Kevin Wilson started out on the guitar like so many before him. He learned a few chords from his Dad, and a lot more from Mel Bay. Raised on a mix of classic and southern rock, Wilson gravitated to the sounds of heavy metal in his young adulthood, forming a string of bands (Liar, Astaroth, Lucian Blaque) that had increasing notoriety in the Tampa, Florida music scene. Lucian Blaque in particular was a success of sorts, with hundreds of live gigs over five years and inclusion on a national promotional compilation. Yet without a label deal in the works, Wilson eventually decided to go in a different direction. Stepping away from music for a time to concentrate on another career, Wilson found that music never left him. Wilson is back at it again, and though mellowed by time, continues to be a prodigious songwriter. His latest effort, Saturday Sessions, is a coming to terms with the passage of time.
Wilson kicks things off with “On The Lake”, a solo guitar/voice number that screams for a full band arrangement ala Pat McGhee, or even a more aggressive classic rock arrangement in the vein of Boston. Wilson’s lyrical constructs are occasionally awkward but generally solid. The song has its own internal energy and would benefit immensely from a fuller presentation, but is sonically very appealing. “Self Portrait” ruminates on self-awareness in an artistically melancholy tone. This one wears on the listeners after a bit, steeped as it is in a sort of academic self-pity. “Scars” is another song of self-examination; party prayer and part rumination on his own imperfection. The song has a nice melody, and works well as a solo performance, but once again seems to beg the addition of more instrumentation to fill out the sound.
“Tomorrow Never Comes” is a song of existential songwriter angst. Wilson is fearful of writing about the one he loves lest the act of writing the song may jinx whatever comes next. The song is well-written and well sung, and has the air of authenticity that comes from recognizing something universal in a song that can apply to most anyone. “September Comes” finds Wilson ruminating on an unrequited future. Melancholy is the prevailing mood here, even as the song seems to find runs of hope. It’s an odd juxtaposition that finds Wilson moving back and forth across the void in between.
“Pictures” is a livelier effort, a song of hope from someone coming out of the darkness. The song is a pragmatic soul-searcher that seems to lose steam at times as the singer wrestles with self-doubt. The rhythmic acoustic guitar arrangement is a nice touch that keeps the energy up even as the song seemingly falters. Saturday Sessions bids adieu with “Words Of A Poet”, a lyrically expansive and occasionally awkward collection of similes and metaphors wrapped around existential questions of being and essence. One gets the impression that Wilson is reaching for a higher level of meaning or understanding here, but if so it gets lost in a jumble of disconnected thoughts holding on the theme.
Kevin Wilson deals in insecurity, mortality and emotional attachment on Saturday Sessions, with pessimism and optimism wrestling for control. It’s a split decision, with a quiet, uncomfortable optimism winning out. The solo guitar and voice setup works well for Wilson; he never does too much or too little, but there are songs here that could be so much more with a full band. Consequently, Saturday Sessions sometimes seems incomplete, but it is a solid listen nonetheless
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Review by: Wildy Haskell