Kevin Devine - Brother's Blood
Record Label: Favorite Gentlemen
Release Date: April 28, 2009
Here’s the thing about Kevin Devine: he writes amazing songs, but he has yet to churn out that one amazing album, his Deja Entendu, if you will. While I won’t say Brother’s Blood is that, it’s most definitely a step in the right direction. It is complete with good songs from start to finish, but is also a cohesive work in and of itself. It cannot be lumped into one specific genre either, dancing between soft acoustic numbers, emotionally charged anthems, and straightforward rockers. Sometimes it’s great, but it’s always good.
I can’t find anything I don’t like about Brother’s Blood. There isn’t a track that stands out in a bad way or a moment where I find myself disgusted. It continually satisfies. Still, whether or not this is even Devine’s best album could be debated. He seems to be stuck in a rut, and while writing good albums isn’t a bad rut to be stuck in, he needs that career defining moment to come. But again, he continually shows progress. Make the Clocks Move proved he could be one of the better songwriters in the scene. Split the Country, Split the Street showed he could rock with the best of them. Put Your Ghost to Rest was the album that should have put him on a pedestal, and Brother’s Blood is the record that shows he wasn’t lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked, but that’s exactly how it sounds.
What always stood out about Kevin Devine, to me at least, were the softer songs he wrote. Songs like “Lord, I Know We Don’t Talk,” “A Billion Bees,” and of course, “Ballgame,” don’t just fit a mood, they make a mood. With the release of Brother’s Blood, “All of Everything, Erased,” “It’s Only Your Life,” and “Tomorrow’s Just Too Late” (the latter of which features Jesse Lacey of Brand New) can all be added to that collection. Of course, Kevin’s not a one-trick pony. Just when you think all he can do is write brooding, lonely acoustic ballads, he plugs in and you find yourself losing your voice.
Anyone who saw Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band with Manchester Orchestra will be familiar with the rousing versions of “Carnival” and “Another Bag of Bones” that appear on this record. Both songs were originally released as acoustic demos on Kevin’s Myspace (like all but one song on this record), but were drastically reworked to include the Goddamn Band, like all but three of the demos that appear on Brother’s Blood. The only song that was not previously released as a demo was the title track, probably the single strongest song on the album, clocking in at almost eight minutes, every second of which rocks with an intensity never illustrated by Devine & Co. on a recording until now.
Every track on Brother’s Blood deserves to be mentioned though. “Hand of God” is possibly the strongest song lyrically, but musically, it gets a tad monotonous. Still, it is much improved from the original demo. “Fever Moon” is a very relaxed, down-tempo, almost Latin-flavored jam that never seems to build up to anything, but is perfect for a dimly lit night in a humid Southern state. “I Could Be With Anyone” is an ideal choice for the album’s first single, but “Yr Husband” would fit just as well. Both are standard power-chord rockers and both are very lyrically strong. For that matter, Brother’s Blood’s biggest sell is probably its lyrics. Devine continues to grow as a songwriter with each release.
All in all, I believe Brother’s Blood will prove to be one of the stronger releases of 2009, and should be expected to appear on many end of the year lists on the positive end of the spectrum. My only complaint is it still isn’t that album – the one that we’re all waiting for from Kevin Devine, the one that we all know he has in him. However, that should take nothing away from this release. Front to back, it’s an unquestionably solid record, worthy of any praise that it receives, and it will surely take any critiquing in stride, but has to be listened to in order to be judged. It’s sure to make fans of Devine very happy, and hopefully will draw many more in.