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Album Review: “Untold Truths” by Kevin Costner & Modern West

November 12, 2008

Untold Truths

3.5 Stars

Who would have thought Kevin Costner, famous for his acting roles in such films as Dances With Wolves and JFK, would have it in him to form a country music crossover career? With his band Modern West he put together a debut musical project with the help of producers, and band guitarists, Teddy Morgan and John Coinman in his attempt to reveal his more intimate and musical side to those who have, up until now, seen him as purely an actor. Thus far his releases from the project have only secured video airplay on GAC and CMT, but have not been given radio attention yet. This puts Kevin in the company of such greats as Elizabeth Cook and Old Crow Medicine Show, good enough to gain critical acclamation but not popular enough for mainstream radio.

Of the twelve tracks on this album Costner has impressively contributed to writing half of them with the rest being either co-written or fully written by the band’s lead acoustic guitarist, and the album’s co-producer, John Coinman. As a writer and producer Coinman actually contributes to much of the artistic relevance of this project on his own. His self-penned “Leland Iowa” and “Down In Nogalas” are among the best tracks on the album containing a very casual and simplistic feel without putting the listener to sleep. Although Costner didn’t write these songs, his vocal rendition is very casual and relevant to the lyric of his guitarists work.

Costner, as a writer, teamed with producers Teddy Morgan and Coinman to help add his own touch rather than just depending on the guitarists, Teddy playing acoustic and electric, to provide him with material. The most notable are “Backyard” and “5 Minutes To America”, the first being a casual look at an obsession with cars and the other being a controversial look at American success. These songs, along with the mentioned tracks of Coinman origin, bring out the “country” in the album. They reveal more twang and country personality in the performance and the lyrics than anything else on the album.

Unfortunately the first half of the project lacks this. Costner defines his band as rock/country, or Americana as his myspace states. Where the second half does in fact have a very country feel to it, the first half feels very much Americana and rock n’ roll. The first two tracks, the first radio single “Long Hot Night” and “90 Miles An Hour”, are put out as rock songs lacking much of the country music aspect of the band. While effective and entertaining, they lead to confusion when the listener suddenly gets a shift from rock to country out of nowhere.

This is the major fault of the album. Only one song, “Superman 14” which contains a magnificent country fiddle and is the first video release, actually successfully blends country and rock n’ roll. The rest of the album is either one or the other and the shift is immediate and almost aukward. We know the band is both rock and country, but the way the album is mixed and many songs approached it sounds like they had a hard time deciding between one or the other as their major direction. This is disapointing because it leaves a lot of great music and writing lost in an attempt to define just where musically this band was trying to go.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2010 11:26 pm

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  2. shamndonny permalink
    December 11, 2011 2:36 pm

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