Kellogg, a singer/songwriter outside the boundries of folk, opts to bypass making an acoustic guitar-based record. Instead, he and Mahern zero in on layers of sound, close-miked vocals and never straying from melody over experimentation.
A number of songs ("N Generation" with Rage Against Machine sentiments and production, and "Happy Father's Day", with it's Prince-like pastiche of instruments and chorus) work to mix the message with layered production atop beat-heavy cuts, still maintaining a rock foundation. In the end, most of the songs are not far removed from the soul of a John Mellencamp record, if only because of its pop sensibilty and consistent ear towards keeping a catchy hook. Mahern, who also works with Mellencamp these days, creates an atmosphere of gentle experimentation amidst a Midwest musical heart.
Outside of a couple pieces that push the Americana genre, most of the record favors The Edge-style guitar razors and echo, with lyrics filled with more resignation than happiness. The album's first cut, "True Occupation" encapsulates the remainder of the release's style, with a Shawn Mullins talk/sing and the reminders of the Rick Rubin-produced Johnny Cash American Recordings that closed Cash's life and career.
Kellogg conjurs CSNY with "Counting on You" and adds Sly Stone keyboards and U2 Mysterious Ways guitar to "Rough Trade".
One of the most intriguing tracks is "Lighthouse Keeper", which serves as a companion piece to fellow Bloomington songwriter Bobbie Lancaster's "The Tragic Tale of Maggie Donovan" from her solo album earlier this year. Kellogg sings his from the perspective of an unrequited lover left behind when Maggie and her husband Michael leave to discover the promised fortunes of the American West. In Lancaster's song from her self-titled album, Michael Donovan dies one winter, and Maggie sets up a home near the grave. For Kellogg, the "Lighthouse Keeper" maintains his watch, as he "shine(s) the light night after night, hoping she will return".
Lancaster and Kellogg worked on each other's album's, and Lancaster adds beauty and depth here, singing background on four of this album's tracks, including this one.
"Hollow Hill is Gone" is one of the best cuts on the record, employing a loping 70's AM radio sound, gently honking horns and angled guitars to tell the story of another down-and-out life, the story buffered by a pretty accordian solo, and engaging chorus, not unlike a BoDeans song. "A Fool is a Fool" closes the record with a buoyant power-chord, power-pop song containing Mahern's pounding drum playing and a Matthew Sweet vibe.
Kellogg subtly stretches the definition of Indiana music, though never straying too far with melody. Instead, he presents a heartland rock record for a younger generation - a group that may not even give a shit about John Mellencamp.
Hear "Hollow Hill is Gone"
Hear "Counting on You"