If rock n’ roll was an Olympics, Myles Kennedy would have gathered more than few gold medals for himself by this stage. Best known as the voice of Alter Bridge, Kennedy has also been courted by the inimitable Slash, who enlisted him to front his own musical ensemble; Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. Kennedy’s been a busy man, to say the least. Constantly touring and recording in his respective bands, it’s hard to see where Kennedy could find the time to do anything else. Nevertheless, he’s done just that. With his sights now set on releasing his debut solo album,‘Year of the Tiger’, Myles Kennedy has thrown fans into a flurry of excitement. And excited they should be, for Kennedy’s latest venture offers up something else entirely.
A point made clear from the opening strains of ‘Year of the Tiger,’ which features a song of the same name. The albums lead single, it initially tilted a few heads with its folk driven, country based stylings, but has since burrowed its way into the realm of the repeat button. The bluesy follow up, “Haunted by Design” cemented the fact that ‘Year of the Tiger’ was not to be a once off venture into traditional American genres, but an inroad exploring the roots and traditions of contemporary rock.
‘Year of the Tiger’ was not an album that came easily to Kennedy. Originally, from inception to completion, the concept of this solo record took the better part of a decade to compose, only to find itself scrapped and started again having not met Kennedy’s vision. When the music finally sat right, the story he wished to tell became clear, and ‘Year of the Tiger’ was born, an album primarily focused on the death of the singer’s Father when he was just four years old. A death made all the more poignant as his Father chose not to seek medical attention, remaining faithful to his Christian Science Church beliefs. A choice that haunts Kennedy to this day, and gave way to the process of coming to terms, a process that enriches many of the songs that make this record so unique.
To begin with, there’s no huge, sonic attack to be found on ‘Year of the Tiger’. Vocally throughout, Kennedy sings in a lower register than some may be used to. Which is not to say ‘Year of the Tiger’ doesn’t have moments that stir it up. If “Devil On The Wall” doesn’t infect you with the desire to stroll into a Wild West saloon and start a good ol’ bar fight, nothing will, and you certainly need to smile more! Similarly, “Songbird” will have you wanting to put the pedal to the metal, arm resting over the door, luxuriating in a cool caressing wind as you drive towards the sunset.
Yet this is also an album of celebration, not only of life but also of those in his life that Kennedy holds dear. “Mother” is a tribute to, and a reflection on, those tragic times seen through the eyes of his Mother who fought to keep things together for her family. A story reiterated in the rallying calls of “The Ghost of Shangri La.” Both these songs, and many others that accompany them, act as individual layers informing a rich, honest, and deeply personal telling of an intimately painful and poignant period in the life of this celebrated musician.
Even so, whatever confessional honesty informs Kennedy’s ‘Year of the Tiger,’ in the end it’s the music that counts. Fans delving in looking for Alter Bridge may find themselves disappointed. However, if they take a step back, keep an open mind, they may just find themselves being pleasantly surprised, and deeply moved. ‘Year of the Tiger’ is an ambitious journey of musical exploration, a courageous demonstration of soul searching and a collection of songs that feel beautifully cathartic.
Given the depth of history and personal experience that underscores ‘Year of the Tiger’, it makes sense that Kennedy goes back to his musical roots, down to the dirt and grit, to craft this tale from his own personal roots. For Kennedy isn’t indulging in some musical slumming here, or having an away day to play at being a folk singer. Rather, ‘Year of the Tiger’ finds Kennedy seeking out musical roots resilient, flexible, and durable enough to contain the raw human longing for loving and life, its loss and reclaiming. Roots we call the blues, country, and folk. With ‘Year of the Tiger’ Myles Kennedy serves up another side of himself that should have fans, old and new, gravitating irresistibly towards it. It would be a real surprise if ‘Year of Tiger” achieved anything less. A gem of an album that will fill your heart even as it breaks it.