Kevin Welch’s latest album, A Patch of Blue Sky, is his first solo release since 2001’s Millionaire. That’s not to say he has been quiet since then. In 2004 Welch teamed up with fellow Dead Reckoning artists Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplin to produce You Can’t Save Everybody that was later followed up with Lost John Dean in 2006, both albums featured on Folk Radio UK. On his latest release Kevin Welch proves again that he still has the songwriting skills that have made him so memorable.
Kevin Welch moved to Nashville in 1978 to work as a songwriter and he has put pen to paper for many well known greats including Solomon Burke, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Linda Ronstadt. He is a clearly gifted songwriter and he shows this again on his latest offering: A Patch of Blue Sky on which he has put together ten great tracks which he has either written or co-written.
Welch has undertaken a journey in the last few years it would seem, I felt there was a lot of hope enshrined in his lyrics to this album and that he may have undergone a very personal journey in the interim and especially since 2008 when he took the decision to leave Nashville for the hills outside of Austin Texas. Independence is his strength on this album having self-produced it, it maybe took that move away from Nashville to make this album work. The results are remarkable, it has a lot of soul at its center and is, in my opinion, his best album to date.
He has gathered around him some great artists who are cut from the same cloth including: Eliza Gilkyson, Sally Allen, Jeremy Nail, Dustin Welch, Jackie Johnson, Preston Shannon, The Trishas (Savannah Welch, Kelley Mickwee, Jamie Wilson, Liz Foster), Kelley Mickwee, The Burns Sisters (Annie, Jeannie, Marie).
Welch still maintains some of his blues / roots sound but he also takes it down a peg or two into a more alt-country zone for some beautiful tracks like the reminiscing lyrics on the song Andaman Sea on which he is accompanied by Eliza:
We left a lot of miles behind us
You and I we traveled rather well
The deepest blues, finally now they find us
No matter all the beauty we beheld
One last time, just to know we did it
Come out on the sand and dance with me
The moon and the waves are beautiful
Here on the Andaman Sea
One of the stand-out tracks, which I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t climb the Americana charts is Come A Rain. With short, catchy, attention grabbing lyrics and a gospel drenched chorus you can’t help but listen again and again to try and phathom his psyche:
Confucius was a joker, Kafka was a spook
Rumi was a homey, Bukowski was a duke
Fellini was a scientist, Dante was a thug
Buddha was a cowboy, Amelia was a stud
Einstein was a psychic, Stalin was a hick
Marilyn was Marilyn, Picasso was a trip
My other favourite that I chose for the playlist is Midnight and Noon. Maybe the laid back banjo and fiddle helped. It’s a lovely track and again great lyrics, this time accompanied in song by Sally Allen, also some lovely accordion and steel later in the track really makes it work well. Depsite the tale of lost love it’s uplifting, maybe intentionally to show acceptance of that loss and strength in self-belief.
Tryin’ to forget you, babe
But I don’t think I can
Now I walk that road alone
That ol’ caliche road alone
New Widow’s Dream is a very stripped down track. A very quiet song, the cello sweeps this track along with a beautiful melody, like a breeze. For me this song was one of the more potent of lyrics on the album, and he managed to finish writing it in time for Veterans Day:
Her salty tears her bloodshot eyes
Are raised upon the winter skies
Where high above her angel flies
Who’s to say what these things mean
Or how many other young wives have seen
That same old new widow’s dream
All the tracks on the album are great, but the final track I chose to add to our playlist on Folk Radio UK was The Great Emancipation. There is a twisted irony writing this now as it was the disasters on Australia in 2009 that inspired the song. As Welch says:
When I arrived in Sydney in January ’09 the big news was about the horrible floods up north. Death and destruction. As I was absorbing that catastrophe, over around Melbourne the bush fires broke out. Fire and Flood. I remember thinking, hard times here, hard times over yonder. So a year later I wrote The Great Emancipation, about regular people hanging in there through whatever happens, with faith and love for each other.
It hit me when I read this, having just watched on the news the floods happening all over again in Australia. I don’t know where people find the courage they need in times like this, but somehow they do…
I wonder about the meaning of it all
And I wonder, will the crazy people win
What will happen when I refuse to crawl
Will they stand aside and let a brother in
Hard times here, hard times over yonder
Don’t the stars shine pretty my love
Blood runs deep, souls run deeper
They rise as high as heaven above
To me it’s all the same
I need no explanation
Come the sun or come the rain
Come the Great Emancipation
Andaman Sea (Solo version)
Buy the album: A Patch of Blue Sky