Kessler’s Clock Co. 2024

Mining American riches in search of his very soul, a Badger State dweller finds rapture.

Gravel Road

Nothing can speak volumes of an artist’s audacity as eloquently as an attempt to ascend to the heights of “The Messiah Will Come Again” on his solo debut and offer distinctly different tone and angle to this classic – something not only lesser players yet also a certain Irish legend didn’t dare change to a countrified twang – alongside a perfect dynamic balance on a variety of other covers. But then, guitarist Michael Kessler’s been ploughing Wisconsin rock scene for longer than two decades, more often than not with his ensemble AMERICAN FOLK, and and is steeped in tradition well enough to know one can show their talents by interpreting familiar melodies and projecting their own personality on such favorites. And that’s exactly what’s happening here, with a lot of authentic infectiousness and instrumental prowess to marvel at.

And while Kessler doesn’t try to reinvent the evergreen delights of “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” and “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere” via his unpretentious vocal approach and strum which work so fine on the piano-sprinkled take on “Working On A Building” – given a “When The Saints Go Marching In” quote to further its energy – that Michael’s acoustic flurries render even catchier than it initially seems to be, his fast, fiddle-propelled filigree on bluegrass staple “Roanoke” and the slow-burn reading of prison perennial “Ain’t No More Cane” – enhanced with organ courtesy of producer Gary Tanin – never fail to impress. Neither does the record’s faux-funereal finale, “Fake Plastic Trees” from the RADIOHEAD repertoire, at first glance a surprising undermining of the platter’s Appalachian agenda but ultimately a cut feeding into the album’s flow thanks to the group’s gospel touch, whereas “Ashokan Farewell” highlights Kessler’s delicate way with a six-string lace, and “Cherokee Shuffle” his finger-hoedown on a fretboard.

Still, Michael’s resonant delving into “There Is A Time” and “Morning Dew” reveals how deep his understanding of the rural idiom is and how adventurous “Gravel Road” will prove to be with every new spin.


April 17, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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