Ray Davies is most well known for his work with 60s band The Kinks, having helped to bring British pop music to America, and to the forefront of the music industry at the time.
Now Davies is back, with a solo album titled Our Country: Americana Act II. Davies actually released the first part in this duo last year, and it was very well received. Whilst the two records have produced music a little different from the stuff that Davies is usually known for, the country genre has seen Davies exploring new avenues and he has been mostly successful in his explorations. This is more of the same and if you liked last year’s offering then you are sure to enjoy this, however if we’re honest we did find ourselves preferring the first album in the series.
That’s not to say that Act II isn’t good though, as it most certainly is. The album sees Davies singing and providing spoken word poems professing his love for the United States, a country that interestingly banned The Kinks for four years back in the 1960s. There’s a certain mythology about the USA that many an artist has tried to tap into over the years (we’re looking specifically at Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon here), but it’s quite rare for a British musician to feel the same way about the country, which makes Davies’ love for the USA seem even more sincere.
As well as new tracks, there are also a few from Davies’ back catalogue that he has reimagined, to mixed results. Oklahoma U.S.A. from The Kinks’ 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies gets rid of the piano on the original track and trades it for guitars, and is pretty darn successful in doing so. Political elements are also to be found here, and whilst the album is in no way supposed to be a political album per se, it’s probably quite hard to get away from when writing an album about the USA nowadays. In particular, opener Our Country talks about the immigration issue currently plaguing America at the moment, and finds Davies questioning whether the idea of the melting pot is still a thing on those shores.
It’s an interesting take for Davies, and fans of last year’s record will lap this up. Those wanting something a little more like his work with The Kinks may find that it falls short a little, but it’s still well worth listening to, if just to hear those reworked tracks.