Kevin Welch insists that he isn't much of a singer. Truth be told, this former full-time laborer in Nashville's songwriting mills, who plucked up his courage a few years ago and stepped up to the mike, has a reedy but masculine tenor that is one of country-pop's most affecting, distinctive voices this side of Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
Welch's emphatic delivery echoes Bob Dylan's without copying it. In his first record on Dead Reckoning, the label he has started with fellow Nashville stalwarts Harry Stinson and Kieran Kane, Welch, 40, goes well beyond the bounds of country music. He weaves together strands of folk, country and rock, coming up with a novel brand of mostly acoustic contemporary pop, as listenable as it is tough to define. Former NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson visits; so do the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's keyboardist, Reese Wynans, and the wonderful gospel quartet the Fairfield Four. Welch's best songs are as memorable as his voice: the somber and rocking "Troublesome Times," the spooky "Wilson's Tracks"—about a desperate man outrunning the law—and the hymn-like "One Way Rider," which sounds for all the world like something by folk-rocker Eric Andersen More and more talented renegades like Welch are crawling out of the woodwork in Nashville, shaking upthe country status quo. God bless 'em. (Dead Reckoning)