Ken’s Music Pick: The Kernal at Rockwood Music Hall
Is Joe Garner The Kernal, or is The Kernal Joe Garner? Truth be told, they cannot be separated. They’re critical to each other’s existence.
If they were parts of one soulful, music-makin’ body, you could maybe view Joe as the head, and the Kernal as the guts. Or Joe as the heart, and the Kernal as the muscle. All together, they look damn sharp in a red suit. And for the last two years, all these parts have worked together to pump out a fantastic set of country-ish songs that would ultimately become the Kernal’s “HelloFarewell.”
The Kernal and his crew come from the southern town of Jackson, TN, which marks the halfway point between Memphis and Nashville. And true to that positioning, the sound that comes out of ‘em tips the hat both to the rhinestone polish of Nashville as well as the urban grit of Memphis. Inspiration was even closer than that however, as Garner’s father was in fact a bass man in the Grand Ole Opry’s house band (as well the original wearer of the electric red suit).
Although Garner and his band mates grew up listening to and surrounded by some outstanding southern musicians, it’s clear that nobody’s copying anybody here. When you listen to the Kernal, you can tell that he’s using all that inspiration in the way that it should be used — as a launching pad for something new.
Each track on “HelloFarewell” is unique unto itself, a series of homages and departures of varying degree. The opener “Where We’re Standing” has the alternating bass and silky harmonies that conjure fond memories of that great 60’s-70’s era country. “Goodbye Flowers” has all the percussive romance of classic Roy Orbison. And then you have “Mind Control,” a bouncy tune that lyrically plays with feelings of insecurity and being corralled through life.
All of these tunes have an air of nostalgia, no doubt, but they sound far from “old”. The Kernal’s compositions have a musical context the sets them firmly in today, while the imagery in the lyrics have a modern, yet timeless quality, which is not easy to achieve. Not to mention that the album itself comes in the form of a download link printed on a piece of paper stuffed in a beer bottle, needing to be smashed to be heard. You can’t get much more 2012 than that.
The Kernal plays at Rockwood Music Hall, Sunday July 1, 7pm // FREE
Splitting his time between performing and producing, contributor Ken Beasley primarily plays with his own roots/rock band, Ken Beasley & Co., as well as the power punk outfit, Missy Sport, while also curating the Underground at the Abrons music series on the Lower East Side.