April 28, 2009 - Favorite Gentleman
Kevin Devine's cycle of self-reactions reaches its best results yet with Brother's Blood, a wildly varied affair featuring hushed acoustic/electric ditties and cathartic, jagged howlers. If the falters of 2006's major-label outing, Put Your Ghost To Rest, could be attributed to a muted dynamism and consistent quasi-folk flair, Brother's Blood answers those concerns immediately.
Devine wastes little time, starting with "All Of Everything, Erased," an understated but sprightly opener strikingly reminiscent of Elliott Smith. But Devine's Goddamn Band leave fingerprints on more elaborate, anguished numbers like the complex redux of "Time To Burn (Another Bag Of Bones)" and the magnificent title track; the latter's melancholic guitar landscapes nod to Built To Spill and its haunting production recalls recent Flaming Lips albums. Brand New's Jesse Lacey even backs the wistful closing track "Tomorrow's Just Too Late" without stealing the spotlight.
Brother's Blood is a shade inconsistent and occasionally finds Devine derivative of himself, proving its peaks and valleys are likely precursors to an opus to materialize further down the line. But it's easily his best album yet, expressing the personal through the sociopolitical scope via a new medium that's working for him.
Elliott Smith's From A Basement On A Hill
Manchester Orchestra's I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child
Bright Eyes' Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground
IN-STORE SESSION WITH KEVIN DEVINE
It's pretty obvious that this is your most experimental album.
It's cool that it's obvious, because I wasn't self-conscious at all, but when it was done we were like, "Welp, this is different."
I've had a lot of issues [in] my career with people not knowing where to put me. "Is it indie rock? Is it emo? Is it alt-country? Is he a singer-songwriter? Is it a band?" I've never understood what the problem was or what was so confusing. They're just songs. Good songs should be good whether it's me and a guitar, or it's me with seven people playing glockenspiels and violins and singing harmonies or a three-piece punk-rock band playing.
What does the motif of "brother's blood" represent?
"My brother's blood boils in my arms" is a way to remind me that [in] God's eyes, there's nothing to differentiate me and someone in sub-Saharan Africa than the lottery that I won being born where I was. It's all people, and [when] we start putting a value on what lives are worth more than others because of the color of the skin or the class structure in society, [it's] fucked up and upside down. I'm not by any means any kind of revolutionary activist, but I am somebody who's thoughtful and mindful of that kind of stuff.
What motivated you to try a more constant full-band approach?
[It was a] little more letting the players be the players, and getting away from this notion in my head that to be a solo artist means you have to play everything on your record. Leonard Cohen never played everything on his records. Bob Dylan never played everything on his records. [It was] clearly rewarding and the right decision for this record because the guys killed it. I have no interest in making records at this point in my career, anyway, that are just me and a guitar.
Has there been any renewed major-label interest since you were dropped by Capitol Records?
Oh, I don't know. If there is, I haven't heard it. [Laughs.] I could be in a more secure financial place, where I could be a lot more visible or popular, or I could've been famous, but I don't know if that's really my personality. I think that where things are at right now suits me really well. You always want to grow and you always want as many people to hear what you're doing as possible, but [this is] a way that feels really true to me.