September 2007

Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch & Fats Kaplin
Kane/Welch/Kaplin CD release
September 25, 2007 Hugh's Room Toronto
Southern-fried folk virtuosity
by Sebastian Cook
My first occasion to see this phenomenal Nashville-based trio was at Hugh’s two years ago with Canadian troubadour David Francey in support of their debut You Can’t Save Everybody. So it didn’t surprise me to see their elevation into what the Boston Globe called “an Americana superband.” This time around, Kane’s son Lucas joined the family onstage to introduce Toronto to their third collaboration, Kane/Welch/Kaplin.

Welch sardonically queried, “Pretty clever, eh?” about the title which after one hears it is all it need be called. The magic is based on three incredibly synergistic personalities that give each other room to thrive and complement each other. Kane/Welch/Kaplin is folk music with an orchestra’s dynamic of nuance, an intricate and intensely delicate sound comprised of many simple, moving parts that journey through Southern rock, Appalachian roots, Delta and Midwestern blues, and even Celtic influences. The stories behind the music have the ability to put the listener right there as they’re happening — even the ones based on fiction.

“Look ahead / seasons come and seasons go / There’s only one guarantee / We’ll reap what we sow / That’s good enough for me”, Welch sang on the second song “To the Harvest Look Ahead”. “I Wish I Had that Mandolin” was highlighted by a Zeppelinesque guitar and monotone vocal that sounded like a stripped-down Southern meditation on “The Battle of Evermore”.
While Kane and Welch are the band’s songwriting force, Fats Kaplin is the most virtuosic of the trio; and he traded his fiddle for an accordion on the boogie-stomping “I Can’t Wait” (from their second CD Lost John Dean) that has been recently covered by Canadian legends Quartette. He then took the stage for a solo highlands number transposed to a rural homestead in western Illinois called “Maloney Road”. Hearing him relate growing up in New York City, telling his mother of a desire to become an itinerant fiddle player in his pleasant Midwestern twang was an all-time “Say what?” musical moment.

The show’s most poignantly lyrical number was “The Last Lost Highway”, a tribute to Welch’s late mentor Pat Long. “There were no turnarounds” indeed. Although they did turn around to the haunting hill-country blues stomp track to You Can’t Save Everybody. Another glimpse into the remarkable persona of this band was Welch’s confessing to meditating on psychotic murders as a songwriter’s diversion, and putting the audience in the palm of his hand as he did it, with “Dark Boogie #7” on which he sang in an almost spoken-word cadence over Kaplin’s smoldering lead.

Early in the second set, “Postcard from Mexico” brought to mind the sound of another essential American troubadour J.J. Cale. It was followed by another rock-stomper “12 Chimes”. Then on “Highland Mary” Welch took the audience back in time with him to the song’s inspirational genesis, a visit to Robert Burns’ home pub in Scotland.

“Don’t Try to Fight It” was a brilliantly-titled tribute to U.S. troops returning home from Afghanistan, one on which the melody of the song spoke louder than the words in terms of indicating the group’s political conscience. Kieran Kane led the following number, “A Town This Size” — a meditation on the lack of boundaries in small-town America — has been covered by folk icons John Prine and Charlie Musselwhite.

One of the band’s signature songs, “Jersey Devil” from the first CD was a highlight of the show, a rollicking rock-tempo number with a marvelously polyrhythmic dirge from Kaplin on accordion. Kane poignantly carried “Red Light Blinkin’”, a banjo-fuelled Willy Loman inspired tribute to people who make their livings on the road from the new disc. The compositional balance between Kane’s slice-of-life Americana singer-songwriting and Welch’s darker, more abstract places of inspiration — together with Kaplin’s brilliance for melodic nuance and Lucas Kane’s simple, stripped-down percussive heartbeat — truly does give this band a musically richer and more detailed feel than the typical folk experience.

Kaplin stepped to the fore again on he Middle Eastern based melody of “Mr. Bones”, bringing the crowd to its loudest of the night; and again on the encore “8 More Miles” where he used guitar-style picking on the fiddle to stunning effect. Kane good-naturedly jibed that this was the Canadian content for the night based on its single Vancouver-inspired verse. This was the last night of a tour for Kane Welch Kaplin, and Toronto should be honoured to have witnessed the end of another adventure for these roots music masters.

The musicians
Kieran Kane – guitar, vocals, banjo & strings
Kevin Welch – guitar & vocals
Fats Kaplin – fiddle, vocals, accordion & strings
Lucas Kane – percussion

> www.deadreckoners.com <

We welcome your comments and feedback
Sebastian Cook
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2007