Johnny Sandlin told me months ago that he was producing an album for a band called Highly Kind, and that it was going to be a good one. Well, he was right.
The name of the band had me thinking “jam band.” I kind of expected the typical hippie vibe Deadhead thing, the noodling around on the guitar for extended periods of time in between ganja breaks. Shows what I know.
This album is a keeper, folks. Produced by legendary Southern record producer Johnny Sandlin and recorded at his Duck Tape Studios in Decatur, Alabama, the album features twelve absolutely astonishing songs, several of which were written by Randall Bramblett, who also sits in on several tracks.
The ring leader of the band is Albert Simpson, who contributes lead vocals as well as guitar work. His vocals remind me a lot of Scott Boyer, and I would go as far as to say Highly Kind sound quite a bit like Cowboy, much more than today’s plethora of jam bands. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure they can jam out when the time is right. But on the album it is just plain good music, well written and well played.
Besides Albert, the band features Trey Evans on keyboards, Kevin Scott on bass, and Duane Trucks on drums. Duane comes from a pretty musical family. His brother is Derek Trucks of The Allman Brothers Band, which also features hi uncle Butch. Not too shabby.
Special guest Josh Gooch adds guitar all over the album, and sounds great. Other guests include Walt Aldridge, James Pennebaker, Darryl Tibbs and Amanda Quarles, a dear friend of mine who I personally see as one of the brightest and best young singer.songwriters working today.
Every song is a treat, from the up tempo “Don’t Wake Elvis” to the acoustic driven “Have a Little Faith,” with a bit of Little Feat flavor. Then there’s “You Think You Know Someone,” written by Bramblett, that sounds kind of like Scott Boyer singing Eddie Hinton. And yes, that is a major compliment.
"Looks Can Be Deceiving" has a real Grateful Dead vibe about it, and just trips along with a real nice groove. Just excellent.
One of my favorites is “Table of The Lord,” with a kind of Drive By Truckers influence washed in the waters of acoustic smoothness. Of course, like I said earlier, every song here is good, including the beautiful love song that closes out the set, “Fading.” I love that one.
If I have any influence at all as a writer, I hope y’all will trust me when I say that this one is a winner on multiple levels. If you like the old Cowboy sound, or Randall Bramblett, or if you just want something that is both fresh and new but still maintains an air of the old Capricorn days of the seventies, you’ll love this one. Highly Kind may be my favorite new band.
-Michael Buffalo Smith