An album review of Kevin Devine’s fifth studio release, Brother’s Blood.
Brother’s Blood is the album Kevin Devine has been trying to create for the past six years. Each release has brought him closer to acheiving his goal, but only now can I finally rest easy, having heard exactly what Kevin’s been trying to convey all these years. If you haven’t heard of him before, I hardly blame you. He’s done a magnificent job of keeping his albums just below radio-friendly standards, while they remain accessible to those who dig deep enough to discover the raw passion and intellectual lyrics just beneath the surface. Fans of Conor Oberst, particularly those not too fond of his most recent venture, Outer South, will find this release refreshing, as Kevin provides comparable clever wordplay with a more sincere delivery.
The opener doesn’t spare any time with long introductions and instead jumps right into a glum but optimistic-sounding verse that sets the tone for the entire album. Kevin croons softly throughout and leaves the listener with mixed emotions, as the lyrics portray a sense of urgent desperation while the song itself sounds so comforting. Not a highlight of the album but certainly not a disappointment. Carnival is a track with a more subtle sadness as Kevin likens his life to that of a circus performer. A little slower than the first track, its one that isn’t easy to appreciate at first listen. Given enough time, though, the dark lyrics and sombre atmosphere make this one of the most passionate songs Devine has ever written. Time to Burn is a tad more energetic than the previous two tracks and deliberately exposes Kevin’s lack of faith in humanity, using a style of witty repetition that emphasizes well his feelings of futility in regards to the world. Hand of God is a perfect example of diversity on this album. Beginning with an upbeat, twangy country flair this song begs to be belted out at full volume. With such a catchy chorus that beckons us to “Breathe, Breathe deep. Breathe in greedily, like you may never breathe again.” we’re given a little push to remember to enjoy the simple things we often take for granted.
The title track tackles a subject Devine obviously feels quite passionate about. His brother’s death has been a central theme for many songs in his catalogue, whether directly or in a more subtle way, but none hit quite as hard as this 8 minute long opus. If you’ve got the patience to stay focused for that long, you’ll no doubt be blown away by the sheer sincerity in Devine’s quivery voice.
Despite the brilliance that comes through in the first five tracks, of the subsequent six only two tracks are truly memorable. Not that the other four are bad songs, but they seem to interrupt the flow of the album. Fever Moon is actually a rather good song that segues nicely into the following track, it’s only downside is the unfortunate places it takes between the epic title track and one of the most honest, stripped-down songs Devine has ever written. It’s only your life is simply gorgeous. The first solely acoustic track on the album shows where Kevin’s true strengths are, and will always be.
The next three tracks are almost entirely interchangeable. Neither of them stick out in my mind and together they create an 11 minute long divot in an otherwise (nearly) flawless album. A particularly unusual track, I could be with anyone, is backed by a boring electronic drum beat and completely throws off the flow of the album. Luckily though, clocking in as the shortest track on the album, it’s over before it’s dull energy ruins the good vibe the album has provided thus far.
The closing song, Tomorrow’s just too late, wraps up the album in a way that could not be more fitting. Kevin once again shows us the passion he can create with just an acoustic guitar and his one of a kind singing voice.
When Brother’s Blood is done, you’ll be left most likely breathless. Nobody can put things into perspective quite like Kevin Devine. The few unfitting tracks hardly take away any shine from the gems contained in this album, and overall it makes for an amazing listening experience.