I’m supposed to be in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the RockUSA festival but due to terrible weather and a less than organized festival, I find myself at home with an entire weekend with nothing to do. With the rain pounding against my window and a pretty epic lightening storm happening, I figured now is a great time to check out some new music. Eyes closed, hand into my always growing box of albums to review, I reach in and pull out Kind Country’s ‘Hard Times’.
“Turbines” kicks off the album with a sense of fury. A fast paced fiddle is front and center before the entire band jumps in. Although straight country isn’t quite my thing, I knew within the first minute or so that this album was definitely my thing. The vocals tell a story which is always something that I look for and the instrumentation, although your typical country band instruments, is clearly capable of keeping me on my toes. “Turbines” is the perfect song on this album to draw the listener in and by the time the track was done, I was all buckled in and ready to see where this album would take me.
Things stay upbeat (but less dancey) as the album rolls into “The Way That I Wanted”. The vocalist (I honestly don’t know who it is because on the liner notes for this album three people are listed as doing vocals) has a great way of keeping with a classic country twang while bringing something more modern to the table. The instrumentation seems to mimic this by not just playing an old-timey country sound but bringing in elements of bluegrass and folk music into the mix. Just when you settle into the almost calm (yet still up-beat) vibe of “The Way That I Wanted”, the album charges forward into “My Way Down” which make you want to strap on those dancing shoes again. A furried pace without any sense of stress or chaos, this song was an instant favorite of mine. Again, with lyrics about getting through this thing we call life and admitting to mistakes and missed chances, although I don’t typically relate to country music, I 100% related to this album and the words encased within it.
“Daybreak in Dixie” keep the energy high with an almost jig like introduction featuring the fiddle (at least I think it’s the fiddle?). There are no vocals in this track but that just gives the brilliance of the musicians a time to shine. I don’t know much about country music or how to play violin (although I played it for a whopping two weeks in elementary school) but it’s clear to tell that these men are true masters of their craft. The two minutes spent on listening to this track were truly two minutes of bliss for me.
The brilliant instrumentation continues with the title track, “Hard Times”. It almost seems like a very polite game of tug and pull between the vocals and instrumentation. Because this song followed the instrumental track, it was easy to pick out certain instruments and their little nuances making this song fly by as I tried to find all of the elements that had been laid out during “Daybreak in Dixie”. “Luigi” slows things down a little bit but not by much. It definitely brings an almost jamband/ funk vibe to this album while focusing on the bluegrass aspects this band brings to the table but doesn’t stand out as completely out of left field for this album. Although this is another instrumental track, I love the way that it sounds nothing like “Daybreak in Dixie”. Completely different in style, at just over halfway through the album, it’s clear that this band has so many different things to give and they are going to try to give you all of it within just the eleven tracks on this album.
“Black Rooster” seems to ease you back into the idea of vocals with the words, although meaningful, few and far between. There’s an almost dark bluesy vibe to the vocals in this track which, again, brings a whole new element that, although on the seventh track of the album, has yet to be seen. It’s almost a shock as “Ride On To The Dream” kicks in and catapults you back into the dancey bluegrass sound that was laid out on the first couple of songs. The sudden switch is actually something quite beautiful. Again, and I can not stress this enough, there’s no way to classify this band and this album is a good example of that. They are all over the place as far as tempos, vibe, and stylization goes but that’s exactly what you want from an album rather than something that is the same song over and over again.
At nearly five minutes long, “Dead & Gone” showcases the story telling ability that this band has and seems to go through all of the styles laid out previously. From a classic country with a twang to a jam band bluegrass vibe all the way to an almost old-timey fiddle part, if I could suggest one song off of this album for you to listen to, it would be this one. Things slow down for “Wine” in the most gorgeous way possible. It’s an almost ballad-like track without being cheesy and your classic “slow song”. There’s just something so calming about it and the lyrics “…it’s time to bring out the wine…” fit the mood perfectly. If it wasn’t 10AM, I would probably be sipping a glass of wine while jamming out to this song.
‘Hard Times’ closes out with “Tennessee”, an upbeat number that takes you back to the beginning of this album with a sense of ease. Although a perfect ending track (always end on a high note people!) with the way all of the different sounds and influences seem to come full circle, it’s also the perfect ending track because it makes you want to go back to the beginning and start this album all over again.
Okay, full disclosure, I know nothing about the country/ bluegrass scene. Hell, I could barely tell you the difference between the two and as soon as I see a fiddle, I can’t help but picture those old-time photo booths at the state fair. It’s a scene that, although I’ll never be super into, I’m definitely beginning to appreciate more and it’s because of bands like Kind Country that I am able to do so. They don’t have an old sound but clearly pay homage to the greats before them while still making the sound modern and interesting. I’ll never trade in my Converse for cowboy boots but Kind Country’s “Hard Times” definitely has me wanting to dig into the scene a little bit more.
My Favorite Track(s): “My Way Down”; “Dead & Gone”
Chances Of Getting A Noise Complaint While Listening To In An Apartment: 2.1 out of 10
For Fans Of: Cowboy Boots; Fiddles; Wine
Dance-ability: 7.1 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artemis laid on my table next to my computer; Autumn hid from the storms under my bed
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 7.6 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 4.2 out of 5
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