Freight Train Boogie

Hey ya’ll…here’s a nice California review that just came in from Freight Train Boogie. Figured I should share some of these reviews as I’m trying to figure out my spring/summer schedule. Also, it looks like another move is in the works for this vagabond, more on that later. Enjoy…KP

Haymaker Heart… (Leisure Time Records)
This Iowa native lives in Nashville now and has paid enough dues to deserve a break. His sound is straight-ahead Roots Rock 101. His smokey vocal style recalls Peter Case or Ray Wylie Hubbard. His baseball hat and white T-shirt look on the front cover conveys an honest ”I don’t take no shit” attitude. His “Folk This” is a straight slap in the face at John Mellencamp and others who try to jump on the folk-roots bandwagon. He has a tender side where his songwriting really comes out on songs like “Tell Me (You’re the One)” and “Too Late”. Some great stuff here, John “Cougar” could use a few of these songs!
- Freight Train Boogie, Bill Frater

Haymaker Heart… (Leisure Time Records)
After tentatively dipping his toe in the water with 1998’s “30-Weight,” singer/songwriter Kelly Pardekooper threw himself body and soul into becoming a full-time professional musician. Non-stop touring, a dedicated writing regimen and a crackerjack band brought about a quantum leap in Pardekooper’s material on 2000’s “Johnson County Snow,” and yielded similar artistic leaps on 2002’s “House of Mud.”

On his fourth outing, the sprawling, stylistically diverse “Haymaker Heart” jumps out of the gate with the chilling “Not in Iowa,” a haunting glimpse of “Western noir” featuring Dave Moore’s atmospheric button accordion. Halfway into the aching follow-up “Tell Me (You’re the One),” it’s clear the artist has stepped it up once again, yet unlike most “front-loaded” CDs, this beast continues to pick up momentum, getting bigger, more powerful and nuanced right on through to the end.

But wait - the end is not the end: The 13 tracks listed on the package’s back represent “Haymaker Heart”; there are six more “hidden” tracks on which Pardekooper chucks the roots/Americana trappings of the “album proper” to create a jaw dropping mini-album of hook-laden pop, folk-rock and raucus paint strippers. I’d love to say this is a terrific album, but it’s not; it’s really more like two of them!
- Iowa City Press Citizen, Jim Musser

Haymaker Heart (Leisure Time Records/ USA) (Trocadero Records/Europe)

What’s in a name? Kelly Pardekooper is blessed with the Dutch equivalent for horse trader and that may have been a suitable job for this 36-year-old Midwesterner from Des Moines, Iowa, be it not that at the tender age of 32, the former all-American boy ditched his day job and decided to start a band and, finally, move to Nashville. Well, actually, fate helped a little bit in this decision in the sad shape of a divorce, and that bitter and hurt feeling of a broken relationship lingers on in his songs today.

Haymaker Heart is Pardekooper’s fourth album. It is debatable whether it his best effort to date, but it’s certainly an album worthwhile to listen to. Co-produced by Pardekooper and bassist John Svec, the album has a classic in-your-face singer-songwriter approach, or so it seems at the beginning. Pardekooper’s intimate voice catches the listener’s attention with the first sentence of the opener “Not in Iowa” where the singer heads out “to feel the desert wind, escape the rain” only to get lured away by a suicidal siren who tricks him into playing a sinister game. “My hands are tied now and my feet won’t touch the floor, I’m not In Iowa anymore.” He clearly regrets his decision already. But this is only the beginning, it gets worse from here. It’s a dangerous world out there, far away from Iowa.

As soon as the melancholy sounds of accordion and Spanish guitars fade away, Teddy Morgan’s electric guitar sweetly introduces the tale of a man who is desperate to be loved. The quest for love goes on with “Draw the Line,” a bittersweet country-rocker, slightly reminiscent of the Stones’ ” Dead Flowers.” It’s a stunningly beautiful duet with Amy Finders, wrapped in a thick layer of soothing electronic organ.

Well, we all know what you get when you play country music backwards. I haven’t dared to play “Just Shoot Me” in reverse yet, but this tear-drenched two-step (“My heart’s already gone and my body can’t have long; go on shoot me, so the rest of me can die”) makes a grown coyote weep for all the three minutes and six seconds it takes and long after that. This is made even more awesome by the fact that Pardekooper’s voice eerily resembles that of a young Steve Earle.

But then, something strange happens. Pardekooper leaves the country road behind and discovers new musical territory. There’s a touch of Velvet Underground all over “Too Late.” There’s the contour of Paul Anka’s “Diana” hidden in “Goo.” There’s Kurt Curbain’s ghost hovering over “Wild Love.” It’s a small step from Seattle to the British Isles, and once you leave Iowa, the sky’s the limit. This must have been the thought behind “All Over Now,” a gripping pop tune that mixes Status Quo riffs and Sergeant Pepper choruses with an astonishing ease. With “Run Again” Pardekooper stays in the UK for another two minutes or so. Once upon a time, almost thirty years ago, in Birmingham there was a bunch of youngsters called the Buzzcocks who played rousing chords like that.

Pardekooper’s vision is more Midwestern Zen than fake-Eastern drug philosophy:

Take me to my home
I won’t stand on tradition; I know that nothing can last
I’m much too young for nostalgia; I won’t live in the past
There ain’t nothing before here and there’s nothing behind
I’m right here in this moment, staring it down, taking my sweet time

And there we are back in Iowa, or so it seems. What started off as a classic singer-songwriter album digressed to completely different musical locations, which is what makes listening to Haymaker Heart such an interesting experience. As I have the European version of the album, I can only presume that the US version is even more interesting. After all, it contains seven more tracks. Well, that’s a pretty mean sort of discrimination by a man with a European name and probably more fans in Europe than in the States! But, hey, I’m only kiddin’, Kelly, just come back, all is forgiven!
- Rockzilla, Marianne Ebertowski

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