REVIEW: MYLES KENNEDY – “The Ides Of March”
It’s been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Others contest that if all we do is examine our lives, then we never really live. Walking a tightrope between both positions, Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge, Slash and the Conspirators) strikes a tricky balance with his sophomore solo album, ‘The Ides of March’. If his debut, ‘Year of the Tiger’, saw Kennedy examining formative moments resulting in a heartbreakingly good album, here the songwriter makes a conscious effort to not directly follow suit. Throwing his reflective, and musical net wider, here he questions, comments, and, indeed, challenges the world around him. Also introducing a rock outfit to the forefront of the experience, ‘The Ides of March’ offers a high spirited, big guitar record with a heart and charm that pave the way for some truly intoxicating moments.
Album opener and single, “Get Along” ushers us in with a bluesy guitar wail before an eruptive, full-band takes the wheel. A strong opening statement and a clear tonal departure from the stomp, clap rhythmic foundations that made up ‘Year of the Tiger’. Yet ultimately this is not a song to write home about. If, lyrically, the arc of the narrative promotes unity, chorus chants of that terminally troped chestnut, “why can’t we all just get long?”, feel hollow, the wishful mantra falling flat and failing to achieve the robustness found elsewhere on the album. On the opposite end of the spectrum, with “A Thousand Words” Kennedy sounds completely immersed with every note he is lovingly playing. The earthy timbre of the main riff could stir even the sternest spirit, with Kennedy delivering one of the most eloquent vocal performances of his career. An exquisite gem of a song, it also serves as a healthy reminder as to why the singer’s voice often precedes him.
Throughout, ‘The Ides of March’ offers a big, blues rock record that respectfully nods to some of the architects of the style, with the influence of Zeppelin’s acoustic guitar lines on the album’s title track, (also the albums longest piece), clocking in at almost eight minutes. Then there are The Stones, and Aerosmith, who can both be heard echoing through the slide guitar-driven “In Stride”. These rowdy, upbeat pieces burst through the album’s reflective atmosphere with the same explosive impact as combining coke and mentos. Even so, it is in its more understated numbers where ‘The Ides of March’ truly shines. “Worried Mind”, a comforting lullaby for the anxious soul, and the decade-old “Love Rain Down”, find a home here, bringing both sway and stillness you just want to get lost in.
With elements of rock n’ roll, and even country, infused across the eleven songs, the commonality in their DNA can be boiled down to one word: blues. A genre Myles Kennedy regularly cites as being incredibly passionate about. If Kennedy’s talent for crafting songs is once again evident, it is his lead licks, riffs, and solos that see him speaking blues fluently. Seldom heard; by the end you’re left wanting more. ‘The Ides of March’ is a soul-soaked affair that could pump blood through a heart of stone. Sure, some songs are slow burners, but they all come to ignite in their own fashion. If Shakespeare advised we beware the ides of march, on May 14, they should be embraced unconditionally.