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Album Review

KACI BOLLS
Leavin' Nashville
(Without Leavin' Nashville)

Kaci Bolls should be the poster girl for the “new” Nashville. After seven years working for a publishing outfit, she was downsized and kicked to the curb (along with seemingly a few million other songwriters and musicians), part of the bloodletting going on in a (supposedly) healthy segment of the music industry. I say that not negatively but as a matter of fact. We all know what happens when the beans get counted--- outside of executives raking in outlandish bonuses (I'm kidding!)--- and, well, this time it happened to Kaci.

Just before the axe fell, though, she approached the people at Ole/Roots Three about recording some songs and paying for it herself so she could have control. Ole wanted to pay for it instead, retaining ownership. They compromised and she set about looking for a producer. She settled on Luke Wootendue to his work on Dierks Bentley's records and the fact that he knows how to record acoustic and was able to marry raw elements and yet slick it up just enough for country radio.” Wooten set about putting together the sessions, calling in solid session men and helping Kaci pick the songs. They ended up with four topnotch songs, each co-written by Bolls, each as good as anything being produced by the Nashville machine and each a potential hit. Potential is the key word here and while the music is first-rate, 1929 got lost in the shuffle of music and labels and everything else bringing the old industry structure to its knees. “I guess we didn't wow 'em”, Bolls wrote me, but I don't buy that for a moment. Truth is, the industry stopped listening awhile ago (hence that 'knee' comment) and you can't get wowed by what you don't hear.

Had they heard, however, the wow would have taken care of itself. First off, Bolls hit the nail on the head with Wooten. The sound is slick yet not slick, the songs tight yet spontaneous, the band cohesive yet loose. You hear it straight away with 1929, an upbeat rocker with, yes, a nod toward the Twenties and yet living in the present. Even the lyrics reflect the roots, “Happy days are here again” repeated a number of times while the harmonies flash back to the days of The Follies and Busby Berkeley and whatever was happening when the talkies took Hollywood by storm. The band totally rocks on it and so does Kaci Bolls who, it turns out, has a really fine voice and knows how to use it. She settles down a little with I Feel Blue, hip deep in the sound which paid Nashville's bills for those decades leading toward today's precipice and then belts out a ballad good enough to have been placed on any number of top-rate albums, I Miss You, with majestic production values far beyond the instruments used. With a chorus made for AM radio (which, I know, doesn't exist anymore), she rises to the top of Pop with Hide the Sun, immaculate phrasing and a chorus that is candy to the ears tossing genre aside. This four-pack is a short case at the very least, and maybe a case. The band? Let us just say that if you don't know the names Jeff King (electric guitar), Larry Franklin (fiddle), and Mike Johnson (steel guitar), you will.

After this CD was completed, Bolls readied herself for a 50 states in 50 days tour, a wild whirlwind of activity and sound, but she wanted more than an EP to sell. It was decided that she record a couple of her concerts before the tour--- her CD release party gig (at The Living Room in Nashville) and a concert at The Lovett Auditorium in Murray KY. From those tapes, she put together a live album, appropriately titled Live. She included a boatload of tunes she'd co-written over her years at Ole/Roots Three--- seventeen to be exact--- and threw in a “work tape” version of I Miss You for good measure (in addition to the “live” concert version). All four tracks from the EP are there, live and unadorned, with added songs lined up like ducks on a pond--- hit after hit as they used to say in the record biz. Those were two mighty fine nights for Kaci and the band and proof-positive that she has the goods. Her fans think so. They pledged to purchase the CD upon release which is the only way she could afford to do it. God, but I love this new music industry paradigm!

As I type this, she is working on a third project. “I'm now working on a record that has no boundaries to mainstream,” she writes, “as I am not (now) tied to a publisher or production company. Although rent is harder to come by the past two months, I am free and ready to create my songs the way I've always heard them.” Hear that? Well, hear these first and then, if you like them (as I do), purchase them so she can get that third project completed and out. Then a fourth, and maybe a fifth, and... I tell you, the next one will be interesting. No boundaries. Kaci Bolls, Raw and Unbalanced. I like the sound of that. If you are at all curious, might I suggest you log on to Kaci's website (www.kacibolls.com) and check out her “webisodes” which are following her through the recording of the new album. Call it a teaser.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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