Singer-songwriter Drew Kennedy’s eighth album, At Home In The Big Lonesome, was not an easy undertaking. The first day of recording at Sony Tree in Nashville, his manager, Scott Gunter, interrupted the session: Kennedy had missed two calls and a text from his wife, Holly. At just seven months pregnant, she’d gone into labor with their second son. “Scott helped me find a flight so I could go throw up in the bathroom,” Kennedy says. “I was so scared. It was a terrifying few hours until I could get home and look at her and just be there.”
As the Kennedys’ son, Oliver, was being born and fighting for his life in Texas, musicians in Nashville continued to work on At Home in the Big Lonesome. Kennedy pushed through inner conflict like he’d never experienced: joy over Oliver’s progress bumped up against fears about feeling disconnected from his own album, then shame over worrying about the record at all instead of focusing solely on his family. But there is, indeed, a happy resolution, as Mr. Kennedy’s son is doing fine and he has delivered a very warm, rich and highly tuneful piece of work.
The joyful sound of “Sing This Town To Sleep”, with its banjo runs, harmonies and soulful organ is an early highlight; “24 Hours In New York City”, driven by piano, tells the tale of young love and adventure in a classic lyrical storyteller manner; “Cream And Sugar” has a warm acoustic guitar and piano interplay and shimmering yet subtle guitar lines – and it has to be said, Mr. Kennedy’s voice suits all the songs in a soothing and satisfying way. He doesn’t over-sing to get the emotions across; it’s very pure, very natural. “Scratch And Dent” sounds like a “driving down the road with the radio on” kind of hit – instantly classic and a very full production and the finger picking on “House” is the perfect frame for this song, which is sad and mournful (in the “right way”) and keeps the rest of the instrumentation in balance – light guitars, delicate bass, piano and strings fit the sombre lyrics perfectly.
Balance is the key to this album; Mr. Kennedy knows how to hold back and how to take the listener on this musical journey with him. Maybe the adversity that went into the making of this album helped shape it, but it certainly didn’t hurt as Drew Kennedy has delivered well. This is a very fine album and one people should get their heads around.
At Home In The Big Lonesome is currently available