Chip & Tony Kinman
Sounds Like Music
Growing up in Georgia during the late ’70s, early ’80s didn’t exactly offer much in the way of culture. College football and southern rock were the norms. I couldn’t stand the oversized influence of football, and while I saw my fair share of boogie rock shows, by the time I graduated from high school in 1980, my listening was either the Stones, or punk. The Clash and The Ramones had (thankfully) cured me of my Molly Hatchet listening, but still, entire genres lay before me. One evening in the mid-’80s I was at the house of a guy who worked in a record store, and his living room was wall-to-wall LPs and tapes. He was in the habit of tossing me cassettes with the notion of expanding my musical knowledge. That night his gifts changed my life, in a way. He gave me Thelonious Monk’s 1968’s Underground, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble’s first, Texas Flood and the debut record from a band from Austin, Rank and File.
Now I was somewhat familiar with jazz – although Monk blew my little Georgia mind – and I was quick to get into SRV’s wailing, but Sundown from Rank and File, well, that was country. But it was on Slash Records, home to punk acts! But it was twangy, and as the opener “Amanda Ruth” played, followed by “(Glad I’m) Not in Love”, I was hooked. It was an entirely new vista for me, one I subsequently embraced. To this day Sundown is one of my favorite records, due in large part to the songwriting and heavenly voices of the Kinman brothers, Chip and Tony.
Now at the time I had no idea of The Dils, their first notable band, but I was entranced by the brothers, who, along with roots superstar in waiting Alejandro Escovedo formed R&F. So when I got notice of this collection from Omnivore, Sounds Like Music, I was thrilled. Little did I realize how chameleon-like Chip and Tony were, musically. The Dils (who’s “Folks Say Go” shows up here) were straight-up Cali punk, but I had no idea about their other pursuits, Blackbird and Cowboy Nation.
Blackbird has the most cuts on this collection, and you really can’t get further away from their previous sound. Formed after R&F broke up, Blackbird sounds a lot like Eno’s rock albums, very electronic and post-punk (with a nifty version of Tom Waits “Jersey Girl”, sounding a bit like early Suicide), and it’s arresting in its eeriness. Cowboy Nation returned, somewhat, to the country sound of Rank & File, and throughout all 22 cuts on this collection, it’s the harmonies of Chip and Tony that grab you. An alternate version of “Lucky Day” from Sundown is included, and the sound of those two voices, well, it melts my heart. Sadly, Tony died in 2018, but thankfully the music he and Chip made is, by virtue of this record, and Chip reuniting The Dils, remains accessible. Chip and Tony Kinman were incredibly influential in a wide variety of styles, from punk to country, and suffered the slings and arrows that befalls pioneers. So pick up this collection and change your life.