Album Review

Kevin Bowe & The Okemah Prophets - Restoration

Kevin Bowe & The Okemah Prophets - Restoration

A native Minnesotan and veteran of the Minneapolis club scene, singer-songwriter Kevin Bowe released an album with former band the Revelators a few years back before calling it quits to focus on songwriting and solo performing. Ironically, the Revelators' disc flourished where the band hadn't, garnering Bowe a publishing deal and landing one of his songs on Kenny Wayne Shepherd's debut. Shepherd's album went gold, Bowe signed on with the Lieber & Stoller stable, and a star songwriter was born. Now, after two years of penning tunes for breadbasket blues prodigy Jonny Lang and co-writing with singer-songwriter Shannon Curfman (another guitar-slinging Minnesota teen), Bowe has returned to his frontman role with the Okemah Prophets, four talented players who roll through the 14 rootsy tracks on Restoration with polish and style. Powered by Bowe's wonderfully scratchy vocals -- think Jakob Dylan with a Steve Earle rasp -- and the Prophets' nimble musicianship, Restoration features a bevy of flat-out irresistible tunes that'll have you fumbling for the "repeat" button. Standout tracks such as "Sault Ste. Marie" (a mandolin-laced toe-tapper with a criminally catchy guitar hook), "Leaving To Stay" (featuring pals Lang on lead guitar and Curfman on backup vocals), the slinky "Lonesome Angel" (co-written with Leo Kottke), and "Jefferson Davis Parish" (whose thumping drums, plinking banjo, and reedy fiddle evoke John Cougar Mellencamp's best Scarecrow-era efforts) all showcase Bowe's considerable songwriting skill. But even the record's few missteps (the thrashy rocker "Rest Of The World" feels formulaic and out-of-place) are far from mediocre. Welcome back to band life, Mr. Bowe -- we're richer for your return.