Sturm und Drang or surf and twang: Suomi guitar-slinger lets his tune loose and gets away with it.
After almost four decades of laying down incendiary rhythm-and-blues with WRISTSHAKERS, Kepa Härkönen decided to strike on his own and head for warmer waters in the wake of Link Wray and Dick Dale. The Finn’s solo debut is not a search of the lost chord, though; rather, here’s a pursuit of personal freedom where vibe and smile reign supreme. This is why, while the resonant “Havana Dream” relocates Baltic reverie to the Caribbean, it’s the transparent “Happy” that, with a flute flutter at the fore and a six-string sting for a solo, defines “Spicy Tales & Spacey Tones” whose tides ebb and flow with a powerful, yet well-textured, groove. Despite posessing a nice voice, the veteran may avoid adding voice to the dozen pieces on display, but lyrics are hardly needed when an instrument does the talking so eloquently.
One can hardly resist the arresting fretboard-scratching in “Caravan Of Reindeers” – which is hilariously retrofuturistic thanks to organ meandering between the licks – or the revving of “Escape From The City” that reveals an aggressive aspect of the artist’s ensemble, although “Lapache” – a Härkönen original done with a nod to Hank B. Marvin – turns out to be a serious tune. Still, by adding an individual twist to two favorites of his – Freddie King’s “Fish Fare” gets un-Tex-ed and THE BEL-AIRS’ “Mr. Moto” is given a third dimension – Kepa shows how reverence to the masters of yore shouldn’t get in the way of creativity. With a film-noir-esque romanticism caressing the piano-sprinkled “Lime Green Blues” and a filigree undercurrent to “Funky Hi-Heels” to contrast a muscular note-bending, he asserts a delicate kind of force. There’s a flourish and a fragrance to this album: a fresh breath of summer to spin on and on.