Kevin Mills is a Canadian-born country/gospel singer and voiceover artist. (Not to be confused with Kevin Mills the Elvis impersonator, whose stuff I found in related videos on Youtube!) He comes from an evangelistic background, having experience as an opening soloist for his father’s revival meetings. He is currently signed to Nashville’s Song Garden Music Group/Grapevine records. Travelin’ Through is his third project, a mix of originals and country/gospel/bluegrass covers. It features background vocals from Jeremy Easley, former tenor for the Lefevre Quartet, and David Staton, lead singer for Palmetto State Quartet. This review presents some highlights of the album and some ways in which it could be improved.
(1) Til the Answer Comes (2) Dig Another Well (3) Believe In the Dream (4) Walk On the Water (5) Travelin’ Through (6) Church Bells (7) You’re My Best Friend (8) Black and White (9) Bible and a Belt (10) Three Wooden Crosses (11) A Living Prayer (12)Til the Answer Comes (Reprise)
Project available from… Amazon, iTunes, Artist Website
*Listeners will immediately be struck by Mills’ smooth, satisfying country bass voice. Fans of Randy Travis or Josh Turner will similarly gravitate to his sound. While probably not technically a true bass in the strictest quartet sense of the word, Mills can still get down there (on “Dig Another Well,” he ends on what I think is an A1, though he can correct me if I’m wrong—I didn’t double-check with a piano).
* “A Living Prayer”: An Alison Krauss and Union Station cover, previously unfamiliar to me. Readers may enjoy hearing Alison’s original here. Penned by banjoist Ron Block, this meditative piece is the standout track on the album. He sings the first verse, and his wife guest sings on Verse 2.
* “Travelin’ Through”: The title cut and the strongest original song on the album. It moves along at a good clip, and I especially enjoyed the jazzy keyboard work from veteran studio musician Dirk Johnson.
* “Church Bells”: The artwork I received didn’t include an author for this song, so I assume it’s an original from Mills and/or a co-writer. It’s a heartfelt, low-key piece that pays tribute to an old country church. I just liked everything about this one.
*I was impressed by the deep biblical references on a couple of the country covers. “Walk On the Water” talks about the deal Satan made with God to afflict Job, and “Dig Another Well” is a metaphoric re-telling of Isaac’s quest to find fresh water. (Though the lyrics might confuse readers who don’t remember the exact story, since Isaac doesn’t actually find the wells filled with dirt, he just encounters some tribal opposition from local Philistines who begrudge him the land.)
*While subtle pitch correction is common on virtually all studio recordings, I picked up a little more on this recording than seems typical for a southern gospel project. It’s especially prominent on the female vocal for “A Living Prayer.” While I can understand wanting to ensure a pitch-perfect performance from a vocalist who’s unused to the studio, laying on the pitch correction too thick can backfire. In this case, I would have enjoyed the track more had it not been so obviously sterilized. You can also hear it on some of Kevin’s vocals.
* “Believe In the Dream” suffers from a lack of freshness lyrically or musically. In particular, the lyrics use too many cliches (“this world can be a better place,” “miracles can happen,” “if you only believe…”).
*Although I appreciate the sentiment of “Black and White,” the writing is clumsy (especially the bridge, which features a laundry list of “new technologies” like “DVDs and HD-TVs”). Also, the first verse contains a negative reference to rock and roll coupled with a desire to go back to the days of Andy Griffith, but in point of fact, Andy Griffith was at its most popular when rock and roll was first flourishing! (I know what the song’s getting at but couldn’t resist pointing that out. As a matter of fact, I did once watch an interesting interview with Griffith and Don Knotts where they were remarking on that very oddity. They were consciously trying to evoke the atmosphere of the 50s despite working in the 60s.)
*Except for “A Living Prayer,” none of the songs really made me sit up and think “Wow, that’s a great song!”
Kevin Mills is a voice definitely worth checking out. Fans of gospel-flavored country music will enjoy this solid mix of tunes. For an instant taste of what he can do, check out these videos:
Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.