If there was ever going to be a hard rock vocalist to follow in the footsteps of Chris Cornell and record an earthy, personal solo album, it’d be Myles Kennedy. As well as being the powerhouse vocalist that literally everyone knows that he is, his work with Alter Bridge has shown a creativity and instrumental proficiency that so few in his lane actually have. So with ‘Year of the Tiger’, those impulses are allowed to fully blossom, drawing on country and blues influences as Kennedy explores his own emotions surrounding the death of his father.
And at its most fundamental level, ‘Year of the Tiger’ does offer a good deal to like. The most obvious is Kennedy himself, now with the extra room to delve deeper into himself and allow his fantastic voice to resonate on an even deeper level. The range of emotions is also impressive, whether that’s the gnawing frustration and distress on ‘Blind Faith’ and ‘Nothing But A Name’ at his father’s Christian Scientist beliefs and his refusal of appendicitis treatment, to the spark of positivity rising from the dark on ‘Songbird’ and the final search for closure on ‘One Fine Day’. All of this is backed by the rich instrumental canvas, built with layered guitars and percussion that hits its peak on a track like ‘Ghost Of Shangri-La’, warm and rich with plenty of expanse.
And yet, all through ‘Year of the Tiger’’s almost hour-long runtime, something feels off. In individual pieces, this is an album that readily works, but put together it’s much more hit-or-miss. Even for what is designed as a more restrained, insular listen, the desire to hit that arena-rock scope underscores almost the entire album. For example, the synths and strings on ‘The Great Beyond’ show that Kennedy is clearly gunning for some kind of Sturgill Simpson-esque opus. It can make for an awkward listen, conflating arena-dominating size with intimate intent and rarely hits the true high points of either.
And that’s definitely disappointing, especially considering the seed of a great idea that’s there, but hampered by a less-than-ideal execution. Ultimately, ‘Year of the Tiger’ is definitely a good album, and one worthy of belonging to a performer like Kennedy, but it’s just a shame that it can’t hit the expectations laid out for it. It’s definitely worth a look if only to see how artistic malleability doesn’t always go entirely to plan
‘Year of the Tiger’ by Myles Kennedy is out now on Napalm Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)