For Minneapolis based musician, Kevin Anthony, whose musical life experience has brought him from Galveston, Texas, up to Houston, would bring him even farther north to New York City in 1993 and then jetted him to Minneapolis where he has made his home since 2005. He’s been playing with his group, the Twin City Playboys ever since, where their mix of Cajun and Country made them a local staple. This month he releases North Star, his fantastic new record.
On this eleven-track effort, four songs see reminders of what he brought to his partnership with the Twin City Playboys and the brand new songs fit in beautifully, in addition to bringing a new sound into the fold. Anthony’s smooth voice comes through brilliantly – it’s soulful, warm and lovely, and throughout the record shows not only that he is a gifted singer, but an incredibly talented, straightforward lyricist. And it’s no secret that for a musician, a lot of what you do and who you are comes from where you’ve been. And all those experiences that get you to where you are now bring you to find out what sound you love most.
Quite the road has brought Anthony to where he is today, and some of them, you wouldn’t quite expect from the sounds of this Texas gent who canvasses the roots of Country music with such skill. Back in his NYC days, he made music far from such southern roots and landed a contract on the Warner Brothers F-111 label with his duo Electroland, as they not only made house and big beat electronic music, and also managed to run a recording studio with his music partner Gene Harper. By day they also created soundscapes for television and advertising for the likes of the United States Navy and the Sci Fi channel, among others.
While working out of Manhattan, the two would see the tragedy of 9/11 first hand, and would eventually see an amicable dissolution of the pairing musically as Harper would later enlist in the Marines, a story he sings about in the North Star track “Purple Hearts.” Harper would go on to do two tours of Iraq with as a squad leader, later being honorably discharged after injury cut his service short.
So it goes without saying that North Star is a record that really does chart where Anthony has been. As the record starts out with the jaunty, Cajun inspired “Hurricane Ike,” the 2008 storm that did all but completely destroy his hometown of Galveston. The song itself resides in the time-honored category of songs that redeem and rebuild as he sings: “He tried to wash us away but our roots were strong.”
10% of the sale from North Star will be donated to the United Way of Galveston Hurricane Ike Recovery Fund.
The record as a whole is part down tempo honky tonk music, sometimes somber, while other times it brings one to swinging on the dance floor as it rounds out with “You Belong,” as the record’s perfect bookend. As it often appeared on Anthony’s efforts with the TC Playboys, the styles throughout North Star are reminiscent of an entirely different time in music while truly refusing to peg itself into any complete genre all while retaining a shimmering, crisp, obviously country influenced sound.
Even the making of North Star is a state line crossing effort of epic proportions. Anthony may have created the bones of the album in Minneapolis, but the new content was recorded and fully realized in the Louisiana studio of Grammy-nominated musician Al Berard, and also with his assistance on the record, laying down some of the guitar work, fiddle and drums, while his daughter Maegan and Terry’s son Kyle Huval shared the workload of the bass.
The Louisiana influence in the recording and the cues the music takes from its early background are steeped richly in tradition, notably as it utilizes not one, but three incredible steel guitar players throughout. The Twin City Playboys’ Bill Quinn is of course once again showcased on the included tracks from their previous efforts, Cajun music scene staple Terry Huval’s transcendent steel guitar shines on tracks such as “It’s Alright with Me,” with its almost side-winding, slow surf sound and while Joe Savage kills it on tracks such as “Surveyor’s Blues,” with its shout outs from as far as the Rio Grande to Duluth, never does the record fall into the clutches of a contemporary radio country sound, but instead has an earthy, organic feel of the back roads to the city streets of America.
From the highway, to the barroom, this atmospheric moving forward for Anthony on North Star is far from a turning point in his music, but a well-laid standard for longevity, not to mention simply good-time listening.
Recorded & Mixed June 2008-September 2009 at Al Berard Studios, Cecilia,
Louisiana & Control One Studios, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Produced by Al Berard & Kevin Anthony
Vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, organ-Kevin Anthony
Upright Bass-Eric Paulson
Electric bass-Maegan Berard, Kyle Hebert
Electric guitar-Al Berard, Kevin Anthony
Fiddle-Kevin Anthony, Al Berard
Pedal steel-Bill Quinn, Joe Savage
Lap steel-Terry Huval
Drums-Al Berard, Maegan Berard, Al Epp
Backing vocals-Al Epp
Tit' fer (triangle)-Karleen Berard, Kevin Anthony
All songs written by Kevin Anthony
c 2010 Loop Start Music Publishing SESAC
Except *Fading Away written by Eric Paulson
c 2010 Retread Fred Music BMI
Photography: Darin Back Photography