T.J. Simon's #8 album for 2002
First Appeared at The Music Box, August 2002, Volume 9, #8
Written by T.J. Simon
New Yorker Kenny White has been in the music business for more than 25 years as a producer and studio pianist, and during that time he’s written hundreds of television and radio commercials. However, it took the dissolution of his 14-year marriage to inspire White, who is now 47, to write and record his debut album. Not surprisingly, fans of piano-based singer-songwriters in the adult contemporary tradition of Marc Cohn and Joe Jackson will find themselves right at home with White’s first recorded collection of songs Uninvited Guest.
Given the events that precipitated the recording of Uninvited Guest, it’s certainly not a shock to learn that most of White’s songs focus on the "I can’t believe you’re gone" theme. As a result, the album is a suitably quiet, pensive, and jazzy excursion centered around White’s piano, organ, acoustic guitar, and vocals, which bear a striking resemblance to those of Elvis Costello. In addition, he calls upon the assistance of some impressive friends to assist: Marc Cohn adds his voice to One Step Up, Peter Wolf plays harmonica on Cold Winter Wind, and Shawn Colvin’s lovely voice joins White’s on In Our Hands.
When White draws upon the influences of classical and jazz music, the results are heaven-sent. The flugelhorn arrangements on The Beautiful Changes help deliver White from his loneliness as he invokes the name and sound of jazz maestro Charlie Parker. The string arrangements of Chris Palmaro on the album’s strongest track (Every Time You Walk Away) combine the lush classical experimentations of Joe Jackson with the vocal balladry of Ben Fold’s recent outings. White also shines when he briefly strays from his melancholic themes to deliver the funny and clever lyrics of My Recurring Dream and Last Stop. And, on the latter cut, White wins the Couplet of the Year Award, by rhyming "portable Sonys" with "cajones."
With this much talent bubbling inside him, it’s a wonder that it took White so long to record an album of his own. Despite the loneliness that pervades many of the tracks, Uninvited Guest is not a depressing album that makes the listener feel like a voyeur at a therapy session. It’s simply a classy release from an artist going through a major life transition. It’s not the kind of album that will make you want to crank it up and drive fast, but White’s thoughtful lyrics and expert arrangements are more than enough to make up for it. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box