(more music below)
Bringing summer to all who are facing the impending cold of Winter, Keith Mullins gives us some Island Sol. With the best of summer swing, reggae beats, and jazzy piano, Mullins soothes us with his relaxingly raspy voice, winning us over with warmth.
Summer forever present in the backing beats, Mullins breaks out the masterfully muffled overdrive of classic lounge rock guitar, from righteous riffs to ripping solos. He knows what it takes to ‘Change The World’, for sure – or at least one’s perception of beach bum tunes.
What better way to pick at people for their ‘First World Problems’ then to loosen up with languid lounge licks, and harmonious horns, suggesting, musically, a wonderful resort of sound, all around that lie the lowly lyrics; a bigger picture than the tune alone.
Pulling away from the summer fun, Mullins breaks into ballad; into ‘Infinity’. The soft guitar strum, plunking piano, and heart-warming harmonica flavour the track with an unusual taste compared with the rest of the summer spread but it is, indeed, in a different way, the warmest track on the album.
Right back into the swing of things, Mullins sings us an ocean ‘Hola’, regaling us with a reggae romp of harmonious heat, heavy-laden with the sweet scent of beach babes, tumultuous tanning, and luscious living. A fantastic jazz solo on the piano plays us towards the nearing end of summer and on to talk of dreaded December.
Not giving up the ghost of summer sweet, Mullins sings a Spanish song of ‘Salvadora’, his “guiding light / towards something greater . . . [his] one and only love”. A seductively saddening song of lost love. The only improvement one could conceive of amid the sultry Spanish, and lizardly lounge lyrics, would be a Santana solo to both accent and play the track out with.
A ‘La Bamba’-like intro brings Mullins and his licentious lady into Havana’s glow as ‘Infidels’. “It’s love that makes the world go round”, so he says, in spite of their condemnation. Praise-worthy percussion blasts passion into the short life of this track – a teaser for the dance in all of us.
Smooth and sexy, ‘El Diablo’ fires up our hearts with such seductive villainy. Homage paid to the Devil in Georgia, a wonderful fiddle screeches in the background, giving way to a charming cello, captivating all in earshot. “. . . A devil on the run”, Mullins knows how to light us up, and keep us giving chase.
Funky bass breaks into yet another genre while Mullins raps out ‘In Due Time’. Bashing out the beats, pulling out the wah; wailing on the guitar, and hammering out harmonica, Mullins truly shows the breadth of his musical diversity in this somehow masterful musical mis-match.
It’s those ‘Moments In Between’ when one can reflect, in loneliness. Smooth ’70s jazz meets clean country in “Los momentos de entre”, and one is again surprised at the casual clash of genres, colliding so well together, with the ever present serenade of Keith Mullins.
‘She Will Play’ “. . .under the Sun / or under the Moon”, as surely Mullins will, bringing us sweetness in this peculiar love song, surprisingly home-hitting. Warming in a different way: a wonderfully toned guitar solo, and pleasant piano piece, Mullins breathes bittersweetly. “Some people say you can’t play a tune twice”, but one may be inclined to spin this track again.
There’s no trouble getting Mullins to ‘Speak Up’ about heart, and hardship. “If you got something to say / you might as well say it”, and Mullins wastes no time. Perhaps the most poignant piece of the album, there is a real gravitas to the lyric and, mixed with the jazzy lounge brush much of the album has been painted with, one is left rather unsettled, but pleasantly positive.
An interesting ride indeed, Keith Mullins’ Island Sol is a fantastic album to bask on the beach with, or to hold close to the heart, since winter is coming. Take a trip through Havana, and hell, stop and swing for a bit; live and lose some love, and change your world for the better – bask in Mullins’ Island Sol.
For more on Keith Mullins, visit keithmullins.ca.