First things first; the S.K. stands for Simpson-Kennedy, a hyphenated last name, fairly common in the artist’s native Australia, and becoming a far more regular occurrence here in the United States as well. But since Simpson-Kennedy is a mouthful (and possibly an allusion to Lisa Simpson marrying into the Kennedy family), he’s adopted the moniker “S.K.”
It was maybe a year ago that a very cool EP called Delta Pines landed on my desk, and I found it to be a great acoustic work. I’ve been waiting to see what Ivor S.K. would do with a full album, and with the independent release of Montserrat, will he fulfill the promise of the earlier work?
There is no doubting his talent. Aside from writing all ten of the songs on the album, S.K. also played all of the instruments, produced the records, and one a little birdie told me he also catered the event, made the coffee, and swept up afterwards.
All kidding aside, you have to have respect for an artist’s vision that is so focused.
S.K. has mixed styles on the album a lot. These songs are not all traditional blues; they belong to different sounds, those that caught his ear and helped him tell the story. There are breezy Caribbean melodies mixed in with some swamp blues, and just about everything in between.
S.K. starts the album off with the title track, Montserrat. This lovely island located in the Caribbean is filled with beautiful beaches, surrounded by green blue water, and promotes a carefree lifestyle. It sounds great, and just about as far from a smoky Chicago nightclub as you get. He uses some lighthearted licks to create a unique sound and a story that makes me want to jump on a plane and head south.
He slows things down for the follow up song, Don’t Say Goodbye. This one is closer to a traditional blues song in both approach and lyrics. S.K.’s voice is a smoky gravely affair and does a credible job on the song. I like this one a lot, it’s closer in tone to the work he did on Delta Pines.
Honestly, I’m not as crazy about the next song, Ain’t No Cross. The premise is that the singer might be all of these crazy horrible things, but at least he’s not a priest. Still, who am I to knock someone’s artistic vision? I’m just here to comment and the music is good and the lyrics show some clever work, I just think he could have approached it differently and made it a better song.
Some gentle reggae rhythms open up I Been Had. When you listen to songs like this, you can hear the similarities between the blues and reggae as both came from repressed people and gave voice to their struggles. This is a cool song, and one I enjoyed very much.
S.K. follows up with Take The Good With The Bad, a quiet number that gets to some serious blues. This is one that could be appearing on just about every blues show around. I really enjoy his work on this song, he gets right to the heart of the blues and the result is very satisfying.
Next up is It’s Raining, the longest cut on the album at approximately 5:19. S.K. is quite economical with his songs, most fall into the 3-4 minute range. His guitar work is beautiful to listen to, it’s quiet but assured, and sets the mood nicely. His lyrics are sad and introspective.
S.K. follows up with a couple of songs that should appeal to his blues fans. The first is Take Me Back To New Orleans, which sounds like it could be a Fats Domino title, and when you listen to its opening, it does sound like it is setting up for a party. He captures some of the local flavor and puts together a fun song. After that is Murder Tonight, a dark number that adds a touch of noir to the proceedings. This one is a little more Chicago sounding than his previous songs. It’s a very cool number.
Next up is an instrumental titled Indianola. As there are several towns with that name, I’m going to hazard a guess that it refers to Indianola, MS as S.K. has a penchant for all things Delta. It’s also the birthplace of Albert King, and B.B. King lived there as a child. It has a rich history with the blues. S.K. has a great approach to the guitar, he’s a solid player and here he affords himself the opportunity to show off a little.
In my opinion, he’s saved the best for last. Good Mawnin’ Judge is a short, funny blues song that I think most blues lovers will enjoy. While a few other songs will end up on Time For The Blues, this one will be the first. The gravel in his voice is perfect for the song.
Ivor S.K. is obviously a very talented player with some very definite ideas about the way he wants to produce his music. I can agree with that while still questioning the occasional selection. This is an album that is long on promise, and I feel that as he experiments further, he will either find a way to blend these styles of music seamlessly, or he will choose to follow one direction or the other.
Either way, I can’t wait to hear what he brings to the table next. I would be willing to bet you that it’s going to be an exciting release. Check out Montserrat and Delta Pines at his website http://www.ivorsk.com/ and see where he’s going to be out on tour. I hope to catch him live sometime soon.