TITLE: KILBOURN

ARTIST: RUN DOWNHILL

LABEL: RUN DOWNHILL MUSIC

RELEASE DATE: 2013

By Jackie Morris

Run Downhill Kilbourn coverA creative collaboration in the fullest sense of the word, Run Downhill’s second release – Kilbourn - is a unique 5-song video EP. Composed by T.J. Troy, the songs combine incredibly dynamic, rootsy, country rockers (as well as a slow-and-dreamy instrumental) with the words of storyteller/lyricist John Castlerock. There is also a video that mixes live footage of the band with a subtly animated, campy “comic book” based on Castlerock’s story, The Carousel Couple.

To say this EP is one of kind is an understatement.

The five songs are somewhat eclectic – each a hybrid of various genres – from classic country stylings to contemporary indie rock to a lyrical, modern instrumental. But most are punctuated by captivating, upbeat rhythms and lush, tight harmonies. Of course, the engaging rhythms are not surprising, given that composer T.J. Troy is a first-class, professional drummer. On another level, however, the EP is also informed by Castlerock’s storyline in the comic book – a tragic romantic melodrama set in the Old West. Castlerock’s lyrics are a perfect match for Troy’s rhythms, utilizing unusual rhyme schemes and interesting phrasing.

Troy’s music is infectious, to be sure: wonderful melodies…high energy…and just plain fun! But as I started out saying, this EP is a creative collaboration. The songs feature some of the most satisfying harmonies I’ve heard in a long time—rich, lush and textured. And the band members of Run Downhill are each outstanding musicians in their own right, with notable independent careers. Nate LaPointe (who plays with living legend Bobby Womack) provides some outstanding pedal steel tracks as well as lead guitar. Tom Moose (renowned in bluegrass and gypsy jazz circles) adds guitar, mandolin and violin. Justin Smith (who regularly performs with touring Broadway productions such as “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon”) adds a rich baritone guitar to the mix. Guest bassist Ivan Johnson appears on the Kilbourn recording, standing in before current bassist Colin Burgess (active in the jazz and creative music scene) joined the group in October 2012. And, of course, Troy himself provides compelling energy and excitement on both drums and vocals.

Given the band’s stellar musicianship, it’s not surprising that Kilbourn was recorded and filmed live…in one day. The resulting video captures part of this upbeat session, with close-ups of some great solos. But what sets this video apart is the aforementioned “comic book” story that it is woven throughout the songs, with intriguingly stylized graphics provided by artist Scott Angle. It took me a few rounds of watching this “cartoon” in order to read all the speech bubbles…in part, because I am a slow reader; and in part, because the picture frames go by pretty quickly. But it was worth the extra time, because the artwork is so engaging…it really captures the “essence” of the characters; And the old-timey, hokey plot is just so perversely appealing.

Honing in on Castlerock’s edgy Old-West romance also helped make the lyrics more immediately accessible. It added another dimension to the songs that definitely enhanced my enjoyment. That said, however, I want to emphasize that each of these songs can stand by itself, without any video. While the story is not always immediately apparent, the feeling certainly is. And the psychological stereotypes and emotions of the characters behind the “cardboard cutout figures” in Kilbourn have a certain ring of truth to them -- captured in both the lyrics and music.

You can visit the band’s at website and learn more about the making of this ambitious production and get an overview of the video. Or simply visit their YouTube channel at where you can follow the “chapters” of this music / comic book video in a full-screen format. Either way, you’ll wind up wanting to listen to the music again and again.

A New York transplant to the tiny town of Carpinteria, CA, Jackie is a freelance writer by profession and a singer-songwriter by passion. Her newly-released third album of original Folk/Americana songs was among Top Folk Albums of 2011 on the Folk Music Radio Airplay Charts. Jackie is also an active member in such acoustic music communities as SummerSongs, SongMakers, and FARWest Folk Alliance.