Adam Karch – Moving Forward
12 tracks / 44:37
Adam Karch produces knockout roots music and acoustic blues from his hometown of Montreal, and his latest album, Moving Forward, is his best work yet. Karch got an early start on his music career, first taking a leading role in bands as a teen and then releasing his first album when he was still in his early 20s. Through endless touring he moved further from his rock beginnings and developed his own acoustic fingerstyle sound; the handful of albums he has released over his career reflects this growth. Evidence of this is his 2014 release, Blueprints, which is an amazingly effective reworking of classic songs into an acoustic blues context.
Moving Forward represents a further movement along the same arc, and most of its twelve tracks are originals that were written last winter, when Adam was in a time of transition. The resulting music has a personal sound and thoughtful lyrics, and there are also a handful of cover tunes are just too cool. Karch provided the vocals and guitars for this album (as well as acting as co-producer), and he was joined in the studio by a few of his friends from Quebec: Marc André Drouin on bass and Bernard Deslauriers behind the drum kit.
Adam has a strong synergy with Marc and Bernard, and the listener will discover this as the trio comes together for the opener, “Seaside Venues.” This is slick acoustic rocker that allows to Karch to shine both with his fancy picking and his voice, which is strong and equal parts smooth and gritty. There are only a few of songs on the disc that include this trio, but in each case the backline of Drouin and Deslauriers really delivers the goods. This includes the blues rock of “Lil’ Black Dress,” the pop / soft rock of “The Contract,” and the laid back feel of two California country songs, “On a Cold Grey Sky and “Those Steady Lights.” By the way, Kim Richardson provides sweet vocal harmonies on that last one, which is a welcome addition to an already strong song.
The majority of the tracks on Moving Forward are solo acoustic numbers, and on some of these Karch’s friends sit in to help make the mood. Dimitri Lebel-Alexandre lends his pedal steel to the country blues of “Louis Collins,” and his tastefully restrained playing is quite a complement to Adam’s tricky picking. Also, Guy Bélanger brings his harp to a cover of Keb’ Mo’s “City Boy,” which wisely retains a similar pace and feel as the original, but with considerably less instrumentation. The listener will agree that this arrangement is a beautiful and simple accompaniment to the heartfelt lyrics. Towards the end of the song, Bélanger first makes himself heard with a lovely solo, and his wailing harp helps Adam bring this one home. This is definitely one of the standout tracks on the album.
There are a few other covers on Moving Forward, including a re-do of one of Adam’s own songs, “Did You Get the Latest News,” which was originally released on his 2002 debut album, Crossroad Diaries. Then there are a few others that will definitely grab your attention when you look at the track list. Karch takes a successful run at Bob Seger’s 1981 hit, “Night Moves,” with a healthy serving of fancy fingerpicking and a steady beat. Then there is an acoustic country version of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” that features a fun break before the chorus is reprised one last time. In both of these popular tunes, Adam does a very respectable job with the vocals, which is no small feat as these songs were both originally recorded by vocalists with very distinctive styles.
Is there anything missing here? Well, if you were thinking you would like to hear a solo acoustic instrumental then you are in luck as “Somewhere in El Paso” is a clean showcase of Karch’s guitar work, and this song is a fine tutorial for young players who need to learn a thing or two about the use of dynamics and repeated forms.
After listening to the whole disc, there is no doubt that Adam Karch can cut a mean record, but he is also a solid live performer. On his website you will find gig dates for the first half of 2017, and if you are going to be in Quebec you will be happy as there are plenty of shows coming up. On his site you can also listen to samples of each of the dozen tracks on Moving Forward, and you will dig them if you are into roots music and acoustic country and blues. Listen for yourself and see what you think!