If you think life is easy and uncomplicated, you need to listen to Ricky Kemery’s Painted Sky. The singer/songwriter’s second album is an ambitious testimony to the difficulties of making it through this world, all of it wrapped in an appealing cloak of folk-country good-naturedness.It’s no slight album, either. Kemery gives us well over an hour of songs about people figuring out how to handle things, whether that means running away from their troubles or making peace with the way things are, thinking about life’s big questions or just bumping up against the conflicts of interpersonal relationships. Even when it seems like the mood could be set to lighten up a bit, as in “Drinking Song,” Kemery puts a wry twist on the tradition of odes to alcohol.
Kemery is supported on Painted Sky by multi-instrumentalists Gwendra Turney (violin, keyboard) and Tommy Myers (bass, flute, accordion, percussion); Kemery himself provides guitar, mandolin and percussion, and Austin Putt contributes rhythm guitar to the album’s opening track. For the most part, Turney and Myers stay in the background, providing a gentle bed for Kemery’s vocals, although Turney’s violin does occasionally bring a floating melody to the fore, and the pair’s harmonies broaden the choruses. In general, it’s all Kemery up front, his gravelly voice just the right combination of weary and warm.
And that’s what Kemery’s songs leave you with in the end: a warm weariness, the comforting idea that even though the journey through life can be a tough one, on most days it’s worth it.
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