4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
By Greg Allard
(originally published in Insite Magazine)
Ricky Kendall’s first full-length album, Soul Searching, is like a necklace with 12 gems on it, each sparkling its own subtle charm that speaks directly from the heart they rest upon. The aroma of authentic soul permeates the entire album. Despite the obvious Christian overtones, especially on songs with titles like “Peace With God” and “Who is that Man,” the album is not exactly preachy, but rather genuine expressions of a person who is sincerely striving for the essence of light and warmth in a world beset with shadows and vapors.
Ricky’s vocals, which sound like one part Amos Lee, one part Ben Harper, and a dash or two of Loudon Wainwright III for seasoning, enrich the folksy-bluesy tracks, expertly produced by Dave Melosh, with a depth of feeling that singers rarely achieve in their careers. The record manages to sound both stripped down and gorgeously full at the same time.
With so many stellar songs on the album, it’s hard to know where to begin. “Life” achieves the embodiment of “if you love someone, set them free,” without sounding corny, clichéd, or contrived. The lyrics “She’s free and wild but she won’t stay with you—there’s a reputation that precedes the little girl/ She’ll run for miles; she’ll run away from you—She’s got a strange addiction to the wonders of the world,” convey a sentiment that countless men who have tried to hold onto a restless, vibrant young woman is one you can easily identify with.
The title track “Soul Searching” honestly declares, “I can’t see the world I’m traveling on, but that’s all right ‘cause I’m traveling ‘til dawn—I’m soul searching.”
Ricky wrote “Sunshine” when he first moved to Gainesville. It is a song of hope, in stark contrast to the sorrows of the world, like the homelessness he mentions in the tune.
“Ozark Mountain Blues” is a bright-sounding blues song with a root-chord, alt-chord progression. “Vapors” is a hidden song that is well worth waiting through the silence in between it and the last listed track. You get the sense of the man’s consciousness expanding and opening up.
This album catches you immediately and then grows on you more with each successive listen, leading you to undeniably conclude that Ricky Kendall has special powers in the realms of singing, songwriting and playing guitar.