For the Record has a lot of strengths. One of its greatest strong suits, however, is how it illustrates, yet again, that music crosses any arbitrary societal lines.
The songwriting center of the album is the duo of Irish native and New Zealand transplant Andrew Kerr working in partnership with New Zealand musical giant Alan Norman. Their collaboration with the Scarborough Connection helps bring their material to life while also reframing a couple of well-chosen songs from outside writers as a thorough part of their presentation.
They mix harmonica with banjo throughout the album’s first cut “Black River”. Rock informs Kerr and Norman’s songwriting pedigree, and you can hear that in the album opener despite its Americana trappings. The song’s assorted shifts maintain a consistent mood rather than feeling like disparate passages ramrodded together with the hope that they come together. “Black River” sounds like a song that arrived all at once for Kerr and Norman rather than piecemeal.
I am a great fan of how Kerr, Norman, and the Scarborough Connection turn the album’s atmosphere in a different direction with its second track’. “Dancing Eyes” implies a poetic perspective that the song’s lyrics deliver without ever buckling into pretentiousness. Despite the different thrust of this composition, elements from the opener endure into this track. Harmonica makes its presence felt, even if not to the same degree as before.
The nuanced guitar playing of “Roll On” supplies For the Record with one of its high points. He punctuates it with piano accompaniment ideally tailored for the guitar and it creates a low-watt buzzing powering the arrangement from the start. Weaving horns into the songwriting tapestry further diversifies this first-rate outing. Piano plays an even more pivotal role during the next song “Petrichor”. This track, however, finds Kerr directing the instrument’s energies in a much more lyrical direction. He tacks on jangling acoustic guitar and woodwinds with memorable results.
Blues, singer/songwriter material, and folk collide with spectacular results during the nearly four-minute character piece “Archie and George”. The slow metamorphosis of this track from its spartan beginnings and the accumulation of significant lyrical details eventually pays off with one of For the Record’s finest songs. The patient waltz of “Something Beginning with You” prospers on the back of excellent interplay between the piano and percussion, tasteful arranging, and a restrained vocal nonetheless bursting with personality.
The second of For the Record’s two covers closes the album. Ronan O’Snodaigh’s “Raise the Road” is a loving jaunt through Kerr’s affinity for traditional Irish folk music. It isn’t a purist vision of the style as we hear several pop song conceits announcing themselves throughout the track, but it nevertheless resonates as an authentic expression of Kerr’s respect for the deep history of Irish music. It’s an excellent way to conclude For the Record as it emphasizes that, despite their talents, Andrew Kerr and Alan Norman remain devoted to time-tested fundamentals. They are in ample evidence over For the Record’s eight songs and give each one an unshakable foundation.
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