SongVault Artist Profile
Washington, United States
John Richards, John in The Morning, 90.3 FM Seattle, KEXP
If you're looking for the next big alt.country thing, Jeff Kanzler might just be the one.
His rough-edged voice only makes his songs that much more believable. This CD kicks off with the upbeat bluegrass of “Angelina,” although the trumpets that enter “Dreams Of Days That Ain't So Stormy” help show off Kanzler's spontaneous musical instincts. Much like Ryan Adams and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Kanzler uses a natural world-weariness to his advantage. His songs are generally sad, but rarely downright depressing. Even the crying pedal steel of “Cracked Country Living” isn't a bring-down. Kanzler is from Alaska , not traditionally a country music hotbed. But then again, that state has far more open spaces than many other U.S. spots. The important thing is that he comes off authentic from start to finish.
Dan Macintosh, Indie-Music.com
"9 stars out of 10! Sometimes, an album arrives in the post for review with little or no fanfare, and zero PR blurb. Often these albums turn out to be absolute stormers and this is certainly the case with " Black Top Road. Kanzler writes beautifully understated tunes that straddle almost every genre of American roots music. His vocals compliment the songs beautifully, sounding like a cross between a more grizzled Ryan Adams and Johnny Hickman. Kanzler utilises a wide variety of instruments to flesh out the arrangements of his songs. The trumpet on 'Dreams of Days That Ain't So Stormy' is particularly effective. The band is equally as comfortable playing country waltzes ('Cracked Country Living') as he is playing jazz inflected tunes ('I Will This Time').
"Black Top Road" is an essential album in a year of very few essential albums. Catch the live show when Kanzler comes to the Uk an d Ireland in the Autumn."
Dan Wilkinson, AmericanaUK
“This CD is SO good... a real pleasure...Great songs, catching melodies, perfect vocals and subtle arrangements. It made my day!”
Mike Penard, Radio ISA (France)
"Alaska : it can be bitterly cold and if run out of fuel, you may have a problem. Singer/songwriter Jeff Kanzler was born in the busy town of Seattle , but lives in Alaska and seems to love the place and people. We are guessing gasoline is not one of his problems. In his outstanding debut CD ‘ Black Top Road ' you can hear not only the loneliness of the Alaskan landscape, but also the fun and beauty that Kanzler's music radiates. His voice, full of expression singing beautiful melodies against a melancholic tone keeps you fixated. ‘ Black Top Road ' is better than far above average; to this listener, the CD is almost addictive. Surprisingly, Kanzler is able to take downhearted themes and wistful instrumentation (the sorrowful harmonica line, a poignant mandolin part or a lonesome pedal steel) and combine it into the easy and natural playfulness that this album emphasizes. The only negative thing I can say about it is that I don't like the cover art.
Kanzler, who brings to mind a young Bob Dylan and perhaps John Vanderslice, in more contemporary terms, has not yet released much material. But considering that he lives in a cabin in Alaska , without running water, that may not be surprising. I can't wait to hear more.”
Maurice Dielemans,Kindamuzik (Dutch Music ‘zine)
"Jeff Kanzler offers a beautifully understated collection. Gently strummed acoustic guitars, soft harmonica, muted trumpets, and brushed drums all contribute to the mellow vibe. With a warm vocal style resembling Steve Forbert, Kanzler tells tails of lost love and trying to do better next time. This album is delicate, but not fragile as Kanzler allows the vocals and lyrical emotion to carry the show."
Jeff Weiss, Miles of Music
"This Seattle-born, Alaska-based singer-songwriter debuts with a jaw-dropping set of beautifully crafted country-folk.
Kanzler has a fine, expressive voice with a touch of gravel and his melodies are often sublime, reminiscent at times of early Dylan. The warm, rich production is also flat-out gorgeous, with trumpets, mandolin, dobro, pedal steel and harmonica adding lots of rootsy color to a variety of stunning, fully-realized songs. Incredibly, Kanzler has been living in the woods of the Alaskan interior for the past few years in a cabin with no running water and recorded this album up there with locals – it's just mind-blowing, considering how great it sounds.”
Don Yates, Program Director, 90.3 FM Seattle , KEXP
"It's always surprising when a musician conquers our playlist right from the start, having no idea where they came from. Jeff Kanzler is an example of one of these musicians. Born and raised in Seattle , but not the settled kind. Jeff moved first to Los Angeles before returning to Seattle and ultimately, for one reason or another, landed in the heart of Alaska living in a small cabin without running water. Apparently you don't really need running water to create a great musical debut. With the help of a few local musicians unknown outside of Alaska , Jeff has created a beautiful piece. How should we label this CD? Singer-songwriter with a healthy portion of country and folk mixed in, but also horns at just the right moments giving some passages a nice Latin feel. Calexico, John Prine, Doug MacLeod, Steve Goodman and even Donald Fagen come to mind.
What we're trying to say is that this is an unbelievably high quality debut. Strong songs, great production, perfect arrangements and radio friendly.
See for yourself with a few clicks on the mouse and a few hours of listening and remember where you first read about Jeff.
Dani Heyvaert, MazzMusikas ( Belgium )