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REVIEW: Singer-songwriter successfully changes his tune

Kevin Devine, a musician from Brooklyn who has spent the last nine years under the radar, released a new album titled “Between the Concrete and Clouds” on Sept. 13.

After nine years of acoustic focus, this album is the first to be backed by a full band. At first I was apprehensive about that, but it works just fine for Devine and his crew.

Devine has a very limited following. It seems that if you know of him it’s probably because you are a hardcore Manchester Orchestra fan that followed that band’s side project Bad Books, a band for which Devine wrote and sang.

Devine’s fanbase is so small that at his concerts he is able to meet fans who stay behind after the show, autograph memorabilia for and even take pictures  with them. For this album, the fans who preordered the album had the option of getting handwritten lyrics as well.

This is why it was a surprise when his new album “Between the Concrete and the Clouds” spiked to the number one spot on Amazon’s best selling MP3 downloads.

For me, it’s a surprise that Devine hasn’t reached some level of fame, simply due to the remarkable lyrical ability that he has.

Devine is highly revered for his lyrical talent both by fans and critics, though in his latest the lyrics seem a little reserved. Maybe he’s just grown soft in his old age and has grown past his angst-filled days, as many musicians do.

By anyone else’s standards I would say that “Between the Concrete and the Clouds” is phenomenal, but for Devine, it seems to be a run-of-the-mill compilation, with a lot of focus on both political and religious commentary.

To be fair, the politic and religion speak is just part of the package with any Devine album. In his latest, the title track reflects on Devine’s own brushes with religion. His views, while well-expressed, are strong and potentially offensive to some. The line “What if it’s all just jokes/Casper, The Holy Ghost” comes to mind.

Some of his best lyrics from the album are difficult to capture because Devine has a knack for using extended metaphors and themes throughout the entire structure of his lyrics.

This has always been true of Devine’s music, however. Whether it’s the usage of extended metaphors, alliteration or allusions, Devine is a huge proponent of the literary devices and it’s clear that he took an English class or two while going to journalism school.

The point here is that Devine is both a talented musician as well as a writer. If you haven’t heard his stuff and could go for an amazing songwriter with a slightly whiny voice (you just have to work through it), check out “I Used to be Someone” from “Between the Concrete and Anyone.”

Once again, if you can get past the lack of mainstream vocals, Devine is sure to have a song you could relate to.

Reach reviewer Kati Stauffer at [email protected]