Heartland Americana

The Journey (Odd Sock Records)
Jeff O’Banion

Kevin Gibson

Consider: I don’t want to be sad/I’m so tired of being mad/I don’t want to see you cry/But tonight I want to die.” This from the second track on Louisville singer-songwriter Jeff O’Banion’s new album The Journey.

Reading it on a page, it could almost be taken as comedy, or at least hyperbole. But it’s really one sad freaking song. The opening track, “Merry Christmas to Me,” is similarly bleak, with the narrator lamenting his distaste for things he once held dear.

And when track three, “Leave Me Alone,” kicks in, you just know you’re going to slit your wrists at any moment. But as bleak as some of the lyrics are in this 11-song collection, O’Banion’s musical approach and fluttering voice somehow make it all seem okay. His Americana approach is immediately accessible, and even if he isn’t the world’s best singer, he gets his emotions across with admirable aplomb.

“Bye Bye Baby” is a song that bounces along like a lost 1950s ballad, something Ricky Nelson might at one time been able to turn into a hit. And “Sing” manages to thwart the outlook, even if it’s not one of O’Banion’s better lyrics or arrangements.

“Meet Me ’Round the Corner” accomplishes the same feat, with a jumpy groove, some nice lead guitar lines and some stops to build a little tension. This one’s just pure, danceable fun, if that’s your thing.

O’Banion gets some help here by producer and guitarist Dewey Kincade and drummer Colin Brown. Together they hold things together musically while O’Banion puts forth his musical emotions. If O’Banion strives to be a Tim Krekel Lite so to speak, he’s headed in the right direction with this recording. He may not have Krekel’s chops, but the intent is surely there.

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