The Kitchen Cynics is one Scotsman, Alan Davidson. He's been recording his folk songs at home for nearly 20 years now and despite his massive catalog, his music never gets old or stale. I've been listening to The Kitchen Cynics since I was about 16 years old and heard the "Not Receiving Visitors" tape on the now defunct, Bacchalanian Revel. I still remember the first time I heard the last song, "Hush Little Cynics," and was sold. Much to my delight, Davidson has continued producing quixotic music through the years and shows no signs of letting up.
"Tunnels," the latest release on the excellent new Barl Fire imprint, is a live set performed at Aberdeen's Tunnels club on two dates in late summer 2005. Most live albums often leave something to be desired, but such is not the case with "Tunnels." In fact, the live setting shows off just how damn good and endearing Davidson is. Before each track, he tells a little story about what the song is about. With his thick Scottish drawl, you can't help but smile. There's something completely sincere and charming about it.
Musically, this is more of what I've come to know and love about the Kitchen Cynics. Acoustic guitar and vocals make up the bulk of the music here. At times, Davidson uses a bit of delay on his guitar which adds to the mysticism behind the words. The lyrics are the star here. Davidson is often telling tales about historical figures and the like. Bright and balmy guitars counteract some of the grim subject matter tackled. It's like Tom Waits said, I'd rather hear awful news form a pretty face.
There will always be something legendary about the Kitchen Cynics for me. It's amazing how fresh and enthusiastic Davidson is about this after 20 years. I can only hope to feel the same way in the next 10 years. "Tunnels" is not only a great place to start for those unfamiliar with the Kitchen Cynics, but also is an essential release for those who are already fans. You can't go wrong with "Tunnels." This is another feather in Davidson's highly decorated cap. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (27 June, 2006)