Pristine production and instrumental mastery have been trademarks of Kirk Adams’s music, but rarely did his work touch the genius of maturity, that elusive quality akin to the artistry of a poet’s heartbreak. Indeed, few independent or industry-connected performers have been able to capture and caress the importance of being a universal voice (as the true artist is, especially when presenting emotions of a personal nature). It is a giant leap of consciousness, a move that cripples many performers or, at the least, sends them back to their dirty roots of imitation. Adams has made the leap successfully with his new piece, “Little Elevator,” and I am sure he has recognized that there is no turning back. Kirk called the new CD “a departure” from his trademark presentations. But that is a conservative description of this work. Indeed, this is a universe apart from a collection of great melodies, clean licks and fine harmonies. This work is the conspiracy of elements that conjure more than the goods of a fantastic musician (that status now available just about everywhere). This is the heart and soul of Kirk Adams, bared and a bit beaten, weighted and corrupted, clinging and crying. Kirk begins with a brief instrumental invitation to his lonely café of sounds. “Rainy Day Dream,” merely 33 seconds, is long enough to prepare us for “Under The Weather,” the opening song. This melody made of jazzy nights in a low-rent section of Paris, fondles and seduces clichés to get them out of the way while at the same time emphasizing their importance to a soul being exposed to the shadows of the universe. The lyrical warning, “You won’t know what hit you,” is perfectly placed to prepare for the blows to come. “Lost Soul” follows. The “Adams Apocalypse” is like Miller’s “Rosy Crucifixion,” it won’t be the end of the world, per se, but nothing is going to be the same. Kirk’s knee-jerk reaction is to call his lost soul back. But the words “Lost soul/you’re not alone/lost soul/come home” fall on deaf ears as a last-ditch and futile effort to bring back the view of life that once came naturally. As “Remind Me” ensues, the listener must be aware that the sounds of these songs are themselves the phrasing of their sensations. Kirk has produced a dark, foreboding and moody atmosphere that gives his poetry a soundtrack. And the masterful playing by Kirk, Patrick Bettison, Craig Benson, Larry Rubin and Gale Trippsmith never grandstands a song. These are distinct tracks, clear and defined with strong yet simple arrangements that care first about the work, which is, of course, the foundation of the loyalty in all great art. “Remind Me,” a verbal command, is also a plea. It produces tears of mourning, sorrow and disappointment. Wanting to be reminded “how to love you” (the lost soul forgot, after all), segues into “Mumbleweed,” a song that defies its own melody and punctuates the need for needing to be reminded of what is meant to flow naturally. Kirk’s use of lonely guitar notes following some of the melodic strain is like that perfect piece of subtle furniture a director places on the set of a stage play. Subtle brilliance that makes a major impact only when it is missing. “Apple Sun” appropriately continues the walk down this dark sense of awakening. This is more a painting than a song, with a floating, bittersweet melody. The metaphor strikes without mercy. It was the apple that the devil used to give knowledge to Adam and Eve, the knowledge that challenged God’s monopoly on the big picture and opened their eyes to pain and suffering, elements of life humans know only when they are truly awakened. “Icy Finger” points the way to the barren, desolate future that we see once we are aware of knowledge. Kirk’s guide does not have the fiery finger of hell. No, it has the frozen finger of the futile endings in the hinterlands of isolation. “They’re makin’ plans to wreck the dawn,” he sings, and we will have to look a little more closely from now on to discern its eventfulness. Kirk is obviously expressing a great level of discomfort having his eyes wide open. “Never seen a darker day than this,” he sings in “Love A Lie.” Indeed, the light of awakening is so bright and the strength it takes to accept all that is real is, well, a bitch. And this is why, as “fingers tremble and hurt,” he is “remembering bathing in the light,” from “Halo,” arguably the CD’s most melodic entry. This is the admission that nothing less than divine help can put the order into the chaos, though there is only a glimmer of hope in the possibility that such a power might surface. Just when you think you have the tools to withstand the barrage of reality hurled upon you, Kirk ensues with a definition of state, a punctuation of position. “Used to feel like a Mojo Man/Now I feel like a fish on dry land,” he says in “Fish On Dry Land.” In the title tune that follows, he cries again, “They’re draggin’ me down,” probably because even the little elevator’s walls are closing in on him. On us.
View of a Masterpiece “Maybe It’s Late,” tells us what Dylan said in “Not Dark Yet,” only in the context of this entire work, Kirk tells us about “dreams that never converge” at a time when this play should be kicking into a third act. But there will only be a slight change in the character’s outlook as the final song, “Soldier On” plays. It is subtle advice with a strong sense of fight; after all, why use the word ‘soldier’ as a verb unless there is more combat to face on the now well-defined battlefield? Capping this resolution is the brief instrumental “Lonesome Monster,” which does not stomp off stage but does not drag its legs in futility either. This is just one view of a masterpiece, qualified as thus because it is filled with munificent metaphor and an abundance of allegory and allusion, all in perfect alignment with its music. What’s more, all of it flows from the creator and settles into a vat of universal definition. That is why “Little Elevator” is not just another CD where the person or group of its origin whines about lost loves and wallows in its own putrid sense of ego. Kirk has found the courage of deconstruction in his personality, technical skill and showmanship. He has lifted his lyrics from pulp to poetry and, as all great artists awakened, is now ready to die and hates that fact. Long live Kirk Adams, who I see regularly when I enter the little elevator. Frank Cotolo can be found hosting the talk and interview program Cotolo Chronicles, every Thursday starting at 9 pm on Network 1KX.