Opening track ‘Ruby’ is one of the biggest departures on the album. Its 60s pop sound may come as a surprise to many listeners. However it is a fantastic opening song, full of pop hooks and Kensrue’s signature vocals. He cleverly plays on the word “ruby” throughout the song, giving both connotations of a girls name and also as a precious jewel. One of the first bands brought to mind by the track is the Gaslight Anthem, with Dustin Kensrue using similar melodic and lyrical ideas to their brand of Americana Rock.
‘Gallows’ sounds like something from ‘Major/Minor’ with Kensrue’s signature gritty vocals and fuzzy guitar and bass tones. It is one of the first songs on the record that would be instantly recognisable as Dustin Kensrue both musically and lyrically. Some lyrics have a sightly darker feel than the rest of the record. For example the line, “you built these gallows you’ve been hanging from, and you’ve got nothing to lose so just let go” features heavily throughout. It is one of the best songs on the album, a proper guitar driven track with a hook that will get stuck in your head for days.
The sombre tone doesn’t last for too long, ‘Death or Glory’ sees us firmly back into Springsteen-esque folk territory.Kensrue is a brilliant storyteller, a skill that is usually associated with folk genres of which their is a huge emphasis of on this album. ‘Carry the Fire’ flows extremely well, each song possesing a narrative that grows and grows throughout.
This is most prevalent on perhaps the best song of the record ‘Of Crows and Crowns’. After a ballad style piano intro, Kensrue shows a more subtle and subdued side to his vocal delivery. The ballad style and romanticised lyrics make this track capable of smashing the top 40, but also still a credible and soulful song at the time.
‘Carry The Fire’ is a great album. It flows perfectly and each song has so much substance. The lyrics all tell a story and are thought provoking and the melodies are so poppy and folky that they stay in your head for days. No matter what your favourite Dustin Kensrue project is, there is something here for you. The stripped back arrangements really allow both his phenomenal songwriting and his vocal talents to really shine through. There arent’t many people that can be in an influential rock band, write music for a worship band, and release two fantastic solo folk tinged albums. Well done Dustin Kensrue.
’Carry The Fire’ by Dustin Kensrue is out on now on Staple/Vagrant.
Words by Andy McGonigle (@andyjmcg87)