Reviews of CDs by Kevin McKendree and the Brothers from Other Mothers, Michael Penn and Kiss the Girl 

Now Hear This

Kevin McKendree and the Brothers from Other Mothers, "Miss Laura's Kitchen," (East Folks) — This eclectic CD is a vibrant showcase for a musician with talent to spare. McKendree was once known around town as the Professor Longhair-inspired piano player for Lil' Ronnie and the Blue Beats. Some years back he took his talents to Nashville and he now plays keyboards for the Delbert McClinton Band.

For his first independent CD, McKendree calls on old pals such as Big Joe Maher and Steve Bassett to help him out. Recorded during the past two years in his kitchen, McKendree wrote or co-wrote the project's 12 tunes, plays every keyboard within an arm's reach and shows he's no slouch on guitar either. He even adds bass and drums on a couple of cuts. The songs range from straight-up rock 'n' roll, to a fine greasy R&B groove, to a clavinet-happy Spaghetti Western-lounge jazz tune. "As Good As It Gets" follows with a dose of hard, early-morning blues, and just when a listener figures it's bound to settle down, McKendree throws in a righteous boogie-woogie and some slide surf madness. Co-produced by Bassett, with cover design by Richmond-based artist/musician Ivan Appelrouth, "Laura's Kitchen" is as diverse as it is fun. — Ames Arnold

Michael Penn, MP4 (Sony Music) — Everybody in the pop-rock world probably borrowed part of his or her sound from another artist. Nothing wrong with that.

In Michael Penn's case, it would seem only fair that he turn over part of his royalties to Matthew Sweet — or vice-versa, considering that Penn first burst onto the mainstream in 1989 with "March" and the Top 20 single "No Myth." Some of the songs on "MP4" could have been slipped into Sweet's "Girlfriend" (1991) and most listeners wouldn't be the wiser. Then consider Penn's voice: High-pitched and nasally, its similarity to Sweet's voice truly is uncanny.

But it's the backing music, really, that lifts the disc above many others. (Wife Aimee Mann's vocals on three tracks don't hurt either.)

Penn's rhythmic guitar gives the record the texture it needs. He slows it to a Southwestern crawl for one song ("Don't Let Me Go") and speeds it up for another ("Out of Its Misery"), a varied effect that keeps all 10 tracks interesting.

"MP4" is a good record; still, it has to be said: If you liked Matthew Sweet's early stuff, you'll really like this.

— Lon Wagner, The Virginian-Pilot

Kiss the Girl, "Say Goodbye to the 20th Century" (Kiss the Girl Music) — Sitting down to a warm dish of buttered noodles not too long ago, I plopped in the debut CD from Kiss the Girl. All too swiftly, my meal went cold and my mood turned sour.

Some emo-pop listeners might find "Say Goodbye to the 20th Century" the perfect spice to top off any delicious dish. I'd barely pulled out the parmesan before I threw down my fork and pinched my temples. Turns out my attempt at harmony was a recipe for disaster. Between the simple verse in "Living Underground" (Your red dog, where's he gone ... seems to me you wear the leash he was on ...) and "Sticky Candy" (I got a stick of sticky candy in my bed ...), this is just the kind of lyrical candy the not-so-critical adolescent youth will drool upon and chew. Lines like that are enough to make soccer moms flush while their daughters giggle between the pages of their schoolbooks.

As Hanson has already proven, a sound so plastic it's beyond "Baywatch" can even find a niche. If this is a blessing or a blow to the world of music, I cannot say. But, along with my buttered noodles, I've digested a lifetime of Kiss the Girl.

Curious could-be fans can tempt their musical palates before they go puckering up to just any "could-be pop star." Check out kissthegirlmusic.com. or look for them on MP3.com.

— Kerry McCormack


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