There’s obviously no opportunity for a CD release show to celebrate right now. But Cleveland songwriter/vocalist/guitarist James McKeivier has gone ahead with the release of his third full-length album, Hills & Dreams, accompanied by his Starry Sky Band: BillMike on bass and piano, Darren Hamm on mandolin & resonator, Jay Kuebler on drums and Gary Heinrich (who also recorded and mixed the album) on electric guitar, with Maria Grigoryeva contributing violin on the track “Gypsy Blood.” The ten-track album, which draws on folk, country and rock sounds, was available as of May 1. It follows his 2018 album The Lucky Ones and his 2013 debut, Starry Skies of Home.
A twangy country vibe pervades the entire album, whether on more stripped-down, pensive tunes such as “Little Bird,”or more densely arranged and forceful tracks such as “Somewhere in my Mind” or “Lonesome in the Desert.” McKeivier and the band pull out all the stops on the honky-tonkin’ rave-up “Let Me Be the One.” McKeivier’s raw, scratchy, voice, with direct, unadorned phrasing that’s almost conversational, fit this vibe perfectly. And it’s just the right vehicle for the songs’ lyrical themes of wandering, lonesome, unsettled lives.
McKeivier is hoping to celebrate his new release with a live show at CODA in June. Whether that can happen remains to be seen. But you can snag the music now at jamesmckeivier.bandcamp.com.