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Music Review - `The Long Road Home` by Kevin Deal (jh)

Kevin Deal -  The Long Road Home  (click on image to watch video)

8 April 2019 


Singer-songwriter Kevin Deal has been on the Texas Americana scene for two decades now. If you’re new to Deal’s music, you’ll immediately detect a vocal resemblance to another North Texan, Steve Earle. Certainly Deal does not carry Earle’s high profile but he’s well respected among his peers to the extent that he can draw these outstanding musicians to this album, The Long Road Home. Accompanied by Lloyd Maines (guitars and many strings) (also the producer), Mills Chaiken (guitars), Ian Griffith (upright bass), Pat Manske (drums), Terri Hendrix (vocals), Richard Bowden (fiddle) and Kenny Thacker (banjo), it is a great aggregation of talent. As you can glean, the album is mostly cleanly picked acoustic fare. Picture yourself sitting in a dusty roadhouse in the late afternoon as dusk nears with a group of friends playing some killer songs before the joint transforms into a rowdy dance hall later. It’s calm vibe presaging more vibrant music is coming. In fact, a few of these tunes are in that latter camp like “Bountiful Yield” and Broken Upon the Rock.”

The title track, “The Long Road Home,” sets the tone. “There is always hope and you’re never alone on the long road home…” There are times when troubles weigh heavy. “My Heart” echoes that story. “Won’t let me rest/Won’t let me sleep…” The strong message in “If You Can’t Put It down,” is honest and simple. “If you can’t put it down, don’t pick it up…” “Bountiful Yield,” is a message for all to heed, imbued by Maines’ pedal steel. “Reckoning” has an ominous tone and western motif, befitting the admonition in its lyrics. – “You will pay for what you’ve done.” Deal’s rendition of Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” is well done, and fits in thematically with many of these mortality-oriented, self-reflective tunes. Having said that, do we really need it?

Deep friendship and heart-breaking loss colors the folk-like “My Friend” as ruminates at the gravesite. Deal stays in the that mode for one we can all relate to, “Pushing Away the Dark.” Harmonica, mandolin and fiddle bring us into that proverbial dancehall on “Broken Upon the Rock” with its memorable line “It’s not about trying harder; it’s about letting go.” 

The standout track may well be the sad and tragic too often told story about the wife’s husband warrior who never returned, “All the King’s Horses.” Using the fairy-tale line “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put her heart back together again.”  While “Of Dust and Smoke,” with nice harmonica from Deal and mandolin from Maines, is a bleak cry of surrender and resignation, “ “Keeping the Faith” is the antidote -  “I want to live every minute ‘til I hear the Angels call.”  The other cover is ta faithful rendition of the Cash classic “Ring of Fire.”  The album comes full circle with a reprise “If You Can’t Put It Down.” 

Just about any album when Lloyd Maines is producing is well worth hearing and this is another strong one. Deal has a true gift for song, sings them authentically and has a stellar group of musicians making it all come through honestly, organically, and most impressively, through a wide range of emotional moments. 



Jim Hynes



Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.




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