Modern singer/songwriters are everywhere. From the unknown to the well known, they are pumping out those acoustic tracks one by one, hoping someone will listen.
At this point in the musical career of Dustin Kensrue, he doesn’t have to hope for anyone to listen. One of the reasons why is because he is the front man for the band Thrice. If you happen to not know, Thrice has created some of the world’s best rock music since 2000. Their discography covers everything from punk rock, hardcore, emo-screamo, metal, experimental rock, acoustic, blues, jazz, and on and on…
But the one thing that has set them apart is the fact that they have done all this “experimenting” well. So well in fact that each album sounds completely different than the previous but you can still tell that it is Thrice. If you can take the time and actually listen to their body of excellent work, you will see one of the most impressive and diverse musical progressions since…well since I don’t know!
Now, this is what makes the release of Kensrue’s latest solo album Carry the Fire so satisfying. Kensrue has so much to draw from. Yes this is only his second solo record (not counting worship album The Water and The Blood or Christmas album), but if it resembles anything from Please Come Home then prepare to be enamoured.
“Ruby” is the first track, and it is surprisingly a strong piano rock song. Ben Folds / Phil Collins-esque and it works so well with his voice! It is a love song to his significant other, and the jazzy beat and bass all swell together in perfect harmony. Right away some real proof that this guy knows how to craft a song creatively and perfectly.
“Back to Back” has a beautiful atmospheric riff that takes us to wide open spaces. A country vibe to his voice works well and Kensrue has always had such a comforting quality to his voice. Warm and fatherly, this is a weary traveller song that brings hope and light.
“Gallows” is a departure for Kensrue’s solo style, but nevertheless it is awesome. It is dirty and poppy, but also part underground industrial. A real mix of styles, while remaining a solid rock and roll song. The full band sound is great to hear..
With “There’s Something Dark” Kensrue strips it down to a guitar and some simple rhythm. Confessing lyrics amidst a somber sounding tune leaves the listener soaked in waves of therapeutic bliss. He writes lyrics that can appeal to all people, no matter what belief or moral compass they may hold. That is actually a lot harder to do than you may think, and Kensrue is a lyrical master.
I find that on “Death or Glory” I really hear that American soul come out. It reminds of Springsteen, and has a traditional quality to it that is of no doubt tempered within this artist’s heart and mind. Tunes of this style need to be recreated by song crafters that can actually do it well, and Kensrue nails it.
“In The Darkness” has a faster pulsating rhythm, and definitely sounds like it is inspired by the great Tom Petty. No problem there, as some of the greatest artists we have known, such as Johnny Cash, have done similar things. This song again carries the theme presented by the title.
The softer and emotional “Of Crows and Crowns” is perhaps the most beautiful song to rest upon on ours this year. It’s moving piano and guitar in tandem complement Kensrue’s voice so poetically. There is not one wasted moment in this song as the heartfelt emotion sweeps across. The theme is love and rightly so, as a song like this will inspire even the hardest of hearts to soften up. It is so refreshing to see the softer and more artistic side of a man who has written some very heavy songs!
“Juggernaut Reference” is another feel good tune that subtly crosses into indie pop territory. It is another love song about his wife, and hey, if that is what is getting Kensrue to write such good songs, may they live a really love-filled life together!
At the start of “What Beautiful Things” we are back to Kensrue and his guitar. It starts out as a simple song, yet it builds as more parts are added. It remains simple and tight and also sways in a rhythm that is relaxing and momentous. It changes tempo at the end which takes it from a good song to a great one. The instrumentation and vocals are equally as immersive and impressive.
We finally get to the title track at the end. That under belly pulsating electro beat and percussion are captivating. As Kensrue breaks in with his stark voice, you are wondering where the song will go… the progression in this first verse culminates as we hit the chorus, and things speed up. As he sings about carrying this fire, his passion is imminent, and throughout the rest of the song, the listener is left with a lot to think about, a lot to be hopeful about, and grateful we have Kensrue making music!
Carry the Fire is absolutely diverse and just all around different. Not only for Dustin Kensrue, but for newer albums in general. He has taken a bold chance in going in so many musical directions. He really makes it work well, and is a master at blending styles and genres. Another great record down, and hopefully many more to go, for Dustin Kensrue and hopefully Thrice!