The cover for Kev Rowe’s 2010 album ‘Hi Love’ features a picture of the singer/songwriter relaxing alone with nothing but his thoughts on a sunny beach, and that’s exactly how the music makes you feel.  Rowe’s positive, mellow tracks evoke the laid-back simplicity of Rowe’s native South Carolina, but his lyricism is still filled with very human doubts and uncertainties.

The song most closely related to that style is fourth track “Burn Away,” in which Rowe repeatedly addresses an unnamed individual, “Won’t you run away, won’t you run away / Won’t you run away with me / Take my hand and we’ll disappear / Just float off in this breeze” like an intimate love letter.  In fact, most of the songs on Hi Love follow a similar pattern: Rowe sings in a soft yet convincing manner as if he’s talking directly to a specific person about, well, love.

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“I’ll Love You Either Way,” for instance, is a feel-good tune in which Rowe promises to stick by the one he loves no matter what happens.  “Speak To Me,” is a  song in which Rowe makes it clear he wants to talk with someone over a repeated, transfixing groove with subtly plucked guitar solos and echoed vocals.

Listen to "Burn Away" on Earbits Radio!

Click to Hear "Burn Away" on Earbits!

The only point of the album in which Rowe doesn’t sound like he could be lying down and daydreaming in the South Carolinian sand is opening track “Something’s Going Down,” a fleshed out and full blues-y number that features organ accompaniment.  The upbeat track contrasts with the softer sounds found on the rest of the album, but demonstrates Rowe’s versatility as a songwriter.

Even Rowe’s saddest songs have an optimistic aspect to them.  Hi Love’s more socially-conscious track, “Walk Through Town With Me,” begins with the lyrics “Walk through town with me / Look at all the houses broken down and poor / Look at all the storefronts with boarded up doors / Look at all the sadness and tell me what it’s for.” Immediately following that statement, Rowe claims, “But the soul of the city and the hearts of the people / Are stronger than all this pain you see / So, walk through town with me.” Backed by a string section and somber piano chords, the song is melancholy and emotional, yet one of the album’s best.

“Changes On My Mind” is similar to that song thematically, as Rowe sings about smiling and being kind to people despite dealing with problems such as the death of friends and seeing stressed out people.  Rowe’s relentless optimism is refreshing and reassuring, and it’s clear that the singer has both been through a lot and overcame a lot in his lifetime.

Kev Rowe plays in the Americana band Big Leg Emma, so his ability to craft complex music is better than many singer/songwriters that favor a more simple, acoustic-guitar-plucking style.  Because of that knack for musicianship Hi Love is diverse, recalling anything from 50s folk to the chilled-out acoustic style popularized by guys like Jack Johnson.  And, of course, Rowe’s voice is one of his best qualities.  At times it’s shaky and gruff yet it’s always on-key, and it’s a great vehicle to deliver his thought-provoking lyricism.

Hi Love ends with  “I’m Getting There For You,” another song in which directly addresses someone.  The music slowly builds to an upbeat and powerful climax as Rowe ends the album by singing, “I’ve got a dream alive / I’m getting there for you / And there’s so much more to tell you / About what you’ve shown me love alone can do / I’m getting there for you / I’m getting there for you.”  Those closing lyrics pretty much sum up the vibe of the album and Rowe’s mentality: he’s learned a lot about life and love and he wants to share it, but he’s still human and still learning.  A listen to Hi Love is a lesson on perseverance in the face of adversity as well as a journey through Rowe’s mellow musicianship.  An album to play while relaxing like Rowe on the beach, or during those days when you’re down and you desperately wish that’s what you could be doing— Rowe’s positivity is hard to resist.

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