Review by Kent Manthie
Kwesi Foraes, a 23-year-old native of Long Beach, CA just released his debut EP, entitled 27. I was going through some of the new albums I’m currently reviewing and one of the first I noticed was this album. I clicked it open and pushed play. Wow. What intensity there was. The opening tune, “Devil’s Child”, a soulful, emotionally deep, loud, like it’s coming out right on top of you. Once “Devil’s Child” reels you in, Kwesi’s current “single”, which has been getting some press, in places like NPR, “Heroin” (no, no, no, not the Velvet Underground classic), follows up after the opener, “Devil’s Child”. “Heroin” is a richly textured, well-structured song which seems to be about more than just drug addiction, I thought I heard some references to relationships, whether failed ones or intact ones which can be worse sometimes, since both parties are miserable together but, due to co-dependency issues, etc. force things to have the appearance of a working relationship.
The rest of the EP has a good run of songs; clever, witty, intelligent lyrics, a soulful, from-the-heart collection of six songs, all of which fit pretty well together. The whole of 27 is a strong debut from this young but earnest, mature, smart guy.
Looking through a few other write-ups about this new album, I’ve seen the appellation “folk” applied to Foraes’s music. I disagree, though. Even though “folk” is something that encompasses a number of styles as well as viewpoints; I don’t believe there’s ever been one unifying thread throughout the world of “folk music”. Whether it’s the scruffy, low-fi, hobo-folk with subtle political and social commentary woven throughout the songs of, say, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan or the peppy, feel-good campfire type of “folk”, as with the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary or The Seekers, just to name a few, folk, not unlike rock, has a wider range of styles than some might think. But, as for Kwesi Foraes, I don’t know – maybe it’s because of the acoustic nature of the music. But, Neil Young has, in many concerts, done an acoustic set, besides the usual electric set, usually with Crazy Horse; that doesn’t make Young “folk” does it? I’ve never heard anyone say he was folk. Anyway, as for Foraes, I don’t hear it either. Maybe I have to listen to it some more, but, ever since I heard the beginning of the first tune, “Devil’s Child”, what I felt was something with more soul to it; there’s even some R&B in this, which isn’t a secret, that’s what gives it its essence.
Other songs that pique one’s interest include a new, more subdued interpretation of the old Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic, “I Put a Spell on You”, but simply titled “Spell” on 27, which is a sign that this “Spell” is now in the hands of Foraes. It’s a gorgeous song. “Pentacle 13” and maybe “Water” might be where the whole “folk” label came from. That could be. I guess I’d have to say that I’m agnostic on that front, wherein I don’t know for sure what, exactly, Kwesi Foraes intentions are, music-style-wise. But as for the Soul and the R&B sounds, they’re in the mix, all right.
I’m interested to hear what lies next for Mr. Foraes. For now, though, enjoy 27. -KM.