Keaton Simons' Exes & Whys: Fire on the Outside, Vanilla on the Inside
Jordan Knight
4/9/2006 7:49:37 PM

A smug sense of self-confidence is necessary for an up-and-comer to release an overwhelming two-disc affair with a whopping 26 songs to the masses. Balls like that either mean greatness or, for lack of better words, shit. Keaton Simons almost manages a complete success with his album Exes & Whys [Maverick Records], but like the Titanic and other massive things in the Arctic Ocean, Simons strikes an iceberg from time to time.

These rough patches Keaton runs into sound as if vanilla ice cream is being dumped onto your brain via your ears. At the same time, though, when Simons is on his game he has an unshakeable sense of sonic cross breeding that causes all of his different influences to gather into one super genre… funkhoprockpopblues. Simons effortlessly flows from playing sturdy, funky, well-constructed pop tunes, to slow, guitar-laden, grinding blues songs that are sure to make your ass shake and your head bob real slow… at least as much as you can muster.

The first two tracks on disc number 1 of this 2 disc Simonsplosion very solidly set the theme for the rest of the album. Song number one, “Nobody Knows,” creates the perfect mood and intelligently forges its way through a musical story-telling, if you will, by traveling from slow crunchy alternative tones with a blues bite to an atmospheric ambient vocal breakdown. The funky resolution to the opener drops off a cliff into tune numero dos, “Currently,” which is a slow- acoustic, fusion of Eric Clapton and Jack Johnson. Ultimately reaching its peak when Simons runs his fingers all over the strings in a sweet syrupy solo that makes you say, “Mmmmmm, that is CHOICE.”

The latter of Exes & Whys follows in this suit, cultivating concentrated pop fusion songs and grinding out slow, sexy blues tunes. Simons knows what he can do and simply does it well. Once the radio latches onto Keaton, he will make a killing with women ranging from ages 12 to 60.

It is a shame, though, that this young-spirited pop whiz with the soul of an aged blues legend couldn’t see the limits of his talent. So much filler has been placed on this album that is takes away from when he really peaks. He starts strong and ends on fire, but in the middle he floods your ears with vanilla.


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