Southern Illinois native, Kendell Marvel, has real country music coursing through his very being. Since he was a 10-year-old boy he has been delighting audiences in his home country – starting off with cover versions of outlaw country Alumni such as Waylon, Willie and Hank whilst gigging with his father, before flourishing into a seasoned songwriter responsible for penning Gary Allen’s first Top 5 hit Right Where I Need to Be during his first day in Nashville. The hits kept on coming and Kendell has written songs for stars including Jake Owen, Jamey Johnson and the incredible song-writing machine that is Chris Stapleton, whilst gigging and maintaining a solo career in the US at the same time.
Luckily for us, his 2017 Lowdown & Lonesome debut album received a UK release in May of 2018. His subsequent support slot with the Brothers Osborne in the same month sent UK country fans into a complete Kendell frenzy as they marvelled at his roots rock blend of southern country music and authentic, gritty vocals which, at the switch of a song, power down to reveal a more gentle, unabashed sensitive side. Such vocal prowess lends itself superbly to the theme of heartbreak and the subsequent vices and personal upheaval that follow.
The effortless genius of Kendell’s artistry is apparent from the very start of the album, kicking off with the title track Lowdown and Lonesome. Guitar riffs galore from the outset, this is a belter of an opener – rock infused country blues with a classic country story about hitting rock bottom, outlaw style. Therein lies the beginning of his concept album; a soaring tale of heart-wrenching country song-writing, melody and musicianship at its finest. The tumultuous journey of good time, up-tempo tunes (Heartache Off My Back, Untangle My Mind, Tryin’ Not to Love You) mixed with gut-wrenching tales of loneliness and misery (Hurtin’ Gets Hard – my personal favourite, but I was always a sucker for country songs of abject heartbreak) good old-fashioned honky tonkin’ tunes (Closer to Hell, Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye – a barn storming Charlie Daniel’s cover featuring Jamey Johnson) and the magnificent George Strait-esque That Seat’s Saved.
This is one of the most exhilarating and authentic country albums out of Music City for quite a while. Artistic freedom is a wonderful thing and Kendell Marvel has made an album to be revered and looked up to by his peers and fans alike. Great production by Keith Gattis and multi-talented musicians like Mickey Raphael and ex-Black Crowe Audley Freed are just the cherry on the top of this sublime musical creation.
5 stars out of 5
Full Track listing (10 songs, 39 minutes):
Lowdown & Lonesome, Gypsy Woman, Heartache Off My Back, Watch Your Heart, Untangle My Mind, Tryin’ Not to Love You, Hurtin’ Gets Hard, Closer to Hell, That Seat’s Saved, Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye (feat. Jamey Johnson).