A Little Change
A one-man band with an occasional rhythm section, Charleston-based songwriter Kevin Church shows off all his talent on his sophomore effort, A Little Change.
Backed by Ben Meyer’s infectious percussion and bass grooves, Church handles all other instrumental duties on his own — vocals, guitars, harmonica, bass, and Hammond B5 Organ.
While Church strikes a solid chord on at least one “full band” tune, the rollicking “DC Town Blues,” he’s at his best when the arrangements are stripped down to the simplicity of a guitar and voice, as he typically performs.
The album’s dozen songs find their welcome highlight near the end with ninth track “Morristown.” The ode to rustic, rural Tennessee, set over a steady snare drum pattern and consistent finger-picking, recalls a Southern-bred take on a Springsteen-esque ballad.
Church’s influences are more obvious in the album’s early songs, including the catchy opener “Pretty Good” and the swanky title track that follows. It’s impossible to ignore the Dylan-esque vocals, except on the occasional line-ending tremolo notes.
The slinky acoustic-slide number “Man to Crawl” drops into a welcoming detour after the electric-based opening songs. “Cold Rain” continues the unplugged shuffle, a head-bobber backed by a reverb and vibrato-laden pattern.
“New River Shore” continues the less-is-more approach, as Church sings like an old soul recounting a lost love. It’s a sad, sweet, matter-of-fact song with plenty of imagery.
It’s not until track six, however, that the listener appreciates the thought that went into the song order, as spare balladry drops unapologetically into the hip-shaking “DC Town Blues,” where Church’s vocals sound less like Dylan, adopting a signature twang of his own.
“Let’s Be Real” may be the self-made disc’s best example of layering, with a pleasant electric arpeggio chiming over some light strumming. That acoustic pop piece leads into the mostly forgettable “God Bless This Home,” before bouncing back into the album’s strongest track, “Morristown.”
Two more mid-tempo acoustic-and-drums songs follow: “Angelina” and “Whenever.” The latter is simple and strong, backed by spare drums and shakers — perhaps one of the more radio-friendly songs Church has written.
A Little Change concludes its second gradual transition from rock-and-roll to folk with closing track “Dear Old Chicago,” a haunting coffee-shop tribute to a city, the type of song almost every great singer-songwriter has at least one of in their bag.
Church is a relatively underground name in the Charleston music scene, but with A Little Change, he shows he’s got the necessary elements to make it as a songwriter. (myspace.com/kevinchurch)