Let Rock Ease Your Worried Mind
There may be multiple layers of complexity in Myles Kennedy’s choice of title for his latest album, The Ides Of March (14 May 2021; Napalm Records). One is that ‘The Ides’ originally referred to the new moon of a given month, and so suggests a time for rebirth and celebration. On the other hand Shakespeare said ‘beware the Ides of March’ because it was the time that Julius Caesar was betrayed and murdered. Further, perhaps it is no coincidence that Covid really started to kick off big time in March 2020, and Kennedy is referencing that?
Among all this myriad of interpretations and confusion, however, one thing is certain: Myles Kennedy has an incredible voice for rock, and he puts it to great use on his latest offering.
On Kennedy’s 2018’s debut solo album, Year Of The Tiger, he collaborated with bassist Tim Tournier, drummer Zia Uddin and producer Michael Baskette, and on Ides Of March he does so again, but with a completely different outcome. While the former album was full of vulnerable, stripped back, acoustic-driven songs, here the band go for a fuller and brasher sound. At times, perhaps unsurprisingly, I felt like I was listening to one of Kennedy’s other bands, Alter Bridge.
The album starts with a bang with Get Along, featuring big riffs and a couple of rocking guitar solos. Lyrically, the song challenges us to make more effort in our relationships, and asks: “Why can’t we all just get along?”. The guitar remains front and centre in A Thousand Words, which according to Kennedy was inspired by a photo taken at a funeral, at which somebody snapped a photo of a grieving mother and “it hit me in the heart.”
In Stride, the first single release, is an outstanding track that opens with slide guitar before it really moves into gear. On the accompanying video it looks like Kennedy is playing a national resophonic guitar. ‘Cool down, baby, you know you’re gonna burn out in time, Sometimes you gotta let go and just open your eyes,’ he implores over a bluesy riff.
The title track, Ides of March, is a seven minute plus opus that starts with gentle acoustic guitar and a raspy, whispering Kennedy, which then gives way to a heavy rock riff. The song then throws in a curveball, however, with another change in the vocals as Kennedy warns that “there is no point in waiting… remember who we are, remember what we are… beware the Ides of March.” A monumental song.
The positive message returns once more on Wanderlust Begins, where Kennedy reassures us that ‘It’s gonna be alright again’; while Love Rain Down is more vulnerable as Kennedy suggests that listeners kick back for a moment and ‘just feel what they need to feel’. The bluesy and sentimental closing track, Worried Mind, again highlights Kennedy’s rich vocals, and ends the album on a high.
After a tumultuous year and with a confusing period beckoning, The Ides of March provides a huge dollop of comfort. The title is open to a myriad of interpretations but I prefer to go with the idea of celebration and rebirth. As Kennedy belts out in his last words on the album: “let it ease your worried mind.”