Kenny Roby | The Reservoir
(Royal Potato Family Records)
Tickle-your-brain lyrics and stick-in-your-craw melodies whirl you down the rapids and float you gently over the rocks as you delve into The Reservoir. The pools are deep, feigning a stillness that hides churning undercurrents of a bruised soul and cascading ripples of a broken heart. The music belies the conflicting sentiments of serenity and precariousness as you contemplate a wade in the shallows or diving in headfirst. Kenny Roby's baritone guides us through these alternate realities, a soothing presence in the lyrical intensity. The soundscape moves from solo guitar, picking at dirty tempos, to the gorgeous alt-west comforts of nylon-stringed heat and mandolin sunsets.
Sometimes more country than folk, other times more Western than Americana. Whether it is because of the brutal backstories of addiction/recovery, divorce, suicide, or just amorphous societal uncertainty, the songs ring with emotion. It is a passionate whirlpool, but one that is memorable, catchy, and often upbeat. Stellar players, including Jeff Hill, Tony Leone, John Lee Shannon, and Jesse Aycock throw down vintage pedigree tones, successfully egoless in service of the song. Produced by Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, the album was recorded in Woodstock, where Roby has since moved from North Carolina. The Reservoir is a down-to-earth encapsulation of the hard-won sensibilities of a thinking man's questioning and ultimate acceptance of the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful day. At his best, Roby is one of those writers whose songs and lyrics make you wish you had thought of them first: "New strings on an old guitar."