Artist: Dustin Kensrue
Album: Carry the Fire
Label: Vagrant Records/Staple Records
Release Date: 04/21/15
Reviewer: Ian Zandi
- Back to Back
- There’s Something Dark
- Death or Glory
- In the Darkness
- Of Crows and Crowns
- What Beautiful Things
- Carry the Fire
Dustin Kensrue is a man of many metaphorical hats. Or perhaps real hats too, I’ve never been in his closet so I can’t tell you either way for sure. Most notably, Kensrue is the leading force behind heavy rock band Thrice. However, dedicated fans also know him for his worship work through The Modern Post and the adult contemporary side in his solo work. Even with such variety in his catalog, Carry The Fire definitely marks new territory for Dustin.
The biggest impression that I get from Carry the Fire is a really big Bruce Springsteen vibe. Given the grizzly bear vocals, larger-than-life crisp rock anthems, and passionate songwriting, comparisons to The Boss are next to inevitable. I consider Springsteen to be a polarizing figure of music tastes. However, I think that Kensrue has written music that is universally “likeable”. Perhaps it could be comparable to a more exciting version of U2.
CTF begins with some jittery piano keys with frequent strums of guitar flang thrown in for good measure. This song, “Ruby”, is an attempt for Dustin to convey his honest desires to his loved one. Even though Dustin Kensrue frequently utilizes simple rhyme structure on his songs , they prove effective in a old Beatles-like fashion. (“Ruby you’re all that I want, my heart and my treasure, Ruby you’re all that I need now and forever”).
“Back to Back” is by far my favorite track on the album. Wearing that Bruce flair proudly, the song boasts acoustic-based verses, a catchy guitar riff, and a huge “singalong” chorus. All of this is accomplished while still feeling like it is honestly Dustin Kensrue’s music about supporting each other. This is appropriately followed thematically by “Gallows”, in which he warns of putting faith in things that will bring us down.
From “Gallows”, Carry the Fire is constricted by a cliché acoustic song called “There’s Something Dark”. The lyrics and intent behind the song are all outstanding but the song is nearly unlistenable to me due to the hook “there’s something dark inside of me…”.That line has been well-treaded and overdone so many times before. If it weren’t for that key line, this song would be another gem on the record as it emphases his harmonica work that was featured on previous releases.
Carry the Fire struggles to find stamina after the midway point of the album. Though there are still some solid tracks such as “What Beautiful Things” and “Juggernaut”, the rest of the album pales in comparison of the first few excellent tracks. I would liken this to Pixar making a bunch of perfect movies, a somewhat “meh” movie (Cars 2), and then continuing its “good movie” streak while knowing that the best is probably behind them. The biggest flaw Carry the Fire is Dustin’s musical perfection itself.
In his past cataloge of music (aside from Thrice), I have felt that his music was missing something. Whether it was better production, lyrics, or instruments, I could not put my finger on what was lacking. Fortunately, I think Kensrue has finally found that sweet spot and maximizes the potential of his “solo work”. Carry the Fire is exactly everything I could hope, expect, and want from Dustin. It may not be a perfect record but it is wholly satisfying.
RIYL: Bruce Springsteen, The War On Drugs, Post-Babel Mumford & Sons, Jon Foreman, Thrice, John Mark McMillan, Ravenhill