, to integrate even more diverse sounds into the album. Natchez Trace is a great platform for we Westerberg-ians to bounce around on, but every now and again, with this album, know that you will either hit your head on a sound you haven't heard yet, or be catapulted through the window of your apartment, into something totally new. What I love about the Okemah Prophets, is the blatant dealing with reality, blended with beautiful production, instrumentation and most importantly, the message of hope - to keep the individualism that we all should cherish.
Meet The Okemah Prophets
Kevin Bowe - Vocals, Guitar
Peter Anderson (Polara/Honeydogs) - Drums
Steve Price - Bass
The Okemah Prophets also perform and provide back up for Alison Scott and Freedy Johnston.
Album credits of the band and their guest musicians will be listed in addition on each song.
Track By Track:
Kevin Bowe- guitar, baritone guitar, vocals, harmonica, tambourine. Peter Anderson-drums. Steve Price-bass. John Ely-pedal steel. Alison Scott-harmony vocals.
This starting track opens up with a quiet guitar riff, but quickly goes into a smooth production with some country warmth behind it. The first glimmer of vocals come through, and we get to hear the low range of Bowe's voice, which is the crux of the song, but the harmonies from Scott build up the complexity. John Ely is on pedal steel, adds texture. A subtle harp is introduced by Bowe, as the song closes with elegance.
Kevin Bowe-guitar, vocals, tambourine. Peter Anderson-drums. Steve Price-bass and bass. Ruth Whitney Bowe-piano. Tommy Barbarells-B3. Michelle Kinney-cello. Jillian Raya-violin, viola. Tyler Johnston-French horn. Sophia Parente-oboe. Devon Gray-bassoon. Johnny Solomon and Molly Moore-harmony vocals.
Clever lyrics run throughout this album. What I love about good punk lyrics are the realism in the story telling and the grasp of the complexity in describing difficult situations. This intelligence comes through in Bowe's songwriting and carries on in the lyrics to other songs on Natchez Trace. Every time you hear a song on this album, you are drawn to try to listen to the different instruments that made it happen. Ruth Whitney Bowe adds clarity with piano. Jillian Raye gives the song a sad tone with violin and viola. I could go on, and I will. These songs are complicated arrangements, although they sound streamlined, because they've been well produced.
In Too Deep
Kevin Bowe- Guitar, vocals, harmonica, banjo, cowbell, shaker. Peter Anderson-Drums, conga. Steve Price-bass. Scarlet Rivera-fiddle. Bruce Lubek-harmony vocal.
Peter Anderson takes it away with conga percussion, and acoustic rhythms wave you on to this catchy Dylan sounding tune, complete with harp and some surprising banjo from Bowe. The fiddle from Scarlet Rivera, takes on a lead of its own. Again, the lyrics are reflective of a complicated situation, but the song makes it all seem manageable, which is what good music is supposed to do.
So this song had me driving off the road while I was listening in my car! I reviewed Lenny Kravitz's, Black and White America, and Rock Star City Life, came to mind in the spirit of this track. Who's got a groovy mini-moog and a wha wha pedal? No, Kevin told me he pulled this off with bass, drums and keyboards. A song written ten years ago about a female Martian dreamed up in Toronto, "so many planets, so little time ..." Kevin Bowe did ALL of the instruments to this song!
Never Don't Stay
Kevin Bowe-guitars, vocals, percussion, baritone guitar. Peter Anderson-drums. Steve Price-bass. Phil Solem-harmony vocals.
Power guitar on the front end, with some great bass from Steve Price bring on that classic indie rocker sound. The light productions of acoustics ring through like echo bells. This is a great drive in the summer with the top down kind of a tune. Take off - roll the dice behind your shades!
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, baritone guitar, shaker, claps, tambourine, bells. Peter Anderson-drums. Steve Price-bass. Nels Cline- lead guitar. Steve Kung- trumpet. Matt Darling- trombone. Brian Gallagher- tenor saxophone. Daryk Narum- baritone saxophone.
Co-written by Paul Westerberg, his signature sound permeates. Harmony backups are provided by the Liar's Choir, with pick up production, and horns for effect to bump up the volume. Nels Cline, from Wilco, is on lead guitar. Wow, what a line up! The quick thinking, 'shoo be doo be doo-bie' is a rebel slap in the face of everyone who is out there trying to be bad axe. Many themes in this album underscore the various sides of the recording industry, but the overall message from Bowe to the artist is supportive. As catchy and as witty as "Jingle" from Westerberg's Folker, "Everybody Lies" describes the shallow side of the fickle public, in the face of the aspiring musician. But it is forgiving, in that it never takes the process too seriously. Great song.
Haven't You Heard
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, shaker, claps, organ. Billy Thommes, drums. Steve Price- bass. Alison Scott, harmony vocal.
I recently reviewed a record by The Villains, produced by Tom Petty drummer, Stan Lynch. There is a Tom Petty (Refugee) sound that is remarkable in the guitar work here and I think flows through this classic rock tune. In an interview, drummer Sean McNally said that Lynch's style often subtracts from songs, to give space for the instruments and the song to expand, leaving the best to be heard. I think this song measures up to this standard.
Waitin For The Wheel
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, shaker. Peter Anderson- drums. Steve Price- bass. Andy Dee, lap steel, Chuck Prophet- lead guitar
So maybe I have industrial disease or I've been on roller skates for way too long, but I hear Dire Straits in this song. The run on back beat, echo slide with vocals, expansive production and witty lyrics, pull together a great listen. There are some good blues riffs from Chuck Prophet mid-song too.
My Favorite Pain
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, tambourine, baritone guitar, bass. Peter Anderson- drums. John Ely, pedal steel, Andy Dee, lap steel, Becky Schlegel, harmony vocal.
