Kevin Roper Project
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Kevin Roper Project

Portland, Maine, United States

Portland, Maine, United States
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"KRP - Set Yourself Free - CD review"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Portland Phoenix review of "Set Yourself Free" 1/9/08
Current mood: thankful
Category: Music
Piano man
Kevin Roper sets himself free
By SAM PFEIFLE
January 9, 2008 4:24:58 PM
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If you haven't heard from Kevin Roper lately, maybe it's because he was busy getting married. That taken care of, he's ready to release his second full-length disc, Set Yourself Free, just a few months later. Am I the only one who sees the irony there?

Actually, Roper seems to be a pretty free-spirited guy, so maybe he doesn't see getting married as tying himself down (that comes later, when you have children). You know, even if he was having second thoughts, he'd probably take his own advice, as outlined in "Don't Think" over a naked acoustic guitar: "Do you ever feel like you smoke too may cigarettes/And all you're doing is living life with regrets?/Then don't think about it anymore."

I'm not sure Dr. Phil would approve, but it's hard to argue with the sentiment and it must be working for him. As he tells us in "Old Stone Wall," "no longer will I frown."
For most of the rest of the disc, with emotive vocals, extended jams on both piano and guitar, and an upbeat folk-rock sensibility provided by a capable studio backing band, Roper does a nice job of translating his positive-energy live show into recordings you can feel good about, too. You won't find a lot of cynicism here, or morbidity, so feel free to get on your feet and move about.

He's best when working the ivories (and whatever the keys are made out of on his organ and Rhodes). The organ break on the title track should allow you to heed Roper's call to "get up off your ass" and in "Talk the Talk" he hands himself a baton mid solo to move right from the piano into the organ. It's fairly common for both the Rhodes and piano to be sounding at the same time during songs, the warm resonance of the former propping up the crisp notes of the latter.

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Roper gets some help, too, from guitar solos by Bryan Gould, a longtime bandmate who moved up to Maine from Nashville as part of the fleeting Forgetful Jones and played with Electric Blue and the Kozmic Truth. At times, the two play off each other like Phish's Trey Anastasio and Paige McConnell, segueing into each other's solos and trading riffs, especially in the earnest retrospective "Nashville Way." Seems Roper spent about a year down south, hooking on with Wondermore Records and opening for Col. Bruce Hampton at one point, "trying real hard not to fall." His opening guitar pick just keeps falling, though, like a ball through a pinball machine, and the drum/bass breakdown late in the song feels like bottom.

We're left with a "Different Picture of Me," the best track on the album (though maybe a tad long, at 7:11), where Roper channels Aaron Katz and gets great backing vocals from Jessie Chazin in the heartfelt chorus: "How long," he wonders, "until I can settle down?" From the sound of the piano break, so self-assured and relaxed, his anxiety on this matter has largely been alleviated.

If Roper has anything to worry about, it might be his vocals. At times they can sound thin, other times overly dramatic, and it's something of a wonder that he and producer Jack Murray only bolster his vocals infrequently, as on the lead-in to "The Changing Tide" or the psychedelic and narcotic "Her Own Beat." I think a consistent backing vocalist, or just vocal doubling, would provide body to match the instruments.

But I always had a problem with Anastasio's voice, too, and that hasn't seemed to hold him back any. This is an instrumentalist's album, anyway, with songs that sprawl and have plenty of room for multiple solos. You can imagine most of them twice as long in a live setting. Not so, though, with "Another Game," a fun sub-three-minute bluegrassy closing ditty where Roper shows off a quick strum and a fine honky-tonk ear on the piano. "She dances round to a bad cover band," he sings in something like Diesel Doug, "I'm standing there, with a glass in my hand/Crowd seems to love it, why I don't know/I tip my glass, just to deal with the show."

I've said this about other albums: You shouldn't need a drink to enjoy this, but since when has a little alcohol ever hurt?

Set Yourself Free | Released by Kevin Roper | with Frank Hopkins + Adam and the Waxmen | at the Big Easy, in Portland | Jan 19 | www.kevinroper.com

Email the author
Sam Pfeifle: sam_pfeifle@yahoo.com. - Portland, Phoenix


Discography

Set Yourself Free - released 2008 - available on Itunes and CD Baby - local airplay in Portland, ME - WCLZ, WBLM
Brand New Town - released 2004

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Bio

Kevin Roper, leader of The Project (formerly called Kevin Roper Project or KRP) is a musician/singer from all over New England, now based in Portland, Maine. With The Project, Kevin plays keyboards and is the lead singer, mixing elements of Jam Rock, Funk, Bluegrass, Folk Rock and much more.. Along the way, the members have played in a variety of bands in a variety of places from Maine to Colorado to Massachusetts to Nashville, TN and has toured much of the East Coast. Kevin and The Project members have opened for such artists as: Ray Lamontagne, Col. Bruce Hampton, Chris Barron (of the Spin Doctors) and the Time Bandits, Derek Trucks Band, Robert Randolf, Reid Geneaur and The Assembly of Dust, Little Feat, Jay Giles, Jazz Mandolin Project, Max Creek, Ellis Paul, Deep Banana Blackout, Raq, Tishamingo, Gordon Stone, Tom Constanten and more...
The Project is represented by Mencher Management and Booking out of Portland, ME.

on facebook: http://band.to/theproject

www.myspace.com/kevinroper