The first time I saw Northern Kind, my first thought was that the drummer looked familiar (it so turns out that we went to the same high school, although this was in his pre-Toaster days and I could face bodily harm for divulging his birth name). My second thought was pretty much along the lines of "Damn, these guys can rock, and they look cool to boot!" After spending the last few years burning up the stages of Fort Wayne clubs with their blisteringly tight grooves, this trio has released Here, their first CD. As they have taken their time in getting around to record, it is good to see that they are doing this right, sparing nothing in production and artwork (you just gotta love the smoking monkeys on the cover.)
Twelve of your favorite Northern Kind originals are captured on Here, starting with "Blow Me Away" which betrays it's Stevie Ray Vaughn influences amid some great interplay between the guitar, bass and drums. The toe-tapping, body moving funk of "Motel 6" glistens with nicely detuned guitars and is followed by "Rational" which contains hints of Zeppelin and another power-trio, King's X. One of my favorite tracks, "Dead And The Dying" is a southern rock extravaganza with a seething, fuzzy guitar torturing an amp on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Speaking of fuzzy, distorted guitar (and those who have played with me know I just love fuzzed-out guitars, bass, drums, vocals, flutes…), this album is packed full of great guitar tones. "Party Relish" alternates between a swaggering verse riff and a chorus of Hendrix fuzz in another extremely strong track. The very melodic "Julia" sports Black Crowes-esque pop undertones and lyrics guaranteed to be a hit with the ladies. The final track, "Homeless" draws on the best Zeppelin acoustic balladry along with the trademark southern funk rock feel that is Northern Kind to make an instant classic.
But you've heard these songs before, although perhaps never so clearly. The consummate professionals at Soundmill Studios have not only managed to fully capture the energy and sound of this band but have done so in a package that easily equals anything done in a L.A. studio. Every instrument leaps off the CD, free of mud and obfuscation, direct to your ears the way the Good Lord intended it. And as always, Northern Kind is tight, tight, TIGHT to the point of eliciting extreme awe and jealousy among its listeners. This CD belongs under your Christmas tree… NOW!
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, December 2001.