Review: Kevin Kinsella – Great Design

Review: Kevin Kinsella – Great Design

Kevin Kinsella – Great Design
Track Listing:
1.) All That I Have
2.) No Battlefield
3.) Lovers In A Time
4.) Ring of FIre
5.) Stars
6.) Faith
7.) Light of Love
8.) Sunshine
9.) Great Design
10.) Let Me Be
11.) Turn It Around

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: June 28th, 2011
Record Label: I-Town Records
Official Website: Kevin Kinsella Website

Artist Background:
Kevin Kinsella is most renowned as an original member of John Brown’s Body and member10 Ft. Ganja Plant, though he’s made a healthy name for himself as both a solo artist and the founder of Ithaca-based independent record label I-Town Records. Great Design is his third solo release.

Album Review:
Let me start off by saying that Great Design is a beautifully constructed album, a chronicle of one man’s personal journey through life and an outline of the ideas that he finds dear and joyous in his life. I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin for a little bit (READ Interview Here), and the ideas he shared with me regarding his album and the meaning behind several tracks made it all the more precious of a listen (so if you really want to grab some deeper insight into his music, come read the interview by clicking HERE, I’m not planning on giving away too many secrets).

Great Design opens with “All That I Have,” a well-designed roots-reggae spiritual proclaiming the beauties of a simple life, rid of complex possessions or illusions of social status. The luscious synths and laid-back rhythms create a gorgeous backdrop for Kinsella’s simple-life-praisin’ proclamations of frugality and contentment. The next track, “No Battlefield,” expands upon such ideals with the opening lyrics “I’m doing more with less.” It’s a theme that permeates the majority of the album, this idea of doing utilizing every resource to extent, much like the early Native Americans who would use every part of a deceased buffalo for sustenance, both physically and spiritually. It’s a philosophy many of use I’m sure have been forced to take on since the inception of the great recession. As budgets are slashed and expenses tighten, we still manage and we still make do with what we have, and through it all, constricted as our resources may be, we still manage to find a little happiness.

The album trots on with similar spiritual themes both optimistic and foreboding (see Kinsella’s haunting take on the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire” for an example of the latter). Tracks such as “Great Design,” “Faith,” and “Light of Love,” with it’s interrogative chorus, “Why worry your life away?” resume Kinsella’s inclination towards spiritual delicacy and homage.

Be aware though that this album should not necessarily be classified as reggae album. Though it’s symbolism and homage to powers above may reflect Kinsella’s influence from classic reggae music, the album shares the full extent of Kinsella’s musical palette, including rock, folk, and soul (and let’s be honest here: all of these genres have, at one time or another, helped to articulate man’s appreciation for some belief in a higher power than himself, be it Jah, Christ, or good ol’ fashioned rock & roll). “Stars” is a laid-back Jack Johnsonesque love song on the power of prophecy though we’re not talking about the revelations-style apocalyptic foreboding, here. This track is simply about reading the signs to find that this is the right time, the right place, and the right circumstance to fall in love with you.

Great Design, while it may not be totally reggae, pop, rock, or soul, combines enough elements of the aforementioned genres to give a full-album feel that will not exactly strike a listener as derivative, but instead flows coherently and delicately as an entire album. In the end, the optimism of this album is really what pulls the listener through, as is the case with much reggae, leaving a listener reassured and reinvigorated in this “great design” which we call life on planet Earth.

Written & Reviewed by: Chris Castro

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]