Bob Kemmis
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Bob Kemmis

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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The best kept secret in music

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"Bob Kemmis - Arena Ready"

Coming from the “never heard of him/her/them before” school of unsolicited CDs that seem to keep dropping through my letterbox; the nicely shot cover picture of a rather forlorn figure in shabby bed-sit/motel room didn’t really offer much of a clue as to what to except and little indication that it would be such a gem. I always give everything its due though and Bob Kemmis, the album cover’s forlorn cover figure, certainly delivers. Although never likely to be remotely near ‘Arena Ready’, he nevertheless plays an understated blinder on this lovingly crafted set of astutely written pop tunes. Delivered in a softly bittersweet tone, that probably would have made him a household name in the late 70’s – think Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Squeeze. As adept with a hook as he is with a rhyme, his self-effacing, sometimes blackly comic lyrics are a real treat. ‘Freak Luck’, as bizarre a love story as you’ll find – “Freak luck put a car in the way / I wasn’t looking for love but our eyes met/ As I bounced off your Chevrolet”.

Essentially based around guitar, bass and drums perhaps it could be argued there’s nothing overly ambitious in the song’s arrangements, though there’s deceptively a lot more to them than initially meets the ear and Simon Kendall in particular, of the musicians featured, on piano, vibes, organ, Wurlitzer, accordion, tubular bells, clarinet and more besides certainly makes his presence felt. Bob Kemmis is evidently a master tunesmith and no slouch as a lyricist either so there’s absolutely no need to over elaborate things when the raw ingredients are of such high quality.

Twenty-five years out of time and place it may be, but ‘Arena Ready’ is as welcome as it was unexpected and should Bob ever venture from hometown Vancouver to the UK for some shows, I’ll be there for sure.

Geraint Jones
January 2005
- Comes With A Smile


"Bob Kemmis - Live at the Porter Cellar"

The last time I saw Bob and Lindy they were joined by another Canadian
singer/songwriter called Danny. Unfortunetly Dannys is not with us tonight
and rather than playing together each musician played their own set. Bob
from Vancouver kicked things off. He's a very accomplished musician with
four albums under his belt with a very clear and gentle singing voice and a
country tinge. His acoustic style was built upon lots of delicate picking
and gentle melodies complimenting his intelligent lyrics that told a story
in every song. He has the ability to see things slightly differently hence
at times his lyrics almost came across as modern poetry. He began with a
couple of mellow songs with words such as "why does everyday feel like
forever when I'm waiting?". The harmonica was then brought out almost
reluctantly as apparently he could "smell fear in the audience last night"
when it made an appearence. No need to worry however! This was a song about
cheating on friends which contai! ned the line "We're never more blind than
when we're looking at ourselves". A genius story about a purse snatcher
getting hit by a car followed which conjured up great images with "Our eyes
met as I bounced off your chevrolet". One gets the impression of a strong
message contained within Bob's songs. "Find a light in the morning, find a
right in every wrong, I might find a way to New Orleans, before I reach the
end of this song" he sang in the next one. That eternal feeling of optimism.
A clever Latin homage with a slow groove followed, written back in the day
when Ricky Martin was all the rage. Then Bob played a really beautifull song
inspired by a scene in the book To Kill A Mocking Bird. In fact I made a
note of the exact location (page 8, three quarters of the way down if you
really want to know!). "I'm drawn to her like water to the moon"
demonstrates the poetical aspects of his lyrics. The penultimate song was a
vast mish-mash of music and styles containing a couple o! f veiled tributes
to Isaac Hayes and Weathermen. Bob introduced it as 'slightly
self-indulgent'. It began as a slow three chord groove before Bob sampled
his vocals and guitar and sang over the top of the sample creating a large
ocean of sound. "Nobody told me, I got it figured out" he sang as he
harmonised with himself. As the structure disintigrated he briefly went into
"summer lovin happened so fast!" before the song ended. He came across as a
really gentle and humble guy. He finished with a song that he wrote about a
friend who would always call him up in the middle of the night until he
wrote a song about it. The calls then stopped. Bob was driving straight to
Norwich after the gig but he did give everyone the permission to call him at
his hotel as long as they observed four rules. The first three I don't
remember but the last was simply "at some point I'm gonna hang up". This
lead us into a great closing track with a really feel good vibe to it and
oce again a positive message. "Hang up the phone, turn off the
light...tomorrows gonna be ! alright". Bob is a good musician who writes
good songs and its a pleasure listening to him play. Lindy told us later
that he is actually Bryan Adams guitar tech and when he gets days off he
plays his own gigs. How accurate this is I can't say but its always great to
see someone with lots of dedication to their own music!
- Ed Hutchinson


"Bob Kemmis - Arena Ready"

Kevin House’s eerily beautiful recent album “Gutter Pastoral” reminded us that for all the excitement Montreal/ Quebec-based bands such as The Arcade Fire and The Dears were stirring up, the world at large was still ignoring British Columbia.

