Art is often times a collaborative effort. Consider Bono without The Edge or Mick Jagger without the counterpoint of Keith Richards. Even Leonardo da Vinci needed a Mona Lisa. This give and take, this collision of inspiration and ideas, can lead to a greater discovery, the parts coming together to create something better as a whole. This seems to be the case with country music songwriter Ben Krahne’s latest release, Nashville/California.
It’s a bit odd that this is a “Ben Krahne” album, given that Krahne holds no credits on the record save for songwriting. Yet, it’s that yeoman’s work behind the scenes that creates the sonic and lyrical template for these solid studio musicians to bring his songs to life, infusing them with their own passion and connecting points. The songwriter is fortunate in his choice of collaborators too, as these musicians make solid contributions across the board with good if not great vocals and very polished musical stylings to breathe life into these original tracks. It’s a mixture of sounds Krahne has composed here, yet most fall into the genre of contemporary country. Covering the typical country tenets of love, life, and family, the songwriter brings to bear some substantial songs that could very easily slip into the country mainstream. And, like all albums or collections, some are better than others.
Among those that succeed are “Seven Pound Baby Girl,” a warm and poignant look at fatherhood that has vocalist Ronnie Kimball singing, “Now when she's crying I'm dying/When she's smiling I see/There's nothing more important/Than little pink feet/This diaper queen with just one curl/My seven pound baby girl.” It’s the kind of track that any parent can readily identify with and connect. “Church for Sale” is another highlight, with a mid-tempo beat framing lyrics that best the musical composition in a tale of lost faith found. “Echoes of Sunday sermons, bring back sweet memories/As the cracked stained glass reflects, a broken man on his knees/It's hard now to remember why he ever ran away/But chance or faith led him to this forgotten place/Jesus swung a hammer, maybe he could too.” With a combination of powerful imagery and emotional connection, it is a solid calling card for Krahne.
The artist also tackles issues of love and loss with tracks like “Slipping Away From Him” and “Be The One,” while “Alcatraz” and “Like A Hurricane” providing a more upbeat take on the issue. Krahne also delivers a classic Nashville dream on “Zero to a Hero,” seeming to encapsulate every Music Row performer’s dream of hitting in big.
Krahne does drop the ball a few times, though, most notably “Goodbye Chicago” and “Undefinable Love.” “Goodbye Chicago” is the typical “life is tough, work is tough, I dream of leaving” kind of song but, for whatever reason, the use of Trinidad as the dream destination just doesn’t connect with this listener. It’s just a bit off the beaten path. “Undefinable Love” simply lacks connection due to an outdated musical styling, bringing a tried and true duet approach to this tale of love and leaving listeners flat.
The overall effect of Ben Krahne and Co.’s Nashville/California is a good one. Krahne was wise in his choice of collaborators and they do his work justice, breathing life into these words and allowing them to fly. Krahne’s done his job very well, too, penning tracks that conjure up compelling imagery and concepts that touch the heart. With a little more work on the musical end, Krahne might soon score that hit song that he’s been after.
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)