John Carroll Kirby – Blowout

Producer, composer, and keyboardist John Carroll Kirby, the man who gave us the brilliant “Septet” and other soothing and calming albums such as the piano solo “My Garden” (2020) or “Conflict” (2020) and teamed up with Eddie Chacon for his two wonderful releases “Pleasure, Joy & Happiness” and “Sundown“, will release “Blowout” tomorrow on Stones Throw. Inspired by a visit to Costa Rica and its local people, nature and music, this seems to be the perfect soundtrack for a lengthy summer stay in the garden. In fact, while I write this, I’m sitting on my patio surrounded by a lot of birds and the thick green ambiance. It has become a morning routine in the past two weeks listening to the twelve tracks. And it is sort of a meditation as the music on the album oozes a lot of warmth and soothing elements without veering too much towards some esoteric pseudo-hipness.

John Carroll Kirby "Blowout"

“I love the concept of saudade”, Kirby says in the press release to the album. “For every moment of elation, there’s a certain sadness embedded in the feeling because we know it will come to an end. Blowout is about enjoying yourself even though life is tough, before the candle blows out.” And so, the album opens with an extremely contemplative, flute and percussion-led “Oropendola” (named after the local passerine birds), followed by the driving and urgent beat of “Mates”. And we go back to some 80s-sounding keys on the irresistibly soulful “The Takedown”, a midtempo groove both melancholic and dark as well as transcendental. “Hotel Johnny Chingas” equals an effervescent swamp. It’s a delicious journey. The mood on “Vertigo” changes from joyous to delicate, from tender to awkward. Quiet a trip.

And then there is “So So So”. My favorite cut on the album grooves along mightily, with the flute leading the proceedings and lush keys supporting the overall generous mood. Hypnotic and compelling. One of the tracks which had been circulating prior to the album’s release is “Sun Go Down”, another flute-led, percussive jam which probably best describes the aforementioned saudade. A highly spiritual track, sometimes reminding me of 70s Pharoah Sanders pieces. The beauty of nature surrounds “Gecko Sound”, full of quirky and bubbling moments. More spiritual bliss can be found on “Flying Cat”, another showstopper here. But that’s not all. Similar to what he did on “Septet”, John adds dub versions to three of the album’s tracks. What he does to “So So So” is beguiling, audacious. With a swagger to die for.

John plays the Lodge Room in Los Angeles on August 18th and the Bowery Ballroom in New York on August 24th. Mind you, the album is out on vinyl too!


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