Though he’s still active in the local music scene both as a solo artist and as bandleader of The Orange Opera, the evergreen Kevin Hambrick has cut back on his prolific output of late. That said, an album or so every couple of years is still pretty impressive. What’s most important, though, is that the quality of Hambrick’s material remains very, very high. If anything, his most recent albums – including his latest, Mox Nix – showcase a wider range than ever.
Psychedelic rockers, guitar-pop nuggets and poignant acoustic numbers coexist easily in Hambrick’s world. Mox Nix opens strong with “Motion,” a Brit Invasion-flavored tune peppered with guitar jangle that morphs into a slow burn that recalls late-era Beatles. No less catchy, “Here We Come” ties its hooks to a crunchy beat and guitar. It’s skronky ear candy, with Hambrick’s sunny vocal harmonies on top. The sugar rush continues with “Coming Over,” an irrepressible number with a smile on its face. Hambrick adds a rock edge to his confections on “All the Wrong,” “Give Up Your Blood” and the twisty “Closure.”
“Ordinary Man” marks one of many highlights on this filler-free record. While Hambrick often couches his heavier thoughts in well-lit musical arrangements, “Ordinary Man” doesn’t pull any punches. Its dark carnival vibe fits lyrics such as, “Grinding gears through the smoke / The jury’s back, the verdict’s in / I can’t cope” like a glove.
As for his acoustic, ruminative side, the songwriter pulls from experience with two beauties. “Canyon” feels like looking out a window onto a still, early winter lake. And the gorgeous closer, “He Sleeps by the Door,” is as sweet and heartfelt and personal a song as you’re likely to hear.
Mox Nix easily stands alongside Hambrick’s best work. It’s not just a fine record by a local treasure; it’s a fine record, period. Hambrick will debut Mox Nix live at the Brass Rail on March 18.
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