Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Keith Gorgas
Contributing Writer 

On With Life new from Kev Rowe lead guitar player for the Big Leg Emma


Last updated 3/28/2015 at 1:20pm | View PDF

Kev Rowe is best known as the innovative and dynamic lead guitar player for the Big Leg Emma, a bluegrass/jam rock band based in western New York State. Kev's got another side to him. He's also a singer/ songwriter in the folk vein, and his solo career has already produced four critically acclaimed CDs; More True Than Real, Hi Love, Into The Gold, and Brown Book. Number 5 just came out of the oven, and it's a tasty one, for sure. On With Life is Kev's latest offering, and quite possibly his best so far. Produced and mixed by Danny Kadar, Rowe gets little help from other musicians. Mostly it's just the poet, his sweet voice, and his guitar.

The only cut that sounds remotely like a Big Leg Emma is the opening track. Skating Down Lakeview Avenue begins like it's just a sound check starting up, and breaks into a happy, bubbly song. Rowe's work on electric guitar combines the melodic best of Dickey Betts and Jerry Garcia. His sound is clean and innovative. If I have any disappointment with this album, it would be that we don't get more of his lead guitar work. But I surmise that Kev deliberately wants us to focus on his lyrics, so he mostly maintains an understated strumming and picking. There's lots of introspection on this CD. Everything You Can't See is heavy in that department. Rowe's voice and phrasing bear Paul Simon's imprint, at least to my ear. Pain Is Not Love is a gentle warning from one recently broken heart to another.

The crown jewel of the recording is the fourth song; Somewhere In The Middle. It's a bitter sweet look back on a lost love. " She loved me and now she doesn't" is the opening line. If Emmylou Harris ever discovers this song, I have no doubt that she'd record it, as a duet. It concludes with the words "Each day I live, and die just a little. The truth is somewhere in the middle."

Song number 5 is The Last Thing I'd Change is You. It falls right into Townes VanZant's style of writing. Moon Fire , a delightful acoustic instrumental comes next. Kev Rowe comes across at times like dancing Buddhist monk with his shaved head and beard, sly smile, and philosophical statements, and coupled with some catchy rhythms and snappy melody, that's who he is in Black Friday At Walmart.

It's a Saturday night picking session that's the subject of The Blue Heron Song, and the music is a metaphor for everything else in life. Rowe sings "we've got to settle in a groove to find our way. He then drops back into the introspection mode on Have You Seen Myself.

Method To The Madness is another one of my favorites on this CD. Having listened to it quite a few times, I'm not sure I'm getting everything Kev Rowe is saying in this song, although the general theme is quite clear. The tune has a comforting vibe to it, and as Rowe looks around a disjointed, oft times contradictory world, he sees beneath the surface a method to the madness. The lyrics bring to mind Bob Dylan's Every Grain of Sand.

One With Life closes out with the tongue in cheekish All My Friends Are Crazy. I've heard it said that the mark of a good song is that it can be pulled off well by various gendres. Frank Sinatra would have loved to have had the chance to sing this one. The more I listen to this song, the more I appreciate Rowe's style of writing and command of his own voice.

With this collection of 11 songs, I won't say that Kev Rowe has hit a booming shot way over the fence, but winning baseball is a collection of singles, doubles, and triples, and the occasional inside the park home run. It's a fine piece of work, and only serves to strengthen the artist's solo profile. You can purchase On With Life from Kev Rowe's website

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