Kevin Coyne

Kevin Coyne

Sugar Candy Taxi

Ruf

Coyne is very well known in Europe, to the point that he’s an iconic figure of their fringe music, yet, after 30 albums and nearly 40 years of performing, he remains virtually an unknown here in the States. While Coyne does have a devoted following there, he certainly does not have blanket acceptance. Coyne’s still a bit too weird for some of their venues. Coyne’s “day job” has been primarily within the mental health field. He’s always liked to work with “troubled” people, and it’s pretty clear that he counts himself among them. He howls their stories in such a credible manner that it’s sometimes rather frightening. It’s hard to tell which stories he’s learned, and which he’s actually lived. This is the mark of a true artist.

At times you can almost smell the industrial-strength disinfectant and woman-gone-bad coming through in some of these songs. Coyne’s themes wander down a hall where some of the doors are slightly ajar and reveal sweet little stories of lives full of compassion and hope, lives wherein a slight misfortune might’ve cast an otherwise functional person into some short spell of semi-madness. Others are rather unsettling stories of very deeply troubled individuals where the doors are constantly slamming before you can hear the whole story. If you walk up and down these halls long enough, you’ll hear it all, but you might start worrying a little about yourself when you really start understanding it.

Coyne’s “Garden Gate” tells the story of a man’s inability to free himself of a 40-year-old obsession with a woman… He’s been running through all of his problems in his head since 1958, and he can now pinpoint the exact moment that he lost her (and lost his own mind). In his mind, this is the root of all the troubles that followed, and the only way he can make himself well again is to start his life over at that point. He thinks he knows where she now lives and in his mind he’s got it all figured out. “One day I’ll knock on your door and knock your husband to the floor.” This release is hopeful in that it’s about moving on, but all too often, he is trying to move on from some impossible to reach starting point.

The spare music and the delivery of these songs always changes to fit the message. Herein lies a big part of Coyne’s charm. Coyne also has an inimitable back-of-the-throat blues voice that wraps itself around the subject and wrings out the feel of a slightly-crazy older man’s phlegmy sort of passion. The music and the delivery throughout this release is deceptively simple. I thought it rather cheesy in parts on my first listen, but after a couple of listens, I got the message. I realized that anything added or taken away from these arrangements could, in some way, diminish the power of the lyrics.

Mostly, this release is more in the vein of what we know as Beat Poetry rather than any sort of traditional folk music, with many of these songs leaning more towards the blues. This is certainly not for everybody, but if you like Beat Poetry, an edgy sort of blues, or if you just like stories that explore the dark corners of the human pysche, this is certainly worth a listen.

Ruf Records, Kirchstr.24, D-37318, Linderwerra, Germany, Phone (49)36087-92200, Fax (49) 36087-92211

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