If you haven’t heard of Kyle Craft, it is fair to say you’ve probably heard of some of the legends he often gets compared to: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Harry Nilsson, and Patti Smith, to name a few. His sound isn’t an imitation of those influences, rather a contemporary compilation of familiar sounds, instantly nostalgic. To hear the evolution of his voice, check out Craft’s first album released on Sub Pop in 2016, Dolls of Highland, a DIY rock n’ roll masterpiece.
On this upcoming album, Showboat Honey, piano player Kevin Clark and bassist Billy Slater produced with Craft. Together, with Haven Multz on drums, Ben Steinmetz on organ and Jeremy Kale on lead guitar, these Portland friends are Showboat Honey, Craft’s tight knit backing band. The title appears in the track, “Buzzkill Caterwaul,” “Once you were the talk of the town/ (oh) Once you were the showboat honey/ But your ship sailed out,” a line that invokes the specter of fleeting fame. Having been the darling of the moment when his solo debut was first released, Craft clearly shows that he has more to offer than just being that guy with wild hair that sounds like someone else. He has a range and depth that is showcased beautifully on this new album, his third on Sub Pop, and first as Kyle Craft & Showboat Honey.
Preceding the album release, the band has already given the world three music videos: “Deathwish Blue,” “Broken Mirror Pose,” and “2 Ugly 4 NY.” In “Deathwish Blue,” Craft and his fiancé dance around a closed restaurant in a nod to the twist contest from Pulp Fiction. The video captures a vulnerability and tenderness mirrored in the heartfelt lyrics of the song.
In “Broken Mirror Pose” Craft and crew rock out in his groovy practice room. Beautifully rendered, yet consistently eerie, the masked band members are joined by Andy Rayborn (Paper Gates, Kulululu) on saxophone, while a hypnotic bass line drives the song chorus in instant sing-a-long fashion.
“Don’t wanna see Death strum for cash downtown:” Kyle dresses up as the grim reaper with a guitar to live out these lyrics in “2 Ugly 4 NY.” He rides past iconic Portland locations on a motorcycle, creeps out a kid waiting for transit, and jaywalks across the Morrison Bridge. Whether or not Craft is too ugly for New York, he’s perfect for Portland.