Somewhere in Time
[Rating: 2.5 stars]
An album that has been in the pipeline for years, Somewhere in Time pays homage to the songs of Boise, Idaho, singer/songwriter Pinto Bennett (of The Famous Motel Cowboys). Bennett is something of a mysterious figure on the Americana circuit; part country storyteller and part modern cowboy poet, his rich narratives have earned him a cult following among like-minded musicians throughout the American Northwest–though he remains largely unheralded beyond that circuit (except in Europe, where he’s headlined festivals alongside Willie Nelson and others).
On Reckless Kelly’s sixth studio album, the Red Dirt band covers 14 selections from Bennett’s catalogue, with help from an all-star supporting cast that includes Joe Ely, Lloyd Maines (on Pedal Steel) and Mickey Raphael. Bennett also appears as a guest vocalist on a pair of tracks.
Despite this stellar lineup, Somewhere in Time struggles to live up to its potential. Reckless Kelly is hardly a country band, and here the group veers only slightly from its typical formula, applying thick layers of drums and guitars to material described in the album’s liner notes as “hardcore cowboy songs” and “true country music.” The result offers a disorienting lack of synergy; Reckless Kelly performs these songs aptly, but has a hard time not rocking out—a fact that gives Bennett’s gritty and descriptive lyrics scant space in which to tell stories. When the band tries to rein things in and provide that space, the arrangements sound stifled and restrained.
This unsatisfying coupling weakens both partners. The band’s admiration for its hero is apparent, but in attempting to stretch so far beyond its typical comfort zone it has exposed its own lack of artistic flexibility. Likewise, Bennett’s wonderful material sounds hardly above average when adapted for the modern Texas country scene.