RELEASE DATE: September 2017

By Susie Glaze

Bill Kemp Another Life frontHave you ever heard the booming “WAOHH” of a huge ship coming into port? From the first enveloping, opening strains of Billy Kemp’s fine new album Another Life you know that something profound is coming ~ and something is, with a depth and melancholy that matches the grandness of that sound of the Harbor. This song announces to you that you are indeed near the deep water of memory: in this case the clear and deep memories of growing up in Baltimore, where much of this collection of great new story songs takes place. The sounds are richly evocative of the place, though the times are transcendent. In all of them, there is the path of dipping back into a childhood spent in a place teeming with character, humor and heart.

Nashville singer-songwriter Billy Kemp is known to Southern California audiences as one half of the former Appalachian Folk duo Jeni and Billy. This album was released in September of 2017, just about a year after the duo went their separate ways, and as someone who has been their fan for a long time, I listened and looked closely for signs of evolution. Billy’s fine playing, singing, songwriting and love for classic country styles holds him up so well here, and we can hear his fine gifts on full display.

The writing on this album is shared by Billy and Jeni as well, along with Alfred Hickling, Sue Ellen Griffiths and Geoffrey Himes, but I feel that the voice is distinctively Billy’s, especially as he recounts the vividness of his memories of Baltimore. Not surprisingly given Billy’s rich background in country, folk and Appalachian music, the classic elements of writing and musicianship are used to the highest effect: so much of the music calls to mind the most classic of American country: Carter Family, Delmore Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys to name a few. Folk elements are there with the complexities of the instrumentations, using melodica, piano and percussion along with the guitars and banjos. Musician Craig Eastman adds his fine coloring to Harbor with mandolin, lap guitar, violin and tenor violin.

Billy KempThe album begins with the sound of the Harbor, and you are instantly transported to the port of Baltimore. Billy states in his notes: “This track always takes me back to Baltimore. I sometimes walk with my Dad at Fort McHenry’s one mile loop, and we usually hear and see a container ship arriving to the port to unload. When they blow their horn, it echoes off of the brick buildings that surround the harbor.”

Memories begin to rush in with Kings of the Grandstand telling the stories of watching the horse races at Pimlico and other area tracks. Another Life To Live is a new song that sounds like the first classic of the group, recalling the day when a wife tells her husband that she is leaving him:

They stood on a porch one evening

By the light of the moon up above

He’d given his heart to her surely

But she was no longer in love

He was standing beside her shadow

When she spoke those words of surprise

She never intended to hurt him

Never meant to be unkind

My dear, I’ve fallen for another

Can you find it in your heart to forgive?

I no longer wish to be your lover

My hope is that you’ll find another

Another life to live.

The next song is full of a specific folklore. It seems that in Baltimore the neighborhood people would call drunkards “stonecutters” because they would often fall and hit their heads on the marble stoops. Hence Mr. Wilson the Stonecutter is an evocative character-driven tale.

Another character study, this time about a real-life person, is called Benjamin Banneker and is about an African American man as Billy explains: “Just west of where I grew up in Paradise is a community called Oella. It is on the Baltimore county side of the Patapsco river just across from the 18th century mill town, Ellicott City…(he) lived there from 1736 to 1806….His story is remarkable and if it weren’t for him laying the cornerstones of our nation’s capital, we wouldn’t have the traffic we all enjoy and love on the Washington beltway.”

The classic strains of Down Where the Dogwoods Bloomed take my soul up to the hills of Appalachia and calls to mind the sweet melancholy tucked inside the songs on this album:

You always knew we’d find a house

That had two dogwood trees

And every spring we’d catch the bloom

That only lasted two weeks

But like the flowers that fade so fast

You were called too soon

We hoped that there would still be time

To see the dogwoods bloom.

