Singer-songwriter’s beautifully poetic ‘Down in the West Volume 2’
With “Down in the West Volume 2,” San Anselmo singer-songwriter Kyle Alden adds to his growing reputation as Marin’s musical poet laureate.
A blend of mostly original and traditional songs and tunes, this sequel to 2013’s “Down in the West Volume 1” is another ear-pleasing crop of beautifully poetic, occasionally funny, intelligent and thoughtful Americana with an Irish lilt.
Alden, who has accompanied many top Irish musicians in concert as a guitarist, broke new musical ground in 2011 with his third CD, “Songs from Yeats’ Bee-Loud Glade,” a collection of 13 original folk songs inspired by the poems of W.B. Yeats. That album made several “Best of” lists, including Press Play’s that year.
In the same spirit, he opens “Down in the West Volume 2” with “As I Walked Out,” a poem by W.H. Auden that he set to music, playing acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin and percussion. Paul Eastburn of Spark & Whisper accompanies on upright bass. On this song and the 10 others, Alden sings lyrics worth listening to in his relaxed, resonant baritone.
He wrote the words and music for “The Nancy Song/Love Me Tonight,” a laugh-out-loud track about a lonesome guy pleading with a woman to let him sleep with her while he thinks of Nancy, his true love who left him. In exchange, he won’t mind if she makes love to him while she pretends he’s “Edward or John, Fergus or Sean.”
Alden finds his own poetic voice on “Better Than New,” a gorgeous story-song about building a house on an old horse ranch “with 100-year-old wood that’s better than new.” It’s the kind of song that you can imagine coming from Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt. It’s that good.
In addition to bassist Eastburn, Alden made good use of the talents of guest musicians Athena Tergis on fiddle (Green Fields of America); bassist Scott Thunes (Frank Zappa/Mother Hips) and Fairfax producer/guitarist Robert Powell on pedal steel.
This is the rare album that’s satisfying both musically and intellectually, a record for grown-ups to be played and enjoyed time and again.