shoe-gaze country

by Jack Diablo
Jacksonville troubadour Kevin Lee Newberry has just released his new album The Dark Presser. Self-produced with the help of Infintesmal Records, the record is his second within a single year. The prolific songwriter seems to have expanded his musical scope with this release, casually wandering away from (escaping?) the confines of our expectations.
A while ago I described a live show review of Kevin as more Townes Van Zandt than Elliot Smith in terms of the brutally honest, at times depressing music that he writes. If he hadn’t added my name to the Thank You’s on The Dark Presser, I might have thought he wrote this album simply to spite me as my first thought was exactly the opposite of that sentiment. This record is far more Elliot Smith than TVZ as we find Kevin flirting with poppier melodies, expanded instrumentation, and what at times could loosely be described as indie rock. Whereas before I would have described KLN as “boozey singer/songwriter,” I find I must create a new sub-sub-genre to classify this material. The best I could come up with is “shoe-gaze country.”
There’s something just a tad bit brighter about this record. Maybe I’m just that more optimistic these days, or perhaps Mr. Newberry is as well. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly happy about a single song on this record, but something about it just seems, well, less dark. Or at least it has just a hint more of the tragicomic as opposed to being blatantly depressing.
What really stands out on this record is the production. The layered vocals reminded me of something the late Mark Linkous would have done on a Sparklehorse album, and the subtle background noises picked up in the recording make it seem more intimate, like you’re right there with him in his garage studio.
All I can say at this point is that I’ve listened to the first track only twice and it’s been stuck in my head for days. Be sure to check out Kevin Lee Newberry at his CD release party at Lomax Lodge on May 8th where he’ll share the stage with fellow Infintesmal bands Tuffy, Honey Chamber, The 2416 and Memphibians.