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Somewhere on the shores of Lake Travis, just outside of Austin, there’s a house with a blue tile roof.
Truth be told, there may be more than one place that fits that description. If you had hiked up to this one particular place during one particular stretch of days last year, you’d know you were exactly where you were supposed to be.
You could tell by the music. Somewhere inside, Kyle Park and his studio band were rattling the walls with one hard-hitting, crank-it-up song after another. Those who had followed Park these past 10 years or so would recognize his sound -- raw, heartfelt and rooted in the honest-to-God, real country music.
But they’d also notice something different -- a tougher edge, a beat that slammed a little harder, guitars that slashed and sliced with a more aggressive attitude.
Yes, this was Kyle Park. No doubt about it. Specifically, it was an invigorated Kyle Park, adding a jolt of rock ‘n’ roll intensity to the mixture of Strait, Waylon, Cash, Haggard and more than a dozen other influences that had helped define his unique artistry.
The good news was that he was recording all this as it happened. Best of all, it’s coming your way on Park’s new, self-produced album, aptly titled The Blue Roof Sessions, released by Thirty Tigers.
Key to this expansion of his style was his decision to not record the basic instrumental tracks in a traditional studio. “Recording in the house, the idea was to use the feeling of being in a house to go for an open feeling, something really big, with the drums very prevalent in the mix,” he explains. “It wasn’t about making a rockin’ album as much as making an album where the music comes first.”
This meant, first of all, that there was no clock ticking the minutes away toward the end of time booked in a commercial facility. “Sometimes we’d do two songs in a day,” Park says. “Sometimes we did three. Sometimes we didn’t even produce one. The point is, we just kept working until the song felt right. I remember being in the house and thinking, ‘Alright, we’re gonna cut this unfinished song. Once we get to a point where I’m not sure to go lyrically, we’ll let the music take us there.’ And if I felt like it should go to the IV chord, not the I, or it should go to a bridge instead of a solo or a pre-chorus or whatever, I would write the lyrics around that.”
In other words, The Blue Roof Sessions were as organic as sessions can be. Writing, tracking, tweaking and finally nailing it: The steps overlapped, each one energizing the others. This process also helped focus the album as the band moved forward.
“I figured I’d have 17 or 18 songs and I’d hopefully keep 12,” Park says. “Some of the ones that didn’t make the cut were really great songs but it just became clear that they didn’t fit the feel of this record. For example, I put horns on two songs. They turned out really cool but they would have been out of place. So I’ll just put them on the next record.”
The result is a milestone in Park’s catalog. For the first time, he lets his love for rootsy rock breathe through his music. Thundering drums kick off “Drive You,” a desperate elegy to love lost. There’s a swaggering Stones quality to “What Goes Around Comes Around.” The power riffs, searing guitar and vocal breaks of “One of These Days” sprinkle dashes of Led Zeppelin, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights and Audioslave to this Southern country/rock stew. He even covers Billy Squier’s 1984 smash, “Rock Me Tonite.” (“If I had turned that song around with twin fiddles, it could have been a great country song,” he enthuses.)
None of this obscures Park's love for country music. Born and raised outside of Austin, he started playing country venues when he was just 15. Since then, his singles have regularly settled in the Texas Music Chart’s Top 10, with his 2013 single “The Night Is Young” reaching No. 1. His Fall EP peaking at No. 1 in 2010 on the Billboard Heatseekers South Central list. He has also performed in Europe, and has opened for artists such as George Strait, Gary Allan, Clint Black, Eli Young Band and other country headliners.
In the end, Park insists, “I think my voice makes The Blue Roof Sessions country. No one can say it’s not me. But I’m changing too. The way I felt about music 10 years ago is not the way I feel now. I would have never put these songs on my first record. It would have been way too much of a risk. Now I'm more comfortable with who I am as a musician and as a fan of music. It would be easy for me to keep making the same record over and over and just have fiddle and steel -- a good, clean, nice traditional record. I'm not looking for shock factor, but I am looking to stand out amongst the crowd as far as pushing boundaries.”