Reviewing Exeter-based Sammy Kettell’s debut EP, Whisky & Wine was an unusually conflicting experience. Not knowing anything about him or his style of music, I was desperately hoping to be impressed, and to become a fan of an artist from my university town. However, besides the off-putting live performance style of the EP, including audience applause and an Intro before the first track begins, Whisky & Wine comes off as a musically and lyrically average effort.
The Intro, as mentioned earlier, was a disappointing element. Hearing the muted chatter and soft acoustic music in the background is a pleasant enough sound, but not something any artist should be starting a studio EP with. For me, it created the impression that the songs to come should be treated more as background music for an event.
Luckily, once the music truly began, the guitar riff was appealing enough to attract attention - but what followed wasn’t. The country tunes were enjoyable, every track was something which would leave the listener feeling relaxed and content. The four songs are very likeable, yes, but not impressive. No lyrics stand out, the tunes cannot be very strongly distinguished from one another, and the theme across the EP seems to be about enjoying being young, but nothing truly remarkable is said on the subject.
The first track, Grow Old starts off well with the aforementioned guitar riff and Kettell’s soothing voice, the kind of voice that is very well-suited to country music. The listener is temporarily interested by the mention of the title of the EP in the lyrics. However, for the rest of it, the tune isn’t too memorable, and the lyrics, which talk about meeting a girl and enjoying a night out, are wishy-washy.
Going Out Tonight, which Kettell calls the main single of the EP, unfortunately appears to be a weaker effort than Grow Old. Kettell’s voice seems milder and occasionally less melodious. The lyrics, which seem to be about a breakup, are slightly better than the other tracks, but still very standard:
“You were my embrace, You were my mistake, You will have to go back To find I’m going out tonight.”
The track improves slightly towards the end, especially vocally, with Kettell’s high note. On the whole however, it isn’t too noteworthy. MiLkShAkE, a live track, has an interesting guitar intro, but is probably the weakest lyrically, with lines such as, “Don’t be scared for being scared/ I can see from over there/ Now admit my mistakes/You just drink your milkshakes”. The tune of the track over three stanzas is quite repetitive as well, making this one probably the most forgettable track on the EP.
Kettell does finish on a better note with Rock’N’Down, the final, more upbeat track on Whisky & Wine. His voice sounds better, and while the lyrics remain sub-par, the increased use of the drums and catchy guitar interlude compromise for it better than in any of the other songs.
It may have been the Intro track, but the most unfortunate quality of this thirteen-minute EP was that it really did sound more like background music for an event than the centre of it. Fun, positive, pleasant enough to listen to, but at the end of the day, forgettable. I hope a future full-length album will bring in some improved lyrics and a little more variety to Kettell’s music.