Indeed, while reviewing House’s excellent opus, this writer opined that “Gutter Pastoral” may well be the tip of a large cultural iceberg, and – right on cue – here comes BOB KEMMIS’S fine third album “Arena Ready” to adroitly back up his argument.

Though still largely an unknown quantity this side of the pond, Kemmis has nonetheless had an interesting and varied career thus far. Over the last 15 years he’s spent time guitar tech-ing for the likes of The Odds (whose Craig Northey repays the favour by producing here) and Bryan Adams sidekick Keith Scott (who repays the favour by playing in Kemmis’s band here) as well as spending a spell in the late ‘90s as a songwriter on the Warner Chappell treadmill in Nashville.

As you might imagine, the conveyor belt mentality of this latter occupation was hardly likely to appeal to a quirky character like Kemmis, but since then he’s given freer rein to his idiosyncratic, but utterly loveable muse on his solo album “Kemmisutra” (2000) and its’ erstwhile follow-up “Tomorrow Doesn’t Look Good Either.”

The latter’s slightly bleak title might suggest Kemmis sups from the same glass (darkly) as, say, Mark Eitzel, but while this reviewer isn’t yet familiar with those records, “Arena Ready” instead presents us with a wry, melodic and scruffily optimistic singer/ songwriter with an eye for life’s minutiae and some deceptively simple, nagging pop tunes.

Opener “Late Night Advice” gives you an idea of what to expect. It’s wry, gritty power-pop of the maverick Marshall Crenshaw/ early Joe Jackson stable and driven along nicely by low-slung guitars. The punchy and immediate “My Green Shirt” also rocks descriptively without being too taxing (and like so much of the album, is driven along powerfully by Pat Steward’s crisp drumming) while the amusing, Costello-ish wordplay of “Figured Out” (“Been touched by Midas, but you’re anything but gold/ there’s nothing like a hand to hold, so you fold”) again proves Kemmis has a way with low-key jangly pop and hook-stuffed choruses.

Mostly, though, Bob Kemmis’s music sways rather than rocks, and songs like the gently bitchy “Let Down” (“stop sucking, I paid $40 for these tickets and you’re sucking!”), the balmy and blissful “Letter To Gotham” and the slow-to-medium ache of “Tell Me It’s Not True” all showcase his knack for gentle seduction. Elsewhere, “Inferior” features quite probably the least funky use of a clavinet ever; the excellent “The End Of This Song” is tinged with accordion, baritone guitar and the sort of cinematic Americana that Chris Isaak and Calexico have made their own and the sad and blue closing “Amy Elyse” finds Kemmis admitting “there’s a fine line between rain and mist/ between being the one and the one who doesn’t exist”. It’s devastatingly good and quite possibly the finest song here.

In reality, though, “Arena Ready” rarely puts a foot wrong at all. Bob Kemmis’s songs suggest he may have been roughed up, lost out and – literally in the case of “Freak Luck” – knocked down on many occasions, but he strikes me as one of pop’s Jim Rockfords and if he keeps tossing out records of this calibre we should be glad he’s tenacious enough to remain on our trail. - Whisperin' and Hollerin'


"Bob Kemmis - Arena Ready"

How can you not enjoy the company of a musician who so obviously loves and nurtures songs as much as Canadian Bob Kemmis.

It's also impossible not to smile at the title of his 3rd album, if any collection were less 'ready' for an arena it's these. To enjoy them fully you've got to get up close.

Kemmis hasn't just written the songs for Arena Ready, like a master jeweller he's taken the raw material and fashioned, chiselled, buffed and polished it into 11 jewels.

If Arena Ready is an accurate guide, it would be easy to imagine much scratching of heads during Kemmis's trips to Nashville. In a town where the parameters are set largely by tradition, the arrival of such a singular talent must have upset the equilibrium a little. Late Night Advice could easily be the theme for those moments, the awkward tale of a misfit it establishes Kemmis as a crisp and sharp writer, barely a word or line on it or Arena Ready is misplaced or misused, beautifully created word pictures are scattered throughout like masterpieces in a gallery.

The economy of writing on Let Down for instance, serves to heighten its impact and enjoyment while Freak Luck is pure joy for anyone who enjoys the intelligent use of words.

Kemmis also gently coaxes each track along, an air of optimism buoys the album, he uses his gentle singing style to warmly invite the listener in to the magical world he has created.

