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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Scott Kempner "Saving Grace" review

Scott Kempner
"Saving Grace" (00:02:59 Records)
by
DC Larson


A photo of Scott on his 1992 "Tenement Angels" depicted the former Dictator and Del-Lord
kicked back on the fire escape outside an apartment window: playing a guitar, oblivious to grimy reality.

Apt, indeed.

Scott is a True Believer in the transformative power of rock'n'roll, a six-string apostle for whom the music is more than a mere collection of notes, chords, progressions and melodies. In the hands of the sanctified it is a vital, breathing articulation of every joy and upset that jumps in the animal night.

"Saving Grace" is an altar call. It testifies to the bloodline-consciousness and profundity of the man's faith, offering up flashes of impeccable inspirations from moments passed like a nod to Four Tops leader Levi Stubbs, a Supremes reference and the sort of upbeat, tuneful and jangly rock'n'roll that once blared from teenagers's transistor radios across America.

While the CD includes many august cohorts -- including veterans of the Del-Lords, Smithereens, legend Dion DiMucci (whom Scott has backed) and famed Motown rhythm section Mach II -- Scott impresses mightily as the disc's sole guitarist, assaying both acoustics and electrics to motivational effect.

Entering on pounding drums and pulsing bass, "The Secret Everybody Knows" blooms into rich and vivid guitared splendor. "Stolen Kisses" reminds strikingly of the hard-riffing, roots-embracing Del-Lords, its crunching guitars charging headlong through reinvented old school-type changes.

"Baby's Room" and "Heartbeat of Time" (this last co-written by Dion and Fern Carle) sweep with stirring majesty, their massive presences fortified by sinewy guitars and echoing background choruses.

New Frontier-era anthemic emotional confections are recalled by "Love Out of Time," while "Passion Red" is a slow-motion and sultry blues that invites Scott's deadly dirty soloing.

He rocks with authority. He's been to the mountaintop.

Two factors indicating rock'n'roll's health and eternal life present themselves. One is "Saving Grace." The other is the likelihood that somewhere in America tonight, a kid will fall in love with his first guitar.

Maybe on a fire escape.

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