Discovering new artists is part of what makes my life interesting. And discovering new folk/rock artists, like Wes Kirkpatrick, with a connection to my home state here in Colorado just adds icing to the cake. I find it amusing, however, that it was an album he released after leaving Colorado that has caught my attention.
Though he performed with his brother Ryan and their band The Kirkpatrick Project for several years in Colorado, Wes just released his solo debut, Naps and Nightmares, and evidently it’s true that change can be a good thing sometimes. The album explores the emotional ups and downs of leaving everything behind and starting fresh, but even with a few slower tracks it’s not all doom and gloom.
You can tell he’s been performing for a while and is comfortable with his own styles of voice and guitar. The music effortlessly drifts between blues, folk, and rock while giving it his own spin. It doesn’t hurt that backing him up is a great set of performers: Dustin Christensen (keyboards/melodic kalimba/celeste/backing vocals), Eric Ellsworth (electric guitar), Chris Hepola (drums/percussion/melodica/piano), Josh Granowski (stand-up & electric bass), Ross Nueske (electric bass), Cory Mon (backing vocals/wooden frog), Stephanie Mabey (backing vocals), Chris Becknell (violin), and Mark Smith (cello).
The album starts strong with “Vertigo,” blending some amazing bass lines behind a driving guitar melody. Nothing like the U2 song of the same name, this one talks about the feelings left after loss and the after-effects. Talking about the past and not wanting to let things go, he sings, “It’s been 9 years since I called again / Now I’m still trying just to stomach it / It’s a long long ride / No end in sight.” The song builds and builds only to fade away like there’s a fight brewing and then they just walk away.
“Away From You” offers a very different feel, one less about loss and more about a romantic notion of love. This one seems like narrating a movie scene about two people on opposite schedules trying to make things work. Each time they’re together they’re learning how to love each other again ending in the same place. “I don’t want to wake up again / Away from you.” Hopefully it’s less “two ships passing in the night” and more “coming together,” however!
Later in the album you hear “Better Than Today,” about a relationship at the end. It’s time to move on. “I don’t care if you like what I say… / ‘Cause when I leave, you’re still here / The same old place year after year / I want to see the smiles of different faces / I want to see the stars from different places / And it will do no good to stay / It’ll never be better than today.” That need for change when one person doesn’t want to is tough. And living in the past gets old fast. It’s an emotional goodbye, but a goodbye nonetheless.
“Karma” ends the album as a blues song talking about a cheating woman. It’s a simple blues beat, but damn if it doesn’t work well. I absolutely love the groove, right down to slapping the keys like a wagging finger in the background behind the guitar and drums. “The crying starts and the pleading begins / How could you have done this again? / Sure you were just friends.”
If you’re looking for some new music and like your folk blended with rock and blues, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Naps and Nightmares from Wes Kirkpatrick. I’m sorry he’s left Colorado, but our loss is Chicago’s gain and I’m sure he’ll be back this way again. Check it out at Amazon and iTunes. For more details about Wes, the album, and his tour, be sure to check out his website WesKirkpatrick.com!