Not just a big fish in a small pond, but a big fish in his own right.
Ruth Jamieson 2005-03-16
Kevin Mark Trail is the latest addition to the Brit Pack (Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, The Streets, Skinnyman, Kano, Estelle, Lady Sov); the artists that are powering the resurgence in home-grown urban music by approaching whatever they do in a very London, very British way.
As a child, Trail's Jamaican mum fed him a musical diet of Toots and the Maytals, Bob Marley and Gregory Isaacs with side-orders of Millie Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. And it's his melding of reggae's idiosyncrasies to soul traditions that makes this album go down with a smile.
But it's what he doesn't do that elevates Just Living from sentimental washing-up music to something profound and touching.
Firstly he doesn't do cliché. With a frankness reminiscent of Estelle's autobiographical 1980, songs like "Perspective", his most reggae infused number, and "Bread", with its ska-like parping trumpets, tell us how it is for Trail. No exaggeration, no sensationalism, just his own personal truth. Hi sopenness induces spirit-lifting surges of empathy in the listener. 'Overlooking The Thames, I stare at my reflection, it's here I learnt my lesson' he sings on "D Thames".
He doesn't do bombastic either; his is a quiet talent. He owns his notes, there's no Whitney-esque warbling to be found here.The songs are simple and delicately produced. "Full Moon" tugs on the heart with strings, acoustic guitar and warm bass. Without Trail's vocal strength it would fall slack, without his vocal restraint it would snap.
Kevin Mark Trail isn't just good in terms of being a UK artist; he's good enough to transcend the UK prefix and have global appeal. Not just a big fish in a small pond, but a big fish in his own right.