The Band Played On: Kingsley Flood at the Golden West Café, Oct. 1
Kingsley Flood, an impressive young Americana band from Boston, recently released its first album, Dust Windows, and on Friday played its first-ever Baltimore show at the Golden West Café. The show wasn’t as successful as the record, but the record is very good indeed.
At the center of the CD is Naseem Khuri, the group’s lead singer and acoustic guitarist; his smart lyrics and, just as importantly, his catchy melodies form the axle that Kingsley Flood turns on. The album takes its title from a line in its best song, “Cathedral Walls,” the prayer of a poor man who finds that neither revolution nor religion have had much impact on his living conditions. The picture is sharply drawn, and the refrain is so fetching that you want to sing along.
At the Golden West Café, those lyrics got buried in a sound mix that favored the drums and electric guitar. Standing tall in a dark-brown porkpie hat, the unshaven Khuri sang the verses energetically but unintelligibly; his words cut through only on the hooky chorus. Trumpeter/percussionist Chris Barrett and bassist Nick Balkin were the only other holdovers from the record, but they were joined by fiddler Jenee Morgan, guitarist George Hall, and drummer Steve Lord. The trumpet and fiddle gave the music the welcome feel of a 19th-century village band, not unlike Low Anthem, but these touches were often lost beneath the rock’n'roll thrash, especially on the uptempo cow-punk tunes such as “Back in the Back,” “Roll of the Dice,” and “Devil’s Arms,” all from the new disc.
The band was better off when it adopted more of a bouncy jug-band approach where they played fewer notes less frantically. This brought out Khuri’s humor on songs like “Stoops Cats” and “Cul de Sac.” “Little Too Old” proved that this wry approach could work even when dealing with looming mortality, a theme that was even more striking on the yet-unreleased number, “Quiet, Quiet Ground.” With their strong songs and imaginative arrangements, this is a band to watch. They just need to calm down onstage and trust the songs to carry more of the weight.