Kendell Marvel Emerges as a Formidable Frontman On “Solid Gold Sounds”

Kendell Marvel
Solid Gold Sounds
(Easy Eye Sound)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Many country fans may be familiar with Kendell Marvel’s songs even if they don’t recognize his name. He has crafted songs for an impressive array of singers — Blake Shelton, Lee Ann Womack, and Jamey Johnson are a few that have dipped into Marvel’s catalog. His most influential client was Chris Stapleton who took “Either Way” to a Grammy win. 

Stapleton’s wildly successful career that found him rising from behind the scenes writer to arena star is a blueprint for what Marvel — currently opening dates for Stapleton — is looking to emulate. It also doesn’t hurt having Black Keys frontman/label owner/producer and auteur Dan Auerbach in your corner. While Marvel surely appreciates the high-profile assistance, his deep baritone voice along with a set of tough and mostly tender tunes combining the outlaw side of Waylon Jennings with a more countrypolitan style don’t need help to connect. 

The love letter to his wife, “Must’ve Kept It For Himself,” with its sweet lyrics, strings, backing vocals and Auerbach (on vibraphone and glockenspiel!) could be a hit for any radio friendly country singer. But it’s the few swamp-soaked rockers like “If You Knew What’s Good,” the Creedence-styled “Cadillac’n” and the stomping slide guitar “Blood In The Water” that push the album into the red. 

He goes Eagles circa “Tequila Sunrise” on the honeyed “Let It Go,” a cool slice of ’70s-era West Coast country pop and takes The Bee Gees’ “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” to the country in a string-enhanced, Glen Campbell-styled version.

Although Marvel claims to be writing without the shackles of commerciality, the ballads that dominate this disc would make a smooth transition to the musically conservative airwaves. A few more gritty rockers would have helped his edge, yet with the somewhat cheekily titled Solid Gold Sounds, Kendell Marvel shifts from supporting player to frontman with ease.

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