Vile, Kurt - Speed, Sound, Lonely KV (EP) - New LP
2021. Available January 15th, Kurt Vile’s Speed, Sound, Lonely KV (ep) was recorded and mixed in sporadic sessions that spanned four years at The Butcher Shoppe studio in Nashville, TN. It includes five songs — covers of John Prine and “Cowboy” Jack Clement as well as two originals — and was recorded alongside a cast of local heavies like Bobby Wood, Dave Roe, Kenny Malone and Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Superwolf). Most importantly, it features what KV has called “Probably the single most special musical moment in my life” – a duet with the late John Prine on the songwriter’s well-loved tune, “How Lucky.”
PHYSICAL FORMATS DO NOT INCLUDE A DIGITAL DOWNLOAD.
“A master of dreamy, off-kilter rock.” - NYTimes
“One of indie rock’s most affable champions, an honest-to-god guitar hero and a disarmingly funny lyricist.” -Rolling Stone
01. SPEED OF THE SOUND OF LONELINESS
02. GONE GIRL
04. HOW LUCKY (FEAT. JOHN PRINE)
Kurt Vile and John Prine were natural collaborators. In addition to their knack for using observational humor to magnify pathos and pathos to magnify humor, both have talents that have been largely overlooked. Prine is such a remarkable and idiosyncratic songwriter that his lyrics often overshadow his innovative guitar playing, which involves a two- instead of three-finger picking style. Vile is such an ingenious guitarist that his playing often overshadows his equally imaginative songwriting. In recent years they’ve shared stages together in Philadelphia and Nashville (including the Grand Ole Opry), and earlier this year, just months before Prine’s death, they even recorded a song together. Vile calls himself a fanboy; Prine called him a “mellow rock and roller in a stroller.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds true.
The song they recorded during their joint session, a cover of Prine’s “How Lucky,” off 1979’s Pink Cadillac, anchors Vile’s new EP, which serves as a loose tribute to his hero. There’s also a solo cover of the 1986 tune “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” which Vile covered with Prine on Prine’s final tour, and Prine’s spirit lingers in the two new originals. But speed, sound, lonely (kv) is also an ode to the city of Nashville, to all the amazing musicians there, and to the spirit of collaboration that still thrives in the city after so many revolutions within the music industry. Vile booked sessions at the Butcher Shoppe, the studio and hangout owned by producer David Ferguson, known for his work with Prine, Sturgill Simpson, and Johnny Cash. In addition to Matt Sweeney and Dan Auerbach, his backing band was stocked with some of the finest musicians in the city, representing generations of country artists: keyboardist Bobby Wood, bassist Dave Roe, mandolin virtuoso Pat McLaughlin, and drummer Kenny Malone.
Recorded over several years during several visits to Nashville, the EP could easily have turned out like vacation photos: interesting to those who were there and a snooze to everybody else. But these songs not only sound great—mostly acoustic in their arrangements, crisp and warm in their production, and lively in their performances—but that sense of camaraderie draws out something essential in Vile’s singing and playing. As a guitarist, he’s fine at monologues, but he’s a better conversationalist. On these songs, he reacts to these veterans and lets their ideas swim around in his head for a little bit. That comes through on “Gone Girl,” his cover of a deep Cowboy Jack Clement cut. Vile savors the eccentricity of the melody, but he seems fascinated by the parallax overlay of instruments, how they snap together tightly but loosely, especially during the long sing-along outro.
This is an EP full of lengthy outros, where the band just keeps on playing. Closer “Pearls” even includes a false stop; the music kicks up again almost of its own accord. There’s no purpose to it other than simply enjoying the sound. Vile loves small moments like these, everyday joys that might go unnoticed. He even gets a full song out of a simple dandelion: “You can blow on ‘em or you can just hold ‘em,” he sings, finding beauty in the fleeting moment as McLaughlin’s mandolin trills like those little white tufts caught in the breeze.
Vile’s music can be reassuring and, at its best, transporting. Featuring both men singing and picking together, “How Lucky” considers all the glorious details in the world that greet us every day, but acknowledges there are infinitely too many for our brains to catalog and archive. The point is, you’ll never run out. “There was all these things that I don't think I remember,” they sing together on the final verse, before realizing, “Hey, how lucky can one man get.” It doesn’t feel quite as momentous as you’d expect from a meeting of these two mellow rock and rollers, and that’s okay. It’s sweetly minor, much like the other songs on here. That might not be enough to sustain a full album, but it’s lovely for an EP.