If all that makes Arena Ready sound a little twee and a bit worthy, then nothing could be further from the truth. In fact you're never quite sure just how much of Kemmis's tongue is in his cheek and just how much he's gently pushing and prodding the innocence.

Quite where Bob Kemmis 'fits in' is almost impossible to say with any degree of accuracy. Figured Out owes as much to Messrs Difford, Tilbrook and Costello as anything the other side of the pond, listening to it in isolation you'd swear that Kemmis was home-grown rather than Canadian and yet Let Down has the energetic optimism of Weezer.

Arena Ready proves that Bob Kemmis is splendidly comfortable with a song on his lips and a guitar at his fingertips, a natural born musician doing what comes naturally.

www.bobkemmis.com

Michael Mee, March 2006 - NetRhythms UK


"Bob Kemmis - Arena Ready"

Arena Ready
Bob Kemmis
Red Hare Music

I think that I am falling in love with Bob Kemmis. Despite the fact that he does not have a very attractive name, or even an attractive physical appearance, he is slowly capturing my heart with his sweet, simple songs.

Arena Ready is Kemmis’ third album. It is heavily infused with elements of 60s pop music. The songs combine fresh lyrics with a nostalgic sound. It is impossible to listen to these songs without being happy – it is also hard not to bob around to the catchy tunes.

Through this album, Kemmis constantly proves that he is a very talented musician. The 11 songs on his album are all diverse, and they are all good. His sound ranges from bouncy-pop to elegant, bluesy-jazz. It is not, however, the musical talent, or the sound range that makes this album so great. The thing that makes this album stand out is the fact that all of the songs are fun to listen to.

The lyrics in the songs are very interesting. For example, Kemmis has many witty things to say about the minds of beautiful women. “Like all beautiful women your mind is swimming in a sea of despair/ Cause you care and you wish you were unable/ You’re as unstable as a mass of cold air” is the biting comment that he croons in “Figured out.”

If you are looking for a fun, yet insightful, album that will put you in a good mood, then give Arena Ready a listen. It has a fresh sound that is almost irresistible.

by Michele Dawson
- The Carllion


"Bob Kemmis - Arena Ready"

Arena Ready
Jeremy Milks

A former guitar tech for Bryan Adams and The Odds, Kemmis slides this velvety smooth release onto our laps adorned with his laid back and disarming vocals and a dose of bone-dry humour. He's so laid back that he can actually get away with lines like "I had a dog and I loved that dog" without sounding smarmy. On upbeat numbers he evokes Teenage Fanclub and a power-pop sensibility, but the album is more a loose country swagger that allows his whisper of a voice to make a dent. He sounds sincere, which means that anyone under 25 won't understand him, but if you're looking for some wry reflections with a bourbon stain, Kemmis delivers with conviction. - Ottawa Xpress


Discography

1998 - Kemmisutra
2000 - Tomorrow Doesn't Look Good Either
2002 - Okay So....(Live)
2004 - Arena Ready

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

“Arena Ready” is the 3rd studio album from one of Canada’s favourite singer songwriters Bob Kemmis. This 11 song musical journey takes the listener through lush sixties-influenced pop landscapes with a funny, intuitive, and intelligent host who frequently cuts to the core. Produced by Craig Northey (The Odds) Arena Ready features not only Bob but a number of Canada’s most talented performers, including Keith Scott (Bryan Adams), Rob Baker (Tragically Hip), Phil Comparelli (54-40), Simon Kendall (Doug and the Slugs), Steve Dawson (Zubot Dawson) and The Odds alumni of Craig Northey, Doug Elliott and Pat Steward.

“The dry self deprecation of the title of this recording prepares the listener well as Kemmis’ honesty and gentle wise ass world view allow him to examine his own life and those of this contemparies with compassion & insight. Themes such as loyalty, disappointment, and the intimidation and allure that is New York City all pass before his eyes and ours. The musical underpinnings are in the purest pop music tradition and delivered with a steady warmth and power, in no small part due to production by The Odds Craig Northey. Arena Ready contains many pleasurable moments, with the strength of the songwriting more evident with each listen.” Rod Nicholson

Bob Kemmis is no stranger to Arena’s as the guitar tech for Keith Scott (Bryan Adams) or opening on Jann Arden’s 26 date cross Canada tour in June 2000.
Attracting rave reviews for his engaging live show Bob then opened for artists as varied as Chris Isaak, Badly Drawn Boy, Ron Sexsmith and Jim Cuddy. With nominations for a Georgia Straight Music Awards and a West Coast Music Award, plus a plethora of excellent reviews Bob Kemmis is one of those artists you have to see live.