The New Cool: Tim Kennedy beams brightly on his new homemade album
It's not easy keeping up with the many musical pursuits of Tim Kennedy. The Seattle-based multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer isn't letting pandemic conditions slow him down, either. He's just released TK Special Trio featuring Home Team, created and produced at his place.
At the start of 2020, Kennedy gathered his friends David Dawda and Brad Gibson to come by when his family was away for the night, and play bass and drums. As Kennedy puts it, they would "throw some mics up... ponder a song to record, we find it, we record it."
The gatherings stopped as the pandemic shut down Seattle in March, so Kennedy put together some of the fruits of their labor. A couple special guests were added, and this Home Team album was released April 11.
The variety of material on this collection suggests calculated collaborations were honed over time, worked on over a series of meetings. The overall vibe, though, has the relaxed feeling of a casual musical gathering.
Focused on his Roland Juno Di synthesizer (and a bit of melodica), the TK Special Trio has similarities to Kennedy's previous trio, Gravity, from about a decade back. There are plenty of styles to be covered by this trio with this simple instrumentation. The songs have brief running times, but each packs its own personality.
The album begins with the chilled, future-lounge dream of "Another One," featuring our first special guest. Kennedy's daughter, Gigi, asked for a mic to sing into, and the charming "I love you" that she sings a few times in the song was the result. They make for a "very proud dad moment," Kennedy says.
"Pole Position" bounces along in a poppy groove that fans of Vulfpeck will enjoy. The soft-focus sound of Kennedy's keys is almost decaying here, threatening to drift away like dandelion seeds. Gibson's drums keep things together nicely. The melody has a groovy early 80s feeling inspired by Kennedy's domination of the classic arcade game as a kid. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86bAmS5LLM
Our second special guest is drummer D'Vonne Lewis, who lends his distinct vocal style to "Mark Sampson." The song is a cover of Kassa Overall's, which featured his brother Carlos rapping. The TK Special Trio's somber opening on this new version leads to the brighter theme undergirding Lewis, who raps a loving tribute to the late Seattle musician and their friend.
A curious outlier on the album, "The Story of the Skinny Perp," is a beguiling solo piano piece that hints at David Lynch's cinematic spookiness. In fact, that's the point. Kennedy was inspired to write this after his role as a walk-on, playing a "skinny perp," on Lynch's recent "Twin Peaks" reboot was nixed at the last minute. It's Hollyweird's loss, I guess!
"Husky" is a carefree number with a relaxed waltz rhythm. Kennedy describes this as "lost in a tundra, just me and my dog." The light, airy keyboards almost sound like the northern lights look.
The shortest of the seven short songs, "Une Noche con Francis," is Kennedy's melodica feature. The song's bouncy bass line and playful Latin drum rhythms swing along with joy for just two minutes, and earn a well-deserved second play from me. Encore!
The album closer dispenses some classic Tim Kennedy soul vibes. "If It Were Left Up To Me" coasts along happily with a vintage wah-wah pedal effect on the keys. The Sly-Stone-bass work of Dawda and Gibson's steady, hand-clap beat combine with Kennedy's bubbly keyboard for a big, broad, smile of a finish.
Bandcamp sites continue to be a good place to support independent musicians while we can't catch them live in clubs around town. As my blurb on this album's page says, "Tim's coolness cannot be charted. This album, however, deserves to top the charts!"
The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.