Photo by Rachel Bennett at Tractor Tavern 2.1.18

By Rachel Bennett

Kyle Craft has an uncanny ability to harness the kind of chaotic heartbreak that many young people feel as they are figuring out who they want to be, who they love, and where they are going in life. His words and sounds speak to the origination of Western rock and roll, which stemmed from a generation’s frustration, confusion, and compassion inspired by shifting societal norms after WWII and the liberation movements of the 1960s.

In 2018, many aspects of life feel a lot more kushy, but we still live in a time of generational trauma; musicians like Craft who voice emotional and political truths are necessary as part of our therapy to work through it all. His writing is steeped in nostalgia, emotion, and intelligence; he’s not creating fluffy background music, he is creating that song that speaks to you so much that you listen to it over and over while sobbing at yourself in the bathroom mirror (note the song “Lady of the Ark”).

While Lady of the Ark and Craft’s debut album Dolls of Highland set a high bar, his newest album Full Circle Nightmare stands up to comparison, and takes Craft’s songwriting and production to the next level. Backed by a full band and producer Chris Funk of the Decemberists, each song in Full Circle Nightmare is expertly crafted, giving new life to Craft’s voice; the recorded songs have the sound and energy of being front and center stage at one of his live shows, which is endlessly impressive.

What sets Kyle Craft apart from many other contemporary artists is his lyricism. Each one of his songs is a poem, and you can tell from choice of words and beautifully constructed imagery that he created these songs with dedicated thoughtfulness and purpose. He is a true singer-songwriter, and this is why many compare him to Bob Dylan, the king of poetic lyricism from the heyday of rock and roll. His influences are clear; in the sweet, sad Bridge City Rose you hear Dylan; in Belmont (One Trick Pony) you hear The Rolling Stones; in the album’s last ballad-esq song Gold Calf Moan you can hear Elton John.

Like Bob Dylan, the most notably literary aspect of Craft’s song writing is his use of metaphors and similes to describe his experience. In Heartbreak Junky he sings, “You were a diamond, I was a heap of fools gold,” and “I was the cheap ad, when you were the centerfold.” This song sets the tone for the whole album, with almost every song mentioning a woman that stole his heart. Craft self-identifies as being addicted to heartbreak, singing “As I ramble home my wretched merry way/ when down was up, and feeling bad felt so right.” Despite a tone of melancholy, the songs still retain an upbeat lightheartedness; Craft’s voice belts out, unabashed, singing like a man who runs head first into the hardships of life. All the songs have great energy, with drum beats, guitar riffs, piano keys, harmonica, and shakers insistently clamoring over one another to be heard.

In one of the albums slower songs, The Rager, the first few lines read like the beginning of a noir novel; “She walked in, her hands in fur coat pockets, she brought her best bad habit, she’s looking for to kill. If not herself then maybe tonight’s boyfriend, maybe some sad random looking for his bill.” The rest of the song continues draw us into Craft’s world and creates a vivid persona of this dangerous, tantalizing women “She courts the shadows, she swings about the gallows, rope to rope she gets her thrill, and lays awake at dawn.” In the age of technology, when many nuances of the written language are lost in short texts and tweets, this style of songwriting is unique and powerful; it’s undiluted, retaining all the romanticism and heart-wrenching truths that poets and writers have strived for for centuries.

Listen to Full Circle Nightmare via spotify

Exile Rag