This doesn't sound like Billie Holiday's, Don't Explain, at all, but the same in-love-with-the-heartache-blues sentiment is there. That's all I will say.
Written by Kevin Bowe, Duane Jarvis, and John Brannen
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, shaker. Peter Anderson- drums. Steve Price- bass. Bruce McCabe, piano, Paul Mayasich, slide guitar, Cynthia Johnson, harmony vocal.
I can hear this belted out live and see the crowd swayin'. Paul Mayasich got a George Thorogood sounding slide going, and the energy came through, with this ripping blues tune. Love McCabe's piano!
I Found Out
Written by John Lennon
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, shaker. Peter Anderson- drums. Steve Price- bass
With some devil nasty riffs, followed by metal speed, Kevin Bowe and The Okemah Prophets are pulling out the stops, as they push us into the hot pool of sound. This iconic Lennon piece gets an update, and is put into context of many generations of music and the happenings of the past decades. It is not to be taken lightly, Nothing is done by coincidence on this album. "I Found Out" was chosen by Bowe, because of 'the open wound, the agony Lennon is in, and the simultaneous clarity he is in." During the song, there is a reference of 'Jesus to Paul,' and Bowe likened that in this record as a nod to Westerberg.
I say, "To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall, something went wrong, my name is Paul!"
The next three songs are grouped together on the album. Why? Kevin wrote them as a series to express the story of a character in the songs, who leaves the comfort of her hometown and love, to pursue LA. She is narrated by the song Devil's Garden, as she realizes she doesn't want to be fake in the music industry. Finally, the Gutters of Paradise tell the story of meeting people who move out to LA for the dream of the show business, but never quite achieve it, and still they stay, feeding off the dream that will never be materialized.
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, organ, percussion. Peter Anderson- drums. Steve Price- bass. Freedy Johnston, harmony vocals
Ah, back to the skyway motif, it does come upon us, eventually. Stepwise chords frame out a tune for a thoughtful, sad love ballad. The harp closes out the song, which stops on a dime.
Written by Kevin Bowe and Sara Majors
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, finger cymbal, electric guitar. Peter Anderson- drums. Steve Price- bass. Chris Kirkwood, banjo, Curt Kirkwood, lead guitar, Hannah Price, Caronline Soderberg and Samantha Nicholson, vocals, Freedy Johnston, harmony vocals.
I love the lyrics of this song, it is a message to stand up for creativity in art and music writing. When I hear the sitar, it reminds me of old school, singer songwriter radio. Timing is everything in this song, even the bells ... and the patchouli! As a listener, don't kid yourself trying to be abstract, it is what moves you that makes a tune memorable. When the artist takes the time to sing each note to the fullest, making the song rhythmic without being too repetitive, it creates a subtle beat, and let's all admit it, rhythm is really what we want.
Gutters of Paradise
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, dulcimer, tambourine. Peter Anderson- drums. Steve Price- bass. Scot LeGere- B3 organ. Freddy Johnston- harmony vocal.
Mixing acoustic and electric lines express the contrasts that are portrayed in this song. Rhythm keeps the track upbeat. There is pressure to keep up, yet an acceptance of what is already here, at least for now. The Wallflowers might be wishing they wrote this song first. Bowe's voice does sound like Jakob Dylan at times, or Matt Hebert, both artists whom I respect.
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocals, dulcimer, bells, tambourine. Peter Anderson- drums, conga. Steve Price- bass. Natalie Murphy- violin, viola. Tim O'Reagan- harmony vocals.
This seemed to be Kevin Bowe's stride, as the song sounds organic to him and similar to nothing I've heard. The backup vocals add depth. The singer-songwriter style is the target zone for this band.I asked Kevin about this cover, which is from the band, Spirit. I told him it reminded me of something George Harrison would write. He said, "it is very Harrison, in the music and the hippy dippy lyrics." He suggested two great albums from Spirit, Fresh Garbage and 12 Dreams of Dr.Sardonicus.
Every Little Bit Hurts
Kevin Bowe- guitar, vocal. Andy Dee- lap steel. John Ely- pedal steel. Becky Shlegel- harmony vocal. Randy Sabien- fiddle.
A gritty country ballad for the aching soul. Kevin said this was the first song that was cut for the record. He told me wrote it without a band while walking around Toronto one night. He was inspired when he happened to see a poster of the sci-fi movie, "The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman!" He thought lap and pedal steel would sound good together, and got the idea to find a band to produce the song.
I Found Out (PG Version)
I love the fast, almost metal bass in this track, Bowe and The Prophets are in the punk zone, exactly where they belong. Sometimes things end as they begin.
Natchez Trace is a collection of works from Kevin Bowe and the Okemah Prophets, who bring a wealth of recording and touring experience to the listener. This is not a multiple choice question quiz. The sounds here have taken kernels from punk, rock, folk and blues, and analyzed them, to create an organic essay mix, that pulls from a wide range of genres. Kevin Bowe said he knew, the chemistry created when Peter Anderson and Steve Price got together with him, would turn into a band. Paul Westerberg guest writes on the track, "Everybody Lies," and shows he has not lost creativity or stride, in the volumes of works created to date.
If you pick up this record, spring for the CD or LP of Natchez Trace if available.
Kevin's liner notes are just as entertaining as the music, with their hidden jokes and quips, it is worth getting out the magnifying glass!
What is Kevin's philosophy of the music industry? He recalled what his first producer (who worked with Prince) said,
"If you're going to do this for a living, you better truly love the music itself. The bullshit of the music business will weed you out, but if you're in this because you love the music itself, then you have a shot."
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