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Kip Boardman | Upon The Stars (Ridisculous)
This arrived several months ago with just a brief hand-written note from the artist. Kip Boardman has no website as far as I can ascertain and unlike the majority of CDs I get to review no exclamatory press release proclaiming its greatness either. While that made assessing the album a little harder, it's a refreshing approach, although I suspect it wasn't by design. Whatever, the album itself is a beauty.
Timeless, intimate and captivating, 'Upon The Stars' could have been recorded at anytime in the past thirty years or more, Kip Boardman's warm, engaging voice and distinct phrasing immediately welcoming as soon as the album begins to unfurl. A highly sought-after bass player in Los Angeles, Kip Boardman has managed to draft in some other equally reputable session players to form the core trio on the album - drummer Don Heffington (Jayhawks, Lucinda Williams, Victoria Williams) and guitarist Tony Gilkyson (Lone Justice, X).
Recorded by Charlie McGovern, (who has also worked with Victoria Williams), Boardman's songs, sparingly fleshed out with instrumentation including pedal steel, cello, dobro, organ, trumpet and saw, are delightful. At times plaintive, at others quirky and sometimes positively buoyant, Boardman's songs (mostly preoccupied with that recurring theme of love), are as intriguing as they are enchanting. The lyrics are interesting too, nothing too heavy, but neither are they lightweight or clichéd. Musically, we're talking early '70s country-rock for the most part, but into the mix you can throw hints of jazz, old-time and even doo-wop to represent a truer flavour of the album's subtle variety. Amongst references which he admits to and which provide some genuine pointers Boardman's voice is occasionally, though only vaguely, reminiscent of both Neil Young and Willie Nelson, and Bottom Line certainly has some Rolling Stones swagger about it. To those I'd also add Randy Newman. There's something about the detail and effortlessness in the arrangements as well as his admirably nonchalant determination to record an album without feeling the need to pay heed to stylistic convention or current trends. Also, like Newman, he might have the fallback position of a lucrative sideline in movie soundtracks if closing number, the instrumental A Song For Agnes is anything to go by, and he's not a bad pianist either.

Geraint Jones
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003

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