Lewis Knudsen

Joy, Pain, Love, Songs

Written by: LF on 02/10/2014 14:43:44

Based in Moline, Illinois, we have a singer-songwriter whose musical style is a kind of jazzy roots rock with numerable influences from folk, blues, soul and pop. "Joy, Pain, Love, Songs" is Lewis Knudsen's first studio recording, and the title pretty aptly describes what it mostly is, namely a collection of casual and warm songs about the good and bad sides of life. The songs are generally not too similar in style as Knudsen constantly mixes up his influences, and it makes for a sort of eclectic record, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

The first couple of songs generally have some interesting compositions and clever lyrics, and these seem to be the elements that Knudsen really seems to have a talent for working with. The first careful notes of "All I Need" clearly points out the bluesy direction the record initially moves in. In this and the rest of the songs on the first half of the record, Knudsen's vocals have a bluesy quality as he playfully slides up and down in his melodies, and he is accompanied occasionally by an improvising saxophone and a firm violin. When Knudsen is joined by a full band instead of playing mostly acoustic, he is forced to use more power as he sings, and this lets him show off the various nuances in his singing that are mostly decent but never truly remarkable.

"Head Over Heels" that goes through a dramatic change in style around the middle is the most interesting song of the record. It goes from being a swinging rock song by a full band to being a sensitive, acoustic love hymn, and this works surprisingly well, as it goes sort of opposite to convention in its use of energy. We also get a decent and more straightforward rock song in "Diamond In the Rough", and a quirky little song in "I Don't Have Anything to Hide", that has Knudsen use the deep ends of his register for once in an entirely smooth and convincing way.

Now, if Knudsen was a guy playing his relatable songs in the corner of a bar, he would certainly be one of the more impressive ones of the kind. As a recording artist however, his songs don't have a consistent enough quality, and unfortunately the album, while warm and inviting, just doesn't keep my interest peeled for long. With the strong outset of blues and folk influences, the album takes a turn about midway as the one cheesy love song after the other starts rolling out. The problem is that most of these more pop-influenced songs really want to be soulful and emotional in a way that Knudsen's voice just can't carry, and they end up being fairly uninteresting to listen to. "I Want You" especially shows this as it wants to be a ballad so bad that there's just way too much space left for Knudsen's voice to fill, and the second half of the record ends up being a mostly flat experience. It only kicks into gear again with the last song, "Dance", which is a decent and light up-tempo tune.

As such, Knudsen is no doubt a talented artist and a decent singer, but it inevitably shows the most in the songs where he really works with composition and arranging. As a unit I feel like "Joy, Pain, Love, Songs" is a hit and miss record where a few songs work very well and the rest slide right past me as they just don't stand out enough.

Download: Head Over Heels, I Don't Have Anything to Hide, Dance, Diamond In the Rough
For The Fans Of: Eels, Jack Johnson, John Mayer
Listen: facebook.com/lewisknudsenmusic

Release date 09.06.2014

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