The short version: After hearing some comparisons to Tyler Childers, I decided to check out Kyle Fields’ debut project, Hillbilly Poetry for my 3rd album review of 2018. Even speaking as someone who wasn’t as wild about that Childers album as others were, Fields has a long way to go if we’re going to be comparing the two artists.
- Favorite tracks: “Addicted To Suicide”, “Down In Caroline”, “My Call”
- Least favorite track: “Good Ole Boys Like Me”
Personal rating: 4/10
The long version: As I said in another piece of mine from today, I aim to bring you all what is hopefully the best music currently out there. As you can imagine, when I started hearing a guy named Kyle Fields receiving comparisons to Tyler Childers of all people from music fans, I knew I had to check this guy out. Plus, it’s the third day of the new year folks. There aren’t exactly a lot of new releases waiting to be heard right here and now. So, much like I did with King Leg and Sarah Darling, I decided to reach back into 2017 again to give a proper review to an artist that I thought you all would enjoy.
On that note, all I can really say is feel free to like Mr. Fields all you want, but for me, this is a seriously flawed debut project that makes it hard for me to root for him. It’s a debut project, so naturally you’d think we’d get to know who Kyle is. The opening track “Stories About Me” is meant to serve that purpose. Instead, I don’t think I met Kyle Fields. I think I met some random guy who thinks that “acting country” is all you need to garner support from the independent scene these days.
Let’s go back to that opening song too, because it’s essentially where this album’s problems begin and end. It starts off well. His grandfather worked with moonshine, and Kyle himself managed to find his spark with music despite not growing up in a musically inclined family. It’s at that point though that the cliches start to pile on as he recalls going to Nashville and seeing a “bunch of guys in skinny jeans” (haven’t heard that before…) and being thankful that even if he isn’t played on the radio, at least he keeps it Country! Ugh…I get it, really I do. The hunger is there, and it’s not worth picking on someone who obviously has their heart in the right place. However, acting like the tough outlaw these days is getting more played out than the music these artists criticize, and instead of showing us who he really is, Kyle opted to get some cheap shots in at Nashville to appease the independent crowd. Hey, maybe it will work, but we need something else as well.
Unfortunately the album gets even uglier with “Good Ole Boys Like Me” which is one of those tracks opting for a theme that just pisses me off. I hate these type of “gee howdy, thank God we still got some REAL country men” type of tracks because they always assume that these are the only type of people capable of doing hard work or making something out of their lives. And of course, they only live in the South. We can’t forget that. Plus, the whole thing can’t be about them. No, Kyle himself has to get off on praising himself in a song that’s pandering, tiring, and just downright bad all around.
Other than that it’s lovely. Well alright, jokes aside there are unfortunately still some elements of this album I still need to talk about. Again, the biggest issue facing this album is that it feels like a generic cutout for an independent country singer. “We Belong Together” and “Heart Of Stone” offer up tiring metaphors for love, and do I really even have to get into “Turn Some Conway On”? The opening line of “I’ve been a bad boy” (not guy apparently) is crinegworthy enough, but turning on some Conway Twitty just because he’s the sex master is not the only thing you need to do to rekindle your relationship with your lover, dude. Try actually communicating with her. The references to actual Twitty songs are well-placed, but it makes some lines come across as more forceful and creepy (think how the “tight fitting jeans” line might play out because it’s there) which is unfortunate.
Of course, the biggest issues facing this album are still those two awful tracks in the first half. The second half is by no means a masterpiece (it features the Twitty song), but it is better in some ways. “Down In Caroline” has a decent opening riff to it, and after spending some time apart in their relationship, the narrator is shocked to find out that his ex-lover is better off for it. Upon this revelation he takes the mature route of wishing her the best even though he’s understandably broken up about it. There’s some actual nuance to the framing, and it comes across a lot better as a result. I like this side of Kyle Fields. The album even gets on a bit of a roll with the next track, “My Old Kentucky Home”. Sonically I find this to be way too lacking for me to really enjoy (and granted, that’s a problem that runs across the board with some chintzier production, but given that this is an independent debut, I think I’ll let it slide), but there is still some heart to it (even if it’s a bit early in your career to already be missing home). “My Call” also features some tired tropes (drinking to get over an old flame), but it’s a moment of vulnerability as Kyle essentially breaks down and asks the Lord himself for some guidance. It’s a potent moment.
The one track here that’s head and shoulders above the rest of this album though is “Addicted To Suicide”, a look at how working as a miner took a toll on this guy’s health forcing him to take pills for his predicament. The way that the song shows the decay of this man’s life and insanity as he becomes an addict is chilling, and the fact that it even shows the impact it has on the man’s wife and kids makes the listener remember the man in question isn’t a monster. He’s a good person in a bad situation. Again, Kyle Fields has the potential to write a damn good song, and this is a hell of an example.
That’s the main problem with this album – it’s not that Kyle Fields is a talentless hack. It’s that Kyle Fields is choosing to record material that follows the crowd instead of showing us what makes a Kyle Field song truly a Kyle Field song. As it is, we get a lot of tracks that paint by the numbers like the aforementioned tracks and well, really any song other than the above listed highlights (and “Belt Buckles and Busted Knuckles” isn’t horrible either). As it stands, I can’t get behind this particular album, but I want to see Kyle push himself a little more to be himself, because it’s during those moments that he managed to impress. This isn’t a good album though, and unfortunately the problems stick out like a sore thumb. Hillbilly “poetry” it is not.
Personal rating: Light to decent 4
OF COURSE this is the only track I could find on Youtube…