Gritty Country

The Long Ride (Independent)
Kevin Skinner

By Kevin Gibson

According to the liner notes for The Long Ride, one Sharon Osbourne once told local singer-songwriter Kevin Skinner, "I can tell you're a lovely person."

Well, damn, do you need to read further? OK, maybe

Skinner's songs (10 of which found their way onto this disc) hold a John Prine-ish kind of appeal, with plenty of clean guitar sound, Hammond B3 organ, and a gritty vocal delivery that could play to commercial country radio or classic rock fans

The title track, about getting away from it all, almost carries an early John Cougar feel, a la "Hand to Hold Onto." Not a bad thing, given that one could argue Cougar's early years were his best

At other times, there's a definite Hank Williams Jr. approach at work, with a working-class mentality coming through the good ol' boy lyric and the shining guitar work by John Conley. You've got lyrics about rain and flood water, the value of a good woman, last goodbyes, outlaws, soldiers and rednecks. And not necessarily in that order

"Soldier's Last Breath" is a direct plea to pull military operations out of Iraq and Afghanistan. "I wonder if they know how that feels / up on Capitol Hill / to hear your best friend say, 'Man, I'm scared to death' / Just another day as a soldier draws his last breath." Ouch

But you get the picture: Skinner makes no excuses about what he's up to here. This is a straight-forward country album filled with emotion and enough sad melodies to balance out the tempered bravado in songs like "Road of a Hard Outlaw."

Honestly, it's every bit as good as the stuff you hear on country radio these days.

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