Once in a Lifetime
A few years ago, Charleston singer/guitarist Kevin West was being touted by friends and fans as the master of the rock/hip-hop hybrid — a funk master with a way with rhymes and rhythms. West, a skillful musician with a versatile style, can handle a solo gig with ease, and he can hang confidently in any rock, funk, or soul band setting.
West's local performances have come in waves in the years since he released his last album, 2006's My Life and Times. On his newly released, independently produced solo album, Once in a Lifetime, life and time are at the heart of the record once again — plus a few attempts at being sexy-cool.
Recorded at the local Collective Recording Studio with engineer Alan Price (of Souls Harbor), it's a crisp production and a balanced mix. Bassist Jesse Anderson, drummer Karl Anderson, guitarist Kenny Meyer, and other special guests proficiently fill the role as a backing band.
Musically, Once in a Lifetime is a scattered, meandering collection with dual personalities, however — like two very different mini albums crammed into one long player. Half of it tries to jam out with contemporary soul-rock funkiness. The other half lilts and flows as a more introspective folk-rock set.
Once in a Lifetime starts off with the Lenny Kravitz-esque "Sky High," one of the funky full-band songs of the set. Based on a total rip of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" (the main riff appears to be the same as the bassline of the famous chorus), it's a shaky opener. "Excuse Me, Beautiful" continues in a similar vein, but with more booty-chasin' attitude and a rickety sense of rhythm.
West sounds like he's forcing his rhymes and lyrics. Some of the lines are painfully boastful. West's main character comes off as a self-important braggert, rapping about his swagger and sex appeal. The overly syncopated "I'm Alright" and disco-beat "No One Does it Better" make the vibe redundant.
Thankfully, the double acoustic guitar ballad "One Too Many" — a more personalized and melancholic tune with a whiff of boozy sorrow — aims for the opposite direction. It's the first of several more laid-back tracks that lay off the braggadocio, "Hey lady, won't you lay with me" nonsense.
"Everything" contains some of West's most potent lyrical work. The line, "No one ever thought I'd be where I am now/Still, here I am somehow," sums up his sense of survival and willingness to drop his guard.
Trumpeter Kenny Price adds a brassy melody that complements West's steady strumming. The emotional and waltzy title track features the songwriter at his most pained. Raspy and passionate, this one should have been the foundation for the entire collection. (kevinwestmusic.com)