August  2002

Tim Krekel - Happy Town
FreeFalls Entertainment FFE 7025
Released: 2002

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on DVD]The introduction to the first song on Tim Krekel’s Happy Town really grabs you -- it has a kick to it, and melody and texture, too. It proclaims that these players know what they’re doing and there's a lot more to like on the disc, as well. The songs are skillfully written, well-performed pop tunes with strong bass, many sharp drum and guitar licks, good backing vocals, and decent -- if more generic than compelling -- lyrics. It is certainly a collection of tracks you needn’t be embarrassed to have friends and neighbors hear playing in your living room or car.

If they heard it, though, there’s a strong chance they’d say, "Is that Elvis Costello?" Krekel’s voice so closely mimics that of the New Wave king that it affects how I hear the disc. Even worse, it shifts from song to song, sometimes sounding like a blend of Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen. Those are three fine singers, of course, and if one can sing like them, it must be tempting to do so. But that temptation should be resisted. Sounding so much like other easily recognizable singers can keep a singer/songwriter from sounding like himself.

I think Krekel is capable of establishing his own voice. Although the songs on this CD are not so original that they break new ground, they’re not exact replicas of existing models, the way Krekel's voice is. In the first three songs -- "Sunshine Baby," "Why You Think You Are," and "It’s a New Day" -- he employs a variety of rhythms, tempos, and melodies. Krekel certainly isn’t a one-trick pony; he is more like a workhorse, strong enough to drag his voice out of its imitation rut.

After all, he’s had a long, solid career in the rock/country field as a writer for Nashville’s Blue Water music company. His songs have been recorded by Kathy Mattea, Canned Heat, Delbert McClinton and countless others. Krekel has also worked as a guitarist for Jimmy Buffett and has played with Sam Bush, Bo Diddley, Tracy Nelson, and Steve Forbert, among others. He has led a few bands of his own in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky -- some of them fairly successful. A dedicated guitarist, songwriter, and performer such as Krekel can almost certainly find a singing voice more his own.

If he intends to be a force unto himself, that is. This CD’s title is a bit too much like Springsteen's Lucky Town and the cover photo shows only about a quarter of Krekel’s face. One hopes these are mere coincidences and that Krekel really is in pursuit of his own identity as an artist. Whether he makes up his mind -- or moves forward without considering that question -- we can enjoy the melodic and heartfelt "Come Back Baby," the clever "Best Thing I Never Had," and other appealing and enjoyable parts of this tight, very professional rock album.