Album review: Against the Grain by Troy Kemp

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Troy Kemp will be familiar to many Australian country music fans. He was one half of McAlister Kemp, who re-created country rock in their own image (and arguably made it easier for The Wolfe Brothers to follow). Before that he had a solo career, and now he has returned to that path. He’s still country rock, but his new album, Against the Grain, is toned down a little from McAlister Kemp’s party-hearty vibe (although there’s a bit of that in songs such as ‘Whiskey Woman’, ‘How We Roll Around Here’ and ‘Crazy As You Want to Get’).

Many of the songs on Against the Grain lyrically fit the country canon, like the title track and ‘100 Years of Pride’. Kemp also does a lovely ballad, as in ‘The Ones I Love’, and the rock ballad ‘If I Had My Time Over’. In sum, this album offers familiarity to McAlister Kemp fans and also gives Kemp the opportunity to explore some stories and themes his way. Kemp always sounds like he’s in control of his songs – this is, literally, the voice of experience, and he knows how to make a song listenable over and over again. 

There was also a bit of a revelation for me on this album. On first listening it seemed that Kemp’s voice fits the country-rock genre: he can belt out a tune, for sure, and he sounds like he’s enjoying himself doing it. But it’s on ‘A Little More Country’ that his voice sounds truly right: smooth, easy, direct, with an edge in the right places. So maybe Troy Kemp is more country than rock ‘n’ roll, and if anything I wish the songs on this album were more of the former than the latter. Maybe next time.  

Against the Grain is out now through Social Family Records.

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