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Keaton Simons
Can You Hear Me
CBS Records
www.keatonsimons.com


If you are a fan of Josh Kelley, then Keaton Simons' music may sound familiar to you since Simons co-wrote three songs on Kelley's latest album Special Company. Parlaying his singing, songwriting and guitar playing into a solo career, Simons has released his debut album Can You Hear Me. Sometimes the tunes on Simon's new release feel like songs that Simons came up with while driving on a coastal road along southern California's seaside landscape, and other times it seems like he wrote these songs while he was in a half sleep mode and a conscious state of mind with lyrical content that seems like thoughts which appear in dreams while stemmed in reality. He sticks mainly to a folk-pop fare with additives of dusty country-toned acoustic strings, sunny-pop gusts, and even some gritty southern rock and bluesy jazz estuaries with a bar-room ambience. Whichever way Simons takes his melodies, he shows the songwriting skills of veteran tunesmiths like Randy Newman, talking about the lives of regular people with smooth rugged vocal timbres and a genuine attachment to a simple way of life.

The pop/rock threads of "Nobody Knows" are sharpened by curt rhythmic strikes which give the beats a repetitive jolt like a constant pump injecting air pressure into the melody's pockets. Simons keeps an upbeat tempo through the sunny-pop flavoring and cheery handclapping beats of "Good Things Get Better." It's the kind of tune that you'll listen to on a nice spring day to enhance the enjoyment of the warmth. Tunes like "To Me" and "Misfits" are detailed by countrified guitar strings and a west coast breeziness strewn through the melodic movements, while the lyrics create an inlet into a well of concealed thoughts. The folk-pop tune of "Without Your Skin" is a prime example of Simons' lyrical abilities with verses like, "On the outside I seem fine/ When you look into my eyes, Baby, you're bound to see me shaking…Without your skin, I'm naked." Simons' lyrics reveal what is often being concealed from the outside.

The bluesy jazz facets of "Currently" exude a bar-room atmosphere with torchlight piano keys and languid guitar tones stationed beside the folk-pop textures of "Burch Mog" and "Joseph," which are both fitted with sonic vestments that you'll hear played in a rustic, off the highway roadhouse. The gritty southern rock sheen of "Mama Song" has the potential to really draw in a crowd, and the smitten folk-pop ballad "Unstoppable" has a sensual vibe ripe for cuddling with your loved one by a warm fireplace. The album tops off with folk-pop clusters that filter through the title track "Can You Hear Me" with Simons' laid-back coasting vocal stride comparable in Randy Newman's style of singing.

Keaton Simons' album Can You Hear Me shows a songwriter-singer-guitarist with changing facets that carries a strong likeness to Randy Newman's tune-smithing. Produced by Dave Bianco, the album shows Simons' valid attachment to what affects regular people's lives, the way blue-collar rock artists like Bruce Springsteen and The Allman Brothers have done in the past. Like these guys, Simons' album takes music from the bar-room to the world stage and never loses its credibility to connect with regular people's lives along the way.

-Susan Frances


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