Real Life

Brian Kahanek

Independent release, 2004

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


This is one of those discs that needed to play in the background a couple of times before it clicked with me. But when it did… pow.

Solid blues-rock with just a hint of Texas twang (Kahanek is a Dallas native transplanted to LA), Real Life at first struck me as more workmanlike than spectacular. I dug the sincerity behind the music, but didn't find the groove right off. And then about the second or third time through, I stopped what I was doing and paid full attention as Kahanek -- a decent singer, but an outstanding guitar player -- lit into the solo on the slow-building third track "Little Things" (perhaps a semi-conscious nod to Hendrix's "Little Wing")... and knocked me on my ass. As my son likes to say, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 oh damn! This boy can flat-out play.

And so he does. Whether on funked-up blues numbers like the opening "Sign," lilting Southern roots-rock like "Love Deluxe," thoughtful midtempo cuts like "Tomorrow," or stinging instrumentals like the closing jam "Gemini," Kahanek lets loose with one vivid demonstration after another of the pure joy of playing the electric guitar as if your life depended on it. When I dream about playing guitar (can't play a lick, folks), I dream about being able to do it with this much passion and fluidity and innate melodic sense.

I have to say that the vocal side of Real Life wasn't a big focus for this listener. While I didn't find Kahanek's vocals especially appealing, what they might lack in polish he makes up for with commitment, giving an honest hundred percent to every one of these songs. Plus, his lyrics have an emotional intensity that's perfectly in sync with the passion he pours into his playing.

It's hard to imagine this disc finding a mass audience -- realistically speaking, today's mainstream music scene doesn't even make room for 10-second solos in a four-minute song. But for aficionados of rootsy blues-rock that lets the lead guitarist stretch out a bit a la vintage Stevie Ray Vaughan or Eric Clapton, this album might be the sweetest find you stumble across all year. Be sure to check it out.

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Rating: B+

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