The first time I saw Steve Kimock play was during the summer of 1998. He was one of twin guitarists (the other being Mark Karan) filling the big gap left by Jerry Garcia in the Grateful Dead reincarnation The Other Ones.
Kimock’s stage presense was slight. Sitting on a stool, guitar in his lap, head bent down he looked more like some Buddhist monk contemplating the mysteries of the universe on a lonely mountain than a rock star.
In fact many Deadheads were complaining about his lack of presence during this tour. This always seemed ironic to me considering that Garcia had spent the last decade of his life, standing motionless on stage, with his chin resting on his chest.
While others complained about how Kimock looked on stage, I was awed by his chops as a guitarist. His playing was both fluid and tight. Technical and yet full of emotion. Much like Garcia himself, in his better days.
Soon after the Other Ones show, I did some tape trading for a live KVHW show. This was a short lived band Kimock formed with Bobby Vega, Alen Hertz and Ray White. Again I was knocked out by Kimock’s virtuosity on guitar.
For whatever reason, though Kimock’s name was often batted about in musical conversations amongst online groups, I never gained another piece of his music. Various albums, live tapes, and concerts landed on my list of things to get, but never managed to materialize into reality.
So, it was with great anticipation that I found myself with the Steve Kimock Band’s newest release, Eudemonic. The dictionary says the title means “producing happiness and well being.” That’s a lot to ask for in 66 minutes of music. I definitely had a few moments of happiness brought to me by the music on this album, but I’ll leave my well being to a higher authority.
I have to admit right upfront here, that I’m not a fan of instrumental music, especially instrumental rock music. Sure, I’ve got some classical music, your Beethoven some Mozart and what not. But I generally regulate this to back ground music; something to play when I’m a little sad, or to back me up during a romantic dinner. But with the music coming out of my car stereo, or pulsating through my home, my music life consists of some lyrics, some singing.
Don’t get me wrong I can totally dig a 10 minute improvised jam in the middle of a song, but in the end, I want it to come back to a melody, a hook, a chorus. Walking down the road, I need a lyric to sing.
Eudemonic, in fact, feels like the middle jams to some really great songs. I just keep waiting for them to go somewhere, to crescendo and soar back down to a rousing final verse or a sing-a-long chorus.
The instrumentation is admittedly quite good. I still hear the passion and performance behind the Kimock guitar, and the rest of the band plays extremely well. Alphonso Johnson, especially proves his ability to hit the right groove on bass.
The standout songs are the retro groove opening track, Eudemon, the moe. inspired Ice Cream, and the bouncy Bouncer. The songs are often lengthy, averaging at a per song length of about 6 minutes. There is plenty of groove laid down in all the songs, I just wish there was either a consistency through the entire album, or a bigger hook to song ratio.
Fans of instrumental guitar rock will have a lot to dig into with Eudemonic. The jams are flowing, and Kimock is a fine guitar player. It is, in fact, my predilection of turning instrumental music into background fodder that gets me in trouble here. There is just too much going on here, musically, to allow it to stay in the background. A person need to really listen to the interplay between musicians on this album. Because of this, I’m afraid Eudemonic is something that will probably not get a lot of play around my house. But for those of you willing to take the time to dig into a piece of music, there are many treasures to be found.