Saving Grace CD (2008)

Artist: Scott Kempner

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Ex-Dictators/Del Lords guitarist comes storming ba

by on 6/10/2008

Kempner’s second solo album, his first since 1992’s “Tenement Angels,” offers an urban-roots-rock sensibility that echoes his earlier work with the Dictators and Del Lords. But where the Dictators were brash and jokey and the Del Lords tough and raucous, Kempner’s latest songs, sobered by a long-term illness, reflect the introspection of a middle-aged rocker. His music is steeped in East Coast rock ‘n’ roll, stretching from the ‘50s swagger of Dion (who appears here on “Heartbeat of Time”), the Spanish Harlem sounds of the Brill Building, the downtown edge of Lou Reed, the nostalgic echo of Jack Nitzche’s work with Mink DeVille, and the blue collar heartland of Springsteen. Kempner’s Bronx roots and the Brooklyn streets surrounding the (now defunct) Coyote recording studio where these tracks were recorded underline every melody and emotion, creating music that is both nostalgic and timeless. ¶ The album opens with a potent rock ‘n’ roll prayer, lacing Kemper’s electric guitars and lyrical fragments of “The Star Spangled Banner” amid longing for a time when the dreams of youth still seemed within reach. The theme is even more explicit in “Baby’s Room,” where Kempner seeks solace from a world in which “dreams go up in smoke.” Existential ennui gives way to the heartache of lost romance on “Love Out of Time,” with Kempner’s raggedly emotional vocal layered on a Spectoresque wall of acoustic guitars and a classic baion rhythm; all that’s missing are the castanets. That same heart-in-your-throat New York street corner emotion is also heard in the hopeful “Heartbeat of Timing.” ¶ There’s a superb, visceral connection between Kempner’s wrenching lyrics of infidelity, emptiness and lost hope and his guitar playing. His electric rhythm powers the Stones-styled riff-rocker “Stolen Kisses,” and the Dion-styled vocal of “Here Comes My Love” is toughened by a deliciously raw Link Wray styled guitar. Kempner’s picking can also be hypnotic, such as his underlining of the title track’s search for redemption, and the melodic circles he draws around the low-bass of the bluesy “Passion Red.” The album’s sole cover is Tommy Womack’s “I’ll Give You Needles,” an emotionally powerful depiction of junkie life. ¶ There is a quality to this music that artists haven’t the lifelines to write when they’re young, and usually haven’t the verve remaining when they’re older. There’s deep experience packed into Kempner’s latest, which he hopes will bring “the ghosts of all my heroes [to] come dancing in your living room.” Whether or not the ghosts come, the songs will certainly turn you free to dance on your own. 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2008 redtunictroll at hotmail dot com]

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Product Overview


Label Kino International
SKU 208075889
UPC 020286122029
UPC 14 00020286122029
Format CD
Release Date 6/10/2008
Author Scott Kempner
Product Attributes
Artist Kempner,Scott
Music Format Compact Disc
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Ex-Dictators/Del Lords guitarist comes storming ba by on Jun 10, 2008