Keeton Coffman – Hard Times
Three years in the making the lead-off “Midland,” finds Keeton Coffman with poignant sincerity several notches from the commerciality & mainstream niche of Bruce Springsteen & Steve Earle. Hard Times (Drops June 18–Typewriter Music Int’l) is a 10-cut CD that contains quality songwriting & performances with some minor pimples.
“Magician,” has good lyrics but some innocent slides into cliches & repetition which can be ironed out with careful editing in future songs. However, some cliches & repetition are typical & somewhat necessary in this kind of music. This tune nonetheless is compelling & indeed, performed well. Keeton’s voice is impressive, he uses intonation & phrasing with expertise.
Criticism at this point is on the surface of an abundance of one-word titles. It doesn’t suggest much in the way of originality – but Keeton has the goods musically. He does need to be more creative title-wise. Tell me why I want to listen to a song. One vague word doesn’t help unless you’re John Lennon or Paul McCartney.
Fortunately, “In the End,” is well-performed & recorded. Rich flavor but at times tastes like the production sweetened it up a tad much. The song doesn’t suffer, but the definitive version is still to come. It needs to be dirtied up. This has a Springsteen mix with a Marc Cohn tinge. It does have excellent musicianship.
Mediocrity can easily slip into a repertoire even without being intentional. It’s not easy to write 10 compelling songs consistently with lyrics, melody & performance on target. No matter how well the musicians play. Mediocre doesn’t mean the song is bad – it means it’s following a formula or it’s just something that’s standard fare. The best artists have been victims of this.
There isn’t much that’s poor here with Keeton Coffman. “Rivertown,” is strong & only needs a gentle kick – the moment everyone waits for. I like “Rivertown,” it has balls – what’s missing is a little element of musical surprise. It needs a brief locomotive moment to turn the good song that it is — into a memorable one.
The musicians are Keeton (electric guitars/acoustic guitars/bass), Craig Weaver (drums/percussion), Cody Smith (bass), Josh Moore (b3/Wurlitzer), & Lizi Bailey (background vocals).
“Hurricane,” is wonderful. Despite its trite storyline, it has the necessary excitement vocally. The musicians add muscle in a Springsteen-Mellencamp tradition. Cut 9 is a favorite & it’s the title track “Hard Times,” with its nice Del-Lords approach with soul-stirring ala Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. This is a cool tune. Well-written with energy, spirit & groove. Someday, add sax to close it out dramatically.
“Backroads,” is another embodied melody but still too close to Springsteen territory. Lovely ballad & showcase. An expressive performance with a stirring finale.
The recommended 45-minute CD was produced by Keeton & Ryan Cecil. Available @ http://www.keetoncoffman.com/
B&W photography courtesy of J. Geneveive