In his time, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Kevin West has run the gamut on performance style. Starting somewhere around the blues, West’s nomadic studying habits saw him investing in the structures of hard rock, metal, jazz, and hip-hop along the way. Now, he’s reinvented himself yet again as a consummate contributor to today’s Americana movement.
Lesser artists might claim to have labored behind such multifarious musical journeys to get to where they are today only to come across as self-indulgent or karaoke at best, of course, but West is the real deal. For as we l-traveled previous pathways have been for him, the investment that he has offered each of them has brought him to a place of marksman-esque musical precision. Pair this with a genuine passion in the music that he sets out to create, and we have a rare instance of an actual songwriting chameleon. West’s Americana is just as legitimate as those who have been cutting their teeth in the genre for much more singularly, if not more multi-sided. As a recent graduate of Hollywood’s Musicians Institute, too, he’s able to coordinate his newest music with an academic knowledge paired with all of what has been inherent to him from his previous artistic endeavors.
He proves as much in his latest EP, entitled Story of My Life. Thirteen years after the release of his “folk-hop” release, My Life and Times, West has had the time to lean in on the former half of what made his previous work tick. In doing so, Story of My Life mostly comes around as a well-textured Americana release. Not dissimilar to throwback roots rock this side of Tom Petty or Jackson Browne, West’s subtle, rock-driven grit offers itself well to interpreting a series of blue collar road anthems. He comes out rolling with the infectious melodies of “Best of Mine” and explores that soulful, old-school California sound throughout much of the album to positive results thereafter.
West breaks from his newly established norms on the EP’s titular track, however, invoking a collective of brass, keys, bass, and so on to envelop listeners in a jazz-centric sound. The slow-burning track is a full showcase of West’s maestro-level songwriting sensibilities, driven by sweet guitar tones, steady percussion, and a cool blend of trumpet, sax, and keys that keep things sensual and melodious. The vibe keeps going with closing track “Not for Nothin'”, too, wherein West and company get down in the funk of a grooving urban jazz instrumental.
So, despite the new roots rock outfit, West isn’t keeping himself in one place. Instead, the artist uses his colorful background in all of his various musical studies to create a new side to Americana. It’s one that keeps all of its folk, rock, and country fixtures, but also isn’t afraid to showcase the other side of the music that has made up the overarching “roots” label. Bringing jazz-hop and the blues along for the ride instead of shying them off pays homage to West’s roots, giving him a legitimacy paired with that innovator’s streak of his.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm