Kevin Burt – Stone Crazy
Gulf Coast Records – 2020
11 tracks; 47.43 minutes
Already a 25-year veteran of the Midwest scene, Iowa native Kevin Burt really cracked open the blues world in 2018 when he won three first place awards at the IBC’s: Solo/Duo performer, The Cigar Box Guitar Award as the best guitar player in that Solo/Duo category, plus the Lee Oskar Award for top harmonica player. Kevin has released previous albums, notably 2018’s Heartland & Soul on Little Village Foundation but this is his first for Gulf Coast Records. The album was recorded and produced by label co-owner Mike Zito in Texas, with Kevin on vocals, guitar and harp, supported by Mike on electric guitar and some Zito regular collaborators: Doug Byrkit on bass, Matthew Johnson on drums and Lewis Stephens on keys; Jimmy Carpenter adds sax to one cut. All the material is original except for one cover of a song by Bill Withers, an artist with whom Kevin is sometimes compared.
Kevin dedicates the album to his family and states that his wife Nicole is his muse and biggest influence and that comes across, particularly on the title track. Delicately played electric guitar and resonant bass are set against acoustic guitar on this lush, romantic song which emphasizes that Kevin has found his soul mate, he’s “Stone Crazy” for her love. Another gentler moment on the album celebrates that there is “Something Special About You”, the mood this time created by elegant electric guitar lines set over acoustic guitar and warm keyboards. The Bill Withers cover “Better Off Dead” also taps into a theme of keeping the important parts of your life safe; in the song the central character fails to reform from his drinking problem, loses his wife and spirals downwards.
The autobiographical song “You Get What You See” tells us that Kevin is “this way with everyone” and adds Jimmy Carpenter’s sax to duel with Kevin’s guitar as the rhythm bounds along. “Same Old Thing” has plenty of eloquent guitar and just a hint of the Willie Dixon tune of the same title as Kevin bemoans the fact that fate has already determined much of what is to happen and you just can’t avoid it. Kevin’s harp is set over a frenetic rhythm and electric slide guitar on “Rain Keeps Coming Down”, a re-working of the Noah’s Ark story, and there is some moody, shimmering slide on the final track “Got To Make A Change” which gives a suitably eerie feel to a song which has fascinating lyrics about needing to decide whether to look back at history, look forward to your own future, or is it actually the time to make a fundamental shift in your life.
Kevin’s harp features on several songs, notably opener “I Ain’t Got No Problem With It” which has a mellow groove and the uptempo “Should Have Never Left Me Alone” in which Lewis’ piano makes a good foil for Kevin’s impressive playing. There is also plenty of Kevin’s guitar, from the twangy leads on “Purdy Lil Thang” to the soulful playing on the intensely catchy “I’m Busting Out” where the keys and guitar work up a fair head of steam.
Across these eleven tracks we get a good impression of Kevin’s multiple talents: a strong, clear vocalist, guitarist and harp player, plus a skilled songwriter. A strong album that makes Kevin Burt one to watch.