Sometimes, all of us get sick of this whole drama-infused reviewing music thing. There’s pressure from other critics, publicists, readers…it’s hard to find words for each new album, to express your opinion when you know it’s heavily in the minority, to stand out in the crowd of other people trying to stand out doing the same thing, and it’s understandable why lots of blogs have shut down or gone on hiatus recently. And then, out of the blue, you find some new, cool music from a guy like Texas country artist Kody West, and you remember the reason you do this in the first place–to bring people’s attention to artists like this, and maybe help to give them the same cool discovery you just experienced. It’s a joy like no other, and for me, there’s a certain, more specific joy when it comes to the Texas and Red Dirt music running through this region I call home, and when I get to present new and promising artists rising up in this scene. And “promising” is perhaps the best word to describe the debut album by Kody West. Green.
One of the definite high points on this record is the instrumentation. Sonically, it’s much like the early records of the Eli Young Band, flawlessly merging country and rock, traditional and contemporary, into something real and raw, yet still quite new and refreshing, that indefinable thing that seems to be the hallmark of Texas and Red Dirt music. This record sets itself above many other similar-sounding ones, however, in that there is a variety. “The Prayer” is straight-up country, and there’s lots of steel guitar in “IN the Morning” as well. Then there are more rock-leaning songs like the ever-building “Million Miles” and the title track, which except for its heartbroken lyrics about a couple whose love has burned out over the years, is really anything but country. The variety in instrumentation throughout the album speaks to West’s desire to correctly interpret the songs and the lyrics, and for the most part, that works very well. It also serves to provide something for everyone, from those who like the more country side of Texas music, to those who prefer it to sound like hard rock with honest lyrics.
Speaking of lyrics, there are some strong standouts here too. I mentioned “Green,” the title track, and it is probably the most well-written song here, belying Kody’s twenty-one years as it paints a picture of a couple sleeping in different rooms and miserable after many years together–“it takes a long time to forget what caused a lifetime of regret, and the days slip slowly by, we can run, but we can’t hide.” “Ledges” immediately follows this, as West tries to be a better man; his vocals work well with the instrumentation and lyrics to capture the desperation in both these songs. Another place where the instrumentation and lyrics match perfectly is the dark, slightly sinister “Ogygia,”–the imagery in this one is just great, as West sings about the shadow that follows him around and haunts him. It’s a little hard to explain this in writing, as it relies on metaphors and that dark vibe; it’s really just one you should hear because it’s one of the best on the record. “Million Miles” merges the instrumentation and lyrics well also, although after all that building, when the electric guitars finally do come bursting forth, you wish the solo had gone on longer. One of the more country moments that stands out is “Love me Too,” where West wonders if a woman would return his love–there’s more of that excellent steel guitar here as well.
This is a debut, and it does suffer a little from some of the same things that often plague debut records–you can tell Kody West is still trying to develop his sound and stand out in the ever-growing Texas scene. I think he’s well on his way to doing that with the interesting melodies and variety in instrumentation, but tracks like “For the Last Time” and “IN The Morning” feel more like representations of the style, as opposed to representations of West–I actually quite enjoy the former despite this, but I don’t hear the same passion in these that I do on other tracks. The latter also feels a little underdeveloped lyrically, even though it’s got a lot of that aforementioned steel guitar. “Melody,” the album closer, also feels somewhat out of place, as if it were thrown in as an afterthought. Again, I enjoy this song and its message of faith, but it really doesn’t go with the rest of the album or add much to it.
If you were looking for something new and fresh in Texas country, I suggest starting with Kody West. If you like more country rock instrumentation, this album is definitely a great place to start. There are some nice lyrical moments too, especially on the title track, “Ledges,” and “Ogygia.” This record shows a lot of promise for Kody West–it’s not perfect, but it’s a debut, and Kody West is a name you should keep your eye on.