Billy paints clearly with poetry and memory again in Lillian and the Blue Car one of the three he wrote himself. He tells the story of his Aunt Lil who had a blue car, and this car actually made it into a special work of art. “In October [of] 2016 I received an email from a painter friend and collaborator, Ann Phelan, who was announcing one of her works to be on exhibit in Zurich. I liked the curated painting and wrote back to compliment her work. She told me that an image in the painting was most likely inspired by a car I had years ago, a blue Pontiac Ventura, 1972. She asked about the car. I began remembering things about it and as I wrote down my thoughts, I realized that they would work well in a song. Aunt Lil was my paternal grandmother’s sister and everything in the song is just the way I remember her.” The painting adorns the back cover of Another Life.

In Billy’s notes for Night Time Sky he writes: “The Irish poet Michael Longley has said that ‘place is inexhaustible.’ Some think that travel broadens the mind. Being a troubadour, I tend to agree with that. Though we may be separated by geography, the night time sky can connect and give sustenance.” I find this, as Billy’s friend, the most poignant of the songs on this album, even more so than “Another Life.” It speaks to the breaking of the heart when a true love walks away:

Best friends from the beginning

We were going to rule the world

We were together through thick and thin

You were my best friend and my girl……

I look into the night time sky

And gaze at the stars above me

I think of you so far away

And I’m hoping that you see what I see

Another wonderful character study, Requiem for an Organ Player tells the story of a local neighbor: “In the summer, when the doors and windows were opened, he would fill the avenue with sweet music.”

The album finishes as it began, with a vivid and evocative sound from the sea, Chesapeake Narrows. Billy writes: “Those walks with my Dad around Fort McHenry have always connected me to the place I call home. My Dad was born not far from Fort McHenry on East Randall Street in South Baltimore and you can see him light up with winsomeness when he comes into the neighborhood from West Baltimore where he lives now. There is a vitality to ordinary things.” I feel those are the truest words to describe this fine album of winsome memory and reflection. On it Billy Kemp returns to his home to remember his origins, to recall his identity and in the process may have established a destiny for going forward. His place is definitely in the music and this CD is a dear and beautiful album of memory, home, heart and hope.

Songs and Composers:

Harbor (Billy Kemp)

Kings of the Grandstand (Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp)

Another Life to Live (Billy Kemp)

Mr. Wilson, the Stonecutter (Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp)

Benjamin Banneker (Jeni Hankins, Alfred Hickling and Billy Kemp)

Down Where The Dogwoods Bloomed (Alfred Hickling and Billy Kemp)

Seven Mondays (Sue Ellen Griffiths and Billy Kemp)

Lillian and the Blue Car (Billy Kemp)

Night Time Sky (Sue Ellen Griffiths and Billy Kemp)

Requiem for an Organ Player (Jeni Hankins, Alfred Hickling and Billy Kemp)


Craig Eastman (mandolin, lap guitar, violin and tenor violin on track 1)

Billy Kemp (Percussion, piano, melodica, banjo, bass, guitars, vocals on all tracks and horn arrangement and programming on track 2)

Produced by Billy Kemp.

Billy wants to you to listen to his album. You can listen to the album here. If you like what you here, you can purchase the CD or digital downloads of either sides of the album here. All the lyrics are provided here.

Bill Kemp Another Life front digital download side 1Bill Kemp Another Life front digital download side 2

On Sunday April 15, Billy Kemp will be performing at 2:00pm at the Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E Janss Rd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362 and on Sunday, April 21 at Gelencser House Concert at 7:30pm in Claremont.

Award-winning recording artist and critically-acclaimed folk and Americana powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called by BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED "an important voice on the California Bluegrass scene."  Her album "Blue Eyed Darlin'" was the winner of  the Just Plain Folks 2006 Music Award for Best Roots Album and FolkWorks Magazine's Pick for Best Bluegrass Album of 2005. "One of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today." (Roz Larman of FolkScene). The Susie Glaze New Folk Ensemble is the newest version of her ground-breaking Americana Folk Fusion in Southern California.  With her legacy Hilonesome Band their recordings have been critically acclaimed by No Depression, FolkWorks, Pop Matters, M Magazine for Musicians, Music News Nashville and FolkWords UK, and their 2015 album "Not That Kind of Girl” was produced by LA acoustic music legend Herb Pedersen. Susie is also part of the new tribute album "Dear Jean - Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie" alongside such artists as Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Janis Ian, and many more. Visit www.susieglaze.com