Imagine Ben Folds singing lead for Simon & Garfunkel and you’ll have a fast idea of what “Winding Roads” sounds like. The melancholy guitar-picking and sweet vocalizing is definitely a throwback and/or homage to S&G in their heyday, but I also love that the tenor voice here feels rounded and confident (i.e. Foldsian) rather than wispy and introverted. Given how many 21st-century singer/songwriters seem birthed straight from the forehead of Elliott Smith, I for one am delighted to hear a guy who sounds like he could belt out a pop song if he wanted to, but doesn’t want to.
Another delight here is the exquisite and involving melody. Paul Simon’s melodic gift was crucial to the S&G vibe, and so to go after that vibe without a serious melody is a big mistake, to my ears. (When you pull out the acoustic guitar things can go downhill quickly without a melody to hang onto.) Reed KD (and no, I have no idea what to make of his name; is KD his last name? is Reed KD a two-part first name?) engages us by offering a complex melody within a song distilled to utmost simplicity: both the verse and the chorus are each an eight-measure melody; we hear each one twice, with some lovely guitar work in between. That’s it, and that’s all it needs to be.
“Winding Roads” is from Reed KD’s self-released new album In Case the Comet Comes, due out next week. The singer/songwriter is based in Santa Cruz.