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Friday, June 7, 2013

Keaton Simons: “Beautiful Pain” (2013) CD Review

Recently I attended the CD release concert for Keaton Simons’ new album, Beautiful Pain. The show was sold out, and the crowd seemed to already know a lot of the new material. Keaton Simons was backed by a really good band, and certainly had a good rapport with the audience. 

And, more importantly, the songs are really good. In a lot of these pop songs he tackles relationships and loneliness, finding himself looking back (until the final tracks, when he looks forward). And it’s all perspective, as he sings in “Black & White”: “The truth ain’t always what it seems/And right or wrong lacks depth to me.” There is something endearing about this collection of songs; even the lesser tracks seem to come from the heart – there is no artifice here. The songs on Beautiful Pain are all original tunes, written or co-written by Keaton Simons.

Keaton Simons kicks off his new album with “Thrill Of It All,” a good, steady pop song with a certain sweet aspect to it. The repetition of “I remember” to start each of the first few opening lines makes us feel he is singing of something that is long gone, even before he sings, “Where did that go.” So when he switches to present tense on “You’re the woman that I won’t let go of,” it comes as kind of a bright surprise. And when he asks, “Do you recall the thrill of it all,” you expect the answer is yes. “Thrill Of It All” was written by Keaton Simons and Josh Zegan.

“The Medicine” is a rock tune with a great edge, both in the vocals and the guitar. This one is a fan favorite (it's one that was requested at the concert). I particularly like the lines, “And I know it’s gonna hurt/But I’m better with you.” It has something of a 1970s rock vibe. “The Medicine” was written by Keaton Simons, Scott Bruzenak and Curtis Peoples.

In “If I Hadn’t Forgotten” Keaton Simons takes an emotional look back at a relationship, wondering how it’s all affected the other person. He sings, “I don’t know if you’ve tried moving On/But I can’t get past the way we left off.” And he feels responsible for how things turned out, as in the lines “Promised you that we would have it all/You trusted me and I let you fall.” It’s an interesting combination – feeling guilty for hurting her, yet at the same time wondering if she’s still hurting, and not knowing. You get the feeling there’s something in him that hopes she’s still hurting, that these feelings aren’t for nothing, and aren’t his alone. Because then he’d really be alone.

“Beautiful Pain,” the title track, is one of the CD’s strongest tracks. There are moments when his vocals make me think of Martin Sexton, the way he delivers certain lines. This song also mentions looking back – “Don’t be afraid of looking back/Everyone has a past.” And the title implies the idea of a pain that you enjoy in some fashion, a pain that you hold onto. “If you’re gonna save a life/Maybe it should be your own.” This song ends quietly, his voice and the acoustic guitar alone for the last line.

“Other Side” is a song expressing a vulnerability, a fear. He opens it with the line, “There’s another darker side of me/Inside the lies.” He wonders if he she’ll love him if she saw him completely, and he needs to be seen. This song, another of the album’s strongest tracks, has a great feel. There is something gorgeous in his need, his desire. Joining him on this track is Mikal Blue on mandolin and piano. The string arrangement is by Ehud Kalder, who also co-wrote the song.

“Read My Mind” is a pretty tune, more in the folk vein, at least at the start. I love the acoustic guitar. In this song, he sings of that excitement of new love, when you look forward. “If you could read my mind/You’d save us both some time.” Beautiful Pain concludes with “Notice Me,” a short, quiet acoustic song. “Did you even notice me yet.”

CD Track List
  1. Thrill Of It All
  2. The Medicine
  3. If I Hadn’t Forgotten
  4. Beautiful Pain
  5. Black & White
  6. Hearts Don’t Break Themselves
  7. Is There Any Other Way
  8. Other Side
  9. Gonna Shine Brighter
  10. You’re The Spark
  11. Inspiration
  12. Read My Mind
  13. Notice Me
Beautiful Pain was released on April 30, 2013 on Best Revenge Records.

(Note: I also posted this review on Michael Doherty's Music Log.)

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