Kevin So has been in the game for a little over a decade now. Constantly on the road or recording, he’s toured all over the country, the world, and has 8 albums under his belt. Another contemporary of his, Annie Lin, one told me that she was in a remote, isolated town in the Southwest US when she stopped for gas. While browsing the random pamphlets at the rest stop, she came across a flyer for none other than Mr. So, advertising his local show.
So’s experience and skillful songwriting shines through on his latest release, Best Foot Forward. The production is a sharp contrast to his two most previous albums, which feature full arrangements of his compositions (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, horns, backing vocals, etc). For most of the album, So spins musical tales in the format that made him a staple in the songwriter community: No frills, no filler, stripped down instrumentation, often relying solely on his raspy tenor voice and acoustic guitar, with occasional help from piano or harmonica.
The lyrical subject matter runs the gamut from classic storytelling fodder (“Gulliver’s Tavern,”), to political issues (“Letter from Guantanamo”), love lost (“Forever Friend”), to a call for and unity (“Stronger Side By Side”). We even hear So channeling his inner Bruce Springsteen on a few tracks (“Tonight,” “Johnny”, “Best Foot Forward”) – he does a bang up job of that too, by the way. Don’t get me wrong, So isn’t all furrowed brows and closed-eyed sentimentality. He still retains a jovial, good-natured sense about him on songs like “Come On Over,” (which is highly reminiscent of his live crowd pleaser, “Hot Tub”) and “Talkin’ Top 40 Blues.”
Verdict: Anyone who has seen this man in concert, on stage with nothing but his well-worn Gibson, a thumb pick, and a microphone, knows the kind of power Kevin So has with just his voice, lyrics, and guitar. Just go pick up a copy of Best Foot Forward and give it a listen. You’ll understand.
-Review by Eugene
Kevin So is on tour, here, there and everywhere. Check him out.