Myles Kennedy’s first solo album has been a long time in the making. The Alter Bridge frontman spent seven years working on a solo project, before realising that the results weren’t right, scrapping the entire thing and starting afresh. It was a bold move, but with Year Of The Tiger he’s finally hit the mark he wanted.
It’s essentially a concept album, with Kennedy focusing on an event in his life that he always wanted to explore lyrically but until now lacked the courage to do so: the death of his father when he was four years old. A Christian Scientist, he refused medical attention and as a result died soon after becoming ill.
The album is billed as a stripped-back, blues-based piece of work, with Kennedy citing artists including Mississippi John Hurt, Chris Whitley, k.d. lang and Nick Drake and Led Zeppelin’s acoustic works as inspiration. But while Year Of The Tiger dispenses with the heaviness of Alter Bridge, it’s by no means a simple singer-songwriter affair.
Much of the album is indeed steeped in the blues: Devil On The Wall has a jaunty, country beat , with Kennedy adopting a southern drawl; Haunted By Design is an upbeat ditty that could soundtrack a road trip down a dusty highway. But while there are moments of soft acoustics – particularly in the delicate beauty of Turning Stones – and many of the melodies are played on acoustic guitars, banjo and mandolin, most of the songs still swell to grandiose, multi-layered levels, a characteristic certainly synonymous with Alter Bridge’s sonic style. The Great Beyond is probably the most epic, a sweeping, emotional, string-led affair that’s begging to be performed with a live orchestra. But essentially Year Of The Tiger sounds like Alter Bridge relocated to the deep south – if they swapped their hard rock riffs for bluesy twangs.
With such intense subject matter, it’s a given that /the album will have moments of anguish and often heartwrenching emotion; Kennedy’s pained vocals on Love Can Only Heal are particularly stirring. But as the album ends with two elegant and uplifting songs – Songbird and One Fine Day – the final message is one of finding hope in the darkness, and it’s evident that making Year Of The Tiger has been a therapeutic experience for Kennedy and should be celebrated.