When you look at Myles Kennedy’s career from his first band to his current endeavours with Alter Bridge and Slash, each band has had its own unique sound. Hell, Mayfield Four’s two albums sound completely different. Kennedy has been talking about a solo album for years, always in the works and always promised it would be something completely different.
Having scrapped what was originally laid down, Kennedy started from scratch and made a brand new album. However, he kept his promise: Year of the Tiger is like nothing Kennedy has contributed to before. It’s not hard rock delivered with a massive uppercut accompanied by a man in a top hat or Mark Tremonti. Instead, Kennedy plays guitar, lap steel, mandolin, banjo and bass. Accompanied by long-time producer, Michael Baskette, they’ve opted to record to tape and Baskette seems more restrained than his last couple of records with Kennedy (Slash’s World on Fire and Alter Bridge’s The Last Hero) which felt over-produced. The old-school approach makes it feel warmer and more real.
The biggest aspect of the record however, other than its complete left-turn sonically, is the lyrical content. Revolving around the death of his father in 1974 (the year of the tiger in the Chinese Zodiac), the album explores the idea of death from a personal standpoint. “Haunted by Design” looks at what Kennedy imagines his Christian Scientist – turning down medical attention and instead believing faith and prayer will heal – father’s thoughts are.
Meanwhile, the title track is his mother’s perspective as she uproots the family not long after his death. Kennedy addresses his mother’s experiences again with the plainly-titled “Mother”. Thanking her for her strength through the circumstances, it’s an upbeat, raucous ode to her. With “Devil on the Wall”, Kennedy acknowledges his own frustration of losing his father at a young age, revisited in the far tamer “Nothing But a Name”, the opening lines implying he’ll never be forgotten.
For the most part, the album mixes Southern twanging with Americana, bluesy tones and a lot of acoustic sounds, even verging into country at points. Experimenting and flexing his musical muscles, soothing sounds and somehow continues to possess that golden touch for anything he encounters. Making full use of the lap steel and banjo alongside resonator guitar, the album is loaded with robust melodies. As Kennedy experiments with these newfound instruments, nothing feels like it’s been put in for the sake of it or to just add some more variation.
Despite the stripped-back nature of the music, he does dabble with the bombast you’d find on his other bands, albeit sparingly, with “The Great Beyond”. A monolithic song, one of the most complex tracks on the album, crashing in with no warning. Jarring after the title track’s acoustic leanings and loaded with anger – his voice at full tilt during the song’s chorus, this strikes with the force of a storm.
Kennedy may not be fronting a behemoth sound on the album but that doesn’t stop his voice. Giving one of his most varied performances on this album, he’s proven once again he has one of the most versatile voices in rock. Running through everything his voice can muster, ranging from roars to barely audible whispers and borrowing elements he’s used at certain points in his lengthy career, he’s showing the world for the umpteenth time what he’s capable of, distilling his entire career into one album. Put front and centre in the mix, the music serves the vocals and if anything, packs more heft than it ever has.
Year of the Tiger is the album Myles Kennedy has wanted to make for years and its musical direction should come as no surprise. Combining some of his darkest lyrics to date with a brand new sound and backed by one of today’s most recognisable voices, Kennedy continues to diversify his musical output.
Year of the Tiger is released on 9th March