REVIEW: Ray Davies’ “Our Country: Americana Act II” Explains Affair with American Dream

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So now what do you do? You formed one of the most beloved and underrated English invasion bands, toured the US incessantly in the 70’s and 80’s to make up for time lost during your ban from the states in the 60’s, helped inspire several new wave/post-punk bands as well britpop, and gradually turned into one of rock’s elder statesman releasing career defining solo albums. If you are Ray Davies, lead singer of The Kinks, you craft a batch of new songs trying to explain your love affair with the American dream and bring along the Jayhawks and Bill Shanley for the ride.

As the British Invasion band who wore their “Britishness” on their sleeve it originally struck me as odd to listen to Davies’ take on America. I always felt the Kinks were hyper English (at least in the beginning) and I must admit I have probably painted them into that corner more than they have. So it was with great curiosity that I started listening to Davies’ latest release Our Country : American Act II (Legacy Recordings). A sequel of sorts to last years Americana, it is a fine collection of new songs and reinventions of previously recorded tracks, all of which play nicely together in this standout collection.

Harkening back to his theatrical rock days, Davies has concocted what listens like a disjointed guide to the American road experience. A spoken word piece “The Invaders” paints an interesting picture given the state of our country today while a reimagining of The Kinks’ “Oklahoma USA” with its slow dreamy quality and steel guitar conjures up crisp images of times gone past. “Back in the Day” with its rollicking rockabilly swing and doo-wop vocals conjures up the image of a young Davies glued to the radio and movie screen, hanging on every moment. Halfway through the album I really like what I have heard but I am missing the grit and swagger Davies usually brings to the table. But then that shows up with “The Take”, a half spoken word piece with its female lead trading back and forth with Davies and some great guitar work. After repeated listens it is my favorite track on the album. I also love the trio of (very different) songs that focus on New Orleans, “Louisiana Sky”, “March of the Zombies” & “The Big Weird”.  He captured the slow easy pace of the region and, at the same time, the exquisite weirdness that makes its home in the deep south.

Our Country: Americana Act II with its country, rock, soul, jazz, all thrown in together, makes for a great listen. It was interesting to hear an outsider’s take on the day to day of the American experience. recorded at Konk Studios in London, the new songs stand strongly beside the revisits and create a unique take on how Davies sees the country he has obviously come to love. With fifty plus years of great records behind him and a Kinks reunion ahead of him it is great to hear that Ray Davies is still delivering the goods.  Give it a listen for yourself, here.   http://raydavies.info/

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