They really don’t make singer-songwriter joints like Memories & Birds (released April 2), the latest substantive salvo from Kenny Roby. It’s a work that harks back to enduring hallmarks like Fred Neil’s 1966 eponymous album, Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter, and John David Souther’s 1972 debut – all music cut loose from time, ready for all ages given the truths and feelings they truck in. Roby’s song cycle stands ably in this strong company, announcing to lonely listeners, “You don’t have to go it alone,” in a most wooing manner.
The gentle flurry of clarinet and strings that greets one on the opener foreshadows the intimate merger of sound and sensibilities on Memories & Birds, where the delicately played but pitch perfect accompaniment to each track underscores and expands on carefully sculpted lyrics and the rich emotion in Roby’s measured, fascinating singing. While all eight cuts hang together empathetically, repeat spins reveal the diversity of moods, from the inward-outward reflection of the title song to the would-have-been-a-hit-for-Dusty-Springfield bounce of “Tired of Being in Love” to the patient journey of “Colorado” to the dark stroll and black wit of “The Monster” to the reverb-ed modern doo wop of “Me and the Monkey” to the enchanting waltz step of “The Craziest Kid Around.” Each element seems consciously chosen and placed with care, and the ultimate effect is to make one acutely aware of how lazy and carelessly/obviously the majority of pop and Americana is by comparison to Memories & Birds.
Like fellow Roby fans Neal Casal and Ryan Adams, the Impound has been diggin’ on what he’s been laying down since his days in 6 String Drag – High Hat is one of our favorite albums of the 1990s – and his solo evolution has been nothing but interesting. But even so, Roby’s latest offering marks a new high point, mature and sophisticated but utterly approachable despite its many deep thoughts.
We asked Kenny to tackle our little philosophical roundtable, and he was nice enough to oblige.
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you see the word “God”?
Which has the better cosmology, Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?
Overall I think it was better in Star Trek. I remember some really cool hair and make-up on some of the characters. Star Wars was more about the costumes. Although that one chick that had the coke habit later had that REALLY cool hairdo with the Cinnabon thing…and also that skimpy outfit and long hair in that scene with the fat monster. But overall it was better in Star Trek. Oh wait…you said cosmology didn’t you…
Name one album that has spiritual resonance for you.
I’ve been in and out of the music business for 25 years and have teenage sons so I am a bit bankrupt spiritually…but I would say New Morning by Bob Dylan or Catch A Fire by The Wailers or Songs From A Room by Leonard Cohen…honestly there are too many to answer just one.
Woody Allen once said, “I don’t know the question but sex is definitely the answer.” So, what’s the question?
Definitely not what’s the first thing that springs to mind when you see the words “Woody Allen.” My wife agrees.
You can have a dinner party with any three people throughout human history. Who do you invite, what’s on the menu and what intoxicant do you share for dessert?
Guests: Louis Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Joe Strummer
Intoxicant: I don’t intoxicate anymore but since it is a fantasy dinner… pot. I’d like to see Louis and Joe get Babe high. Most likely we’d have to order more ribs.
[Editor’s Note: Legend holds that Louis used to score pot for Bing Crosby and Bob Hope back in the day. That’s another dinner party we suspect would be a blast…]
OK, how about:
Guests: Huey P Newton, Peter Tosh, Nathan Bedford Forest
Menu: No dinner.
Intoxicant: “So, Nathan tell us about your career during and after the Civil War?” Nathan gets LSD. Tequila for the rest. Long night for Nathan.
Guests: Red Foxx, Tom Waits, WC Fields
Menu: hmmm…seafood buffet.
Intoxicant: I think it has to be whatever WC is drinking.