Ray Davies, "Americana" (Legacy Recordings)
Think of "Americana," the first release of new material from former Kinks frontman Ray Davies in nine years, as a musical memoir of sorts. It's a welcome return for one of rock's signature voices and it finds Davies in a reflective and introspective mood.
Cowboys. Coca Cola. Highways. New York. Silent movies. The Kinks.
They all get referenced over 15 tracks, as Davies sings about his life working and living in America over the past 50 years. Davies finds the perfect backing band in The Jayhawks to tell his stories both in song and spoken readings from his 2013 memoir.
But it's more than just a nostalgic travelogue.
Davies, who penned some of rock's most well-known songs including "Lola" and "You Really Got Me," is also one of the best — and perhaps most underrated — storytellers. His signature sharp wit and razor-sharp insight are in full force on "Americana."
On the standout track "Poetry," Davies beautifully questions what has become of a country dominated by fast food restaurants, shopping malls and a bland sameness.
"Where is the poetry, what is the rhyme?" Davies sings, wistfully. "What is the meaning? Give us a sign."
There's no better place to start looking for those answers than "Americana."
Scott Bauer, The Associated Press