by Evan Jarvicks
Chase Kerby’s voice is tender in a way that isn’t naive or fragile. It’s entrenched in years of labor. On a technical level, his vibrato is carefully controlled, and his expressive dynamics are second nature. More importantly, though, is the way his vocals have been worn into something sturdy, modest, and form-fitted. It’s like a vintage leather jacket; after a while, one doesn’t don it so much for style as for comfort and familiarity.
On his latest EP, Kerby presents his voice as his primary instrument, with only intimate acoustic guitars and piano supporting his moody lyrics. This is, perhaps, because he is coming off of a high-profile stint on NBC’s The Voice. Fans of his qualifying audition will find more of his spine-tingling falsetto and focused intonation. Despite the indie rock label he wore for the show, though, A Quiet Man is a stripped singer-songwriter album. This is quite a revelation for those familiar with his career before reality television.
Kerby’s experience fronting two successful (if short-lived) bands, The City Lives and Defining Times, has resulted in a decade’s worth of band-minded studio recordings. Even his solo debut, Tidal Friction, was focused on a full band sound, with his vocals sharing the spotlight with atmospheric swirls of electric guitar and keys. A Quiet Man, on the other hand, loses the drums on five of its six tracks, and the soundscaping is dialed down substantially. Kerby even employs that most telling of singer-songwriter staples, harmonica.
The opener, “Wishing Well,” makes for a smart transition, as it does incorporate a full band arrangement before the rest of the EP goes quietly acoustic. As it chugs along, he thinks out loud about the plight of the ambitious, aging local musician. The lower key songs that follow sink deeper into personal reflection, complete with emotional conversations about relationships on the rocks.
Conveying all of this introspection, of course, are Kerby’s intuitive vocals. He isn’t concerned here with flexing his high upper register or showcasing the furious energy he’s secretly capable of producing. No, A Quiet Man is exactly as its title implies. It’s humble and withdrawn, and there is much brimming under the facade for those willing to pay attention.