Kyle Craft & Showboat Honey - Showboat Honey - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Kyle Craft & Showboat Honey - Showboat Honey

by Brian Thompson Rating:7 Release Date:2019-07-12
Kyle Craft & Showboat Honey - Showboat Honey
Kyle Craft & Showboat Honey - Showboat Honey

With his 2016 debut Dolls of Highland, Kyle Craft wowed critics and fans alike with his unrefined, Southern dive bar take on a bygone era of rock, earning comparisons to Bowie, Dylan, and Elton John. His witty, character-driven powerhouse jams carried over into his follow-up, Full Circle Nightmare, which, while striking in its own right, showed little creative deviation from his earlier work. Now, he’s begun to play with our expectations. Far less hooky than we’re accustomed to hearing from him, Showboat Honey carries an experimental feel that’s been absent on the rest of his output. It’s his first record that’s more Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band than Exile on Main St.

The only record of Craft’s so far to find him removed from the cover art, as well as the first with a shared artist credit, Showboat Honey truly feels like the work of a collective rather than a single singer-songwriter. Whether it’s the expansive, exploratory sound of “Johnny (Free & Easy)” or the smooth, bluesy tilt of “Ol’ Lucky Hand” or the communal, organ-heavy swayer “Buzzkill Caterwaul,” this record is a group effort, with a full band coming together as a cohesive unit to construct an aesthetic flow that none of them could produce individually. We can see them growing tighter as the album progressive, finally culminating on glowing tracks like open-strummed barroom jam session “Sunday Driver” and Woodstock-ready power pop number “She’s Lily Riptide.”

Showboat Honey is, however, still very much a Kyle Craft record. Many of the album’s single-ready tracks would feel at home on Dolls of Highland or Full Circle Nightmare, like drifting, psychedelic glam-rock “Broken Mirror Pose” or grungy Rolling Stones-influenced “2 Ugly 4 NY.” And, of course, Craft loves his emotional moments, like smouldering, piano-led ode “Blackhole/Joyride” and spinning ballad “Bed of Needles #2” with its echoed backing chorus. By the time we get to tender, intimate showstopper “Deathwish Blue” (just a Manchester accent away from being a late-90s Oasis hit), the track is dripping with both the pleasure and pain of romance.

Reportedly, Kyle Craft and the band recorded nearly an entire album’s worth of material before deciding to scrap it and start from scratch, and as a result Showboat Honey can feel disjointed at times, but never hurried or disingenuous. Craft is branching out and trying something new (as with “Blood in the Water,” a falsetto-filled piano interlude with Dylanesque lyrics) but the album is not without his signature thumbprint. His latest record finds him growing as an artist without abandoning the sound that initially attracted listeners to his swampland charm.

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