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Split Lip Review of A Scar is Born: Chapter 3 - Salvation: by A Beautiful Curse
Kenny James, former bandleader of The Witching Hour and session musician for nearly everybody who has good taste in players, is at it with a new and unique project called A Beautiful Curse. By “new,” I mean fresh off the griddle; by “unique,” I mean this collection of music combines just about every genre of music found in the well and performed at the highest top-shelf level. Grab a ladder. Hell, if you listen closely, this EP has managed to create a few of its own genres, sounds unheard of before. Though there is no comparison, and that I hate categorizing music, I’m going to compare and categorize. I’ve received a sampler of three tunes from the forthcoming EP and I have to say the first three artists that came to mind while listening to “Startin’ Over” were Alicia Keys, Frank Zappa, and The Supremes. How’s that for a melting pot? Let’s give these tunes the Split Lip breakdown.
Before I dig in, I listened to the tunes in an order that spelled out a sentence: “Starting over to live again [and] it will be glorious.” And I believe that is the message of A Scar is Born - Chapter 3: Salvation.
“Starting Over” begins with a minute and a half of melodic exploration played on horn over a steady kick drum and bass line, pulling me into the mindset I had when I first heard “Bitches Brew.” I heard each run of the horn, each hit of percussion, and each ambient guitar swell as a series of statements, a conversation before the vocal begins. After the musical chat, we enter a reggae groove with the vocals of Toddy Walters, a lovely voice, natural without all the processing of today’s auto-tuned, echoed, female pop vocals. There’s a natural breathy and exciter effect beneath her voice much like Frou Frou. Overall, I hear a message of hope within the lyrics of this tune, or rather, a lesson to find hope, or rather again, a reminder. I feel the story is saying that if you’ve been in a dark place and are stuck wondering where life’s beauty has disappeared to, you’ve got to start over to witness the better side the world offers.
“To Live Again” is perhaps the most eclectic piece I’ve heard in quite some time. At the beginning, I’m ready to go clubbing, but that’s only a brief moment because the programmed drum loop is broken up seconds into the song with James’ rock steady drum groove, a groove that gives off an eastern music feel, making me think of Karim Ziad’s “Lebnia.” And, damn, it’s bad ass. The musicianship on this track kills me. I miss the days of guitar solos, and for the guitar solos on this track, I thank Kenny. Guitarist, Adrian Romero, KILLS and sounds like nobody you’ve heard before. If I had to compare, and, oh, I will again, I’d have to say this guy is like Pat Metheny after taking some tone tips from Jerry Cantrell. Towards the end of the tune, another guitar solo takes place, this time sounding a bit like a sitar played on top of James’ rock-solid drum groove complimented by hand drums played by Christian Teele. Lyrically, this tune makes me think of taking another chance or trying again with a former love and living again and making things new.
Finally, I had the pleasure of listening to “It will be Glorious,” another showcase of musical brilliance and diversification. I was shaken when I heard the intro shift to section two. The song begins with a tame chord progression, which made me think of Paul McCartney, but BAM, then I’m hearing a galloping bass line with a harmonizing guitar lead on top—and in the most honorable way I can state this—I was reminded of Iron Maiden. Don’t hate. I am a closet Maiden-Head so it’s all good. It’s just such a great guitar melody played between Josh Skelton and Stu Miller. You can hear the tone and personality of each guitarist as individuals blend together to make a unique voice crying in sync with each other. And, I need to pause for a moment and give props to Rick Skatore on bass. As a bassist myself, his sick groove had me pooping my pants. He’s got the sixteenth note Steve Harris meets Rocco Prestia down solid! I couldn’t get enough of him and James’ drumming on this tune. Too cool. As the song, a tune that seems to hint that we all listen for a guiding voice but sometimes have a hard time hearing it, mellows out with Stef Briggs delivering a Hornsby-esque piano solo, which then leads to the “glorious” outro. By “glorious,” I mean the song ends with a Plagal Cadence as if to say “Amen.”
All in all, this is an EP worth picking up. It literally has something for everybody. It’s a pop listener’s record, a musician’s record, a dancer’s record, et cetera, et cetera. Find and grab yourself a copy soon!