I recently was sifting through my old high school stuff, and came across one of the most important items of my childhood. Torn at the edges, I found my old, stolen copy of On The Road which I took from my school’s library. It made me realize how eventful and quickly life can change, and although on my first read, I hated it, it eventually made a lasting impression on me that I still look back today on. I use the book as a powerful motive, and I’ve been drawn to any form of art that conveys adventures and the unknown. Luckily, the coincidently San Fransico native, Keith Alan Mitchell, has released recently his album, This Clumsy World, and it fills the void perfectly.
As an Americana alt-country artist, its obligatory to have the classic quick, sing-songwriter guitar shuffle in at least one track, and luckily it opens with the song, “Been Buried”, which completes this prerequisite. I can only describe the song as generic, and gladly the album doesn’t follow this route. The upside is Mitchell has an incredible voice that fits a unique niche in alt-country.
Following this song is “Swaying”, a wonderful track that fits the On The Road theme of longing. From the music alone, it’s easy to pick on this idea. It’s a slow, sweet, idea that flows like a conveyor belt, shifting from instrumental tints to timely harmonies to Mitchell’s soft voice. The simple lyrics are a strong choice, as any sort of complexity would ruin the mood. Mitchell has a strong control of his acoustic sound, as there’s no signs of accidental hits that can come with self-produced albums. He has an ear for perfection, and “You Just Disappear” combines the upbeat staccatos of palm-muted guitar strums and tambourines claps.
While on the topic, “You Just Disappear” has the chorus of a late 90’s radio tune, which I like to argue as the best time for alternative music because of the raw need to make music, and Mitchell somehow captures this image in a little tune that resembles a Barenaked Ladies or Blue Rodeo track (Do yourself a favour and listen to “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” and tell me that you didn’t sing along). This Clumsy World follows the sound of softly floating through songs that produce images of a road trip or new beginnings. The dreary roads at noon, the hot sun through a car window, the capturing of a perfect moment, Mitchell has put these words into art. “Crossed That Line” has a soft acoustic solo that flies right into the track, “What It Means To Soar”, which I found myself pressing repeat on.
Even the album artwork has this idea of releasing yourself from your routines. The artwork, done by Lena Gustafson has a dark hue and watercolour air ballon could easily be lost in the background as the colours are so close. Only until you examine it do you realize that it’s breaking free. Mitchell has found the right way to tie in all the necessities for a true album, from the visual aspect to the lyrical to the most important, the lyrical. Even the solos are on tune (and killer) with the entire albums idea. Artists can sometimes use the time to solo as a time to show their talent. Keith Alan Mitchell uses this time, especially on “Tavern Angeline” and “The Feud”, to enhance the tracks, not overshadow.
Now Mitchell keeps This Clumsy World fresh with his own unique sound of blues, acoustic rock, and alternative country, and “The Feud” is the peak of the album. Placed perfectly in the album, and the climax for many listeners, this song has everything that the album leads up to. I love the way Mitchell sings the chorus with slight aggression and quick word releases. This Clumsy World was a surprise for me. I went in thinking I would have a lot to pick on, but there’s nothing I can call out. It’s an overall incredible album that will sadly be overlooked, but it’s these hidden gems that people keep coming back to. It’s like finding that old book you loved as a teenager. It gives you hope to find another important thing that continues the nostalgic and content memories that one could look back on in the future.
Check out the track, “The Feud” below