ADAM KIESLING – UNCLOUDED DAY
2012 – Self Released
It’s strange how coincidence can play such a huge part in discovering music. I was downloading the new Jack Klatt solo
album from ‘Kickstarter’ and there were several other albums on the page that were recommended by Jack. One of them was this album, so I must admit I purchased it, not on the strength of what I’d heard, because I’d actually never heard of Adam Kiesling, but on the strength of Jack’s recommendation and the track list that contains a 50/50 split between vocals and instrumentals on a lot
of traditional, or at least old, songs and I was fascinated to hear modern day recordings of some classics and some I had never heard before! It’s hugely pleasurable to be able to say that this album of seventeen tracks is not only even better than I had hoped but is also refreshing in these days of manufactured sounds. It’s not that Adam’s versions bring a different slant or
interpretation to the old songs, although obviously they do vary from the originals, at least the ones that I know, with those differences being in vocals and perhaps a more varied but essentially sparse instrumentation. It’s hugely
gratifying that someone actually had the nerve to record a collection of old songs and put their own stamp on the album without feeling the need to add any unnecessary colouration, something that producer Dakota Dave Hull, should also be applauded for. The fact that Adam’s vocal style lends itself to this music obviously does no harm and neither does the at times virtuosic playing by him and his accompanists. There is a blending of‘hillbilly’ and blues genres into an album of uniformity and excellence. Of course those two genres that are now ‘country’ and blues and in most repects a million miles apart were not always so. Back in the early days of recording much of the music was stylistically the same, with the only difference being the skin colour of the players and eventually the attempts at commercialization that led to ‘hillbilly’ retaining it’s name and the music the black people were playing became ‘race music’.
On very first listen it becomes obvious that not only Adam but everyone else involved in the recording really believe in what they set out to achieve and were certainly successful in doing so, especially when you consider the album was recorded over a two year period at Dakota Dave Hull’s Arabica studio. That time span makes the finished item even more praiseworthy, but talented musicians such as these are not working off record company budgets of millions and if they had been I doubt that this album could have been improved upon by throwing money at it, again a mark of the talent at work here. There is so much obvious commitment on this recording that strongly indicates these musicians are not just playing the music but are actually feeling it; in many ways caught in a time zone long since gone, but if they weren’t these songs would just disappear and the roots music world would be the poorer with it’s loss of a rich history. Whilst I said earlier that the songs are not reinterpretations, there is also nothing copyist about them and this is much too ‘refreshing’ a recording to ever be described as a covers album. This is totally unadorned music that shows no sign of ego as evidenced on the tracks where Adam plays a supporting roll, the same could be applied to the hugely talented musicians that support him. They are Gary Powell on hawaiian guitar, Meghan Dudle and Colin Harris on fiddle, Liz Draper on the upright bass, Eric Lind on banjo, and Dakota Dave Hull on the National resophonic guitar, with Dave and Adam working together on the production. Adam himself is an excellent acoustic guitar and banjo player who possesses a deep, rich and clear vocal style on this beautifully clean recording that contains no window dressing. One of his banjo’s is actually a fretless tackhead banjo with gut strings that is based on how a banjo would have been built back in the 1840s or thereabouts, something else that contributes to the authenticity of the music!
Album opener is Blind Blake’s Black Dog Blues, with Adam’s vocal blending incredibly well with what I imagine to be the just named ‘tackhead banjo,’ giving the album much to live up to, something that is not only achieved but often improved upon. The traditional Down In North Carolina, has a chirpy vocal from Adam, with Eric Lind on banjo on a song that is driven by Meghan Dudle’s tremendous fiddle playing. The instrumentals are varied in the lead instruments with the lovely Jailhouse Rag, led by acoustic guitar, New Boston Hornpipe is led by Meghans fiddle, there are several banjo leads and Dakota Dave plays National Resonator guitar on Missouri Waltz, as he does onStepstone, a song on which Adam and Meghan share heartfelt vocals on a lovely duet. Several of the fiddle led instrumentals were written by the late Lonnie Robertson, one of the great, almost unknown, old timey fiddler and composers. The often recorded Henry Lee can rarely, if ever, have been this sparse with just Adam’s clear strong vocal and the beautiful Hawaiian guitar playing of Gary Powell, something he also adds to Missouri
Waltz. Gallows Pole/ Brushy Fork of Johns Creek is another tremendous performance with the former having been recorded by countless others but rarely bettered and Colin Harris’s tremendous fiddle playing adding to Adam’s evocative banjo and vocals creating a dark eerie atmosphere that was probably the intention when ‘trad.’ wrote it! It then segues seamlessly into the traditional fiddle tune, with the two in many ways combining to create a mini
epic. Among these seventeen excellent performances there is even space for a little ‘modernity’ with a tremendously atmospheric version of Bob Dylans Hollis Brown that is propelled by the hard driving banjo and fiddle on a song that is only fifty years old!
Fairly obviously albums such as this are not going to help anyone attain ‘superstardom’ which just as obviously is not something that is considered by musicians that play this brand of old music. They probably couldn’t even comprehend the term ‘sell out,’ which is a huge part of the appeal for people like me. You know there is nothing manufactured and that they are simply playing the music they love and probably hope in the process to do no more (well, perhaps a little more) than make a living, if at all possible, from their talents. They deserve far more. If ever an album could be described as containing ‘front porch music,’ it’s this one!