Terrell's Tune-Up


Anywhere but Home by Kern Richards - Album review

 

This is a collection of tough-minded roots-rock tunes by a singer-songwriter from Southern California with a deep, ragged, world-weary voice who sings from the gut and writes from dark regions of his soul. He’s a former Orange County punk rocker who was in a band called Pig Children. His sound is softer now, but it still hits hard.


The first song that grabbed me by the throat here is “Prison Town.” With an arrangement and a guitar hook that reminds me of Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town,” Richards sings about living in a place where the main industry is the corrections system and “the air’s so thick I thought I’d drown.” In this town, everyone seems like some sort of inmate. “Saw prisoner’s kin with broken lives/Heard the guards all braggin’ they beat their wives/It’s only pain that makes a sound/There ain’t no love in a prison town,” Richards growls.


The ravages of liquor is a theme that pops up in various tracks. The title song starts out with the line “Monday drunk in Barstow, Tuesday couldn’t care/Wednesday night, sick with fright and headin’ for nowhere.” And “Alcohol Dreams” starts off, “Woke up standing against a bar somewhere, time was sitting still.” And, of course, it gets worse: “If the bartender could read my mind, man he’d call the police/They’d put me in a straitjacket, nobody here would sign my release.”


Richards shows a glimpse of dark humor on the blues-rocker “Down on Blues,” which starts out, “I got a job, I hate my job. I got a girl, she hates me.” Later he complains, “I got swine flu, I got jungle rot/Ain’t no disease exists that I don’t got.”


Richards is backed by a highly capable band that includes former Santa Fe resident Tony Gilkyson, (who’s picked his guitar with Lone Justice, X, Chuck E. Weiss and others) and John Bazz of The Blasters. The album is on a label run by Stevie Tombstone, who knows a thing or two about dark, mournful roots sounds. All in all, it’s an impressive solo debut album by an artist who deserves a wider audience.
- Steve Terrell

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