Don't call him Colonel. Kernal will do just fine, thank you. Despite the fact that "Light Country" is his first solo outing, this Tennessee native earned his stripes playing alongside folks like Andrew Combs and Jonny Fritz. He also learned his craft firsthand, following in the footsteps of his dad, whose own career included playing with Del Reeves on the stage of Grand Ole Opry.
That said, The Kernal clearly has his own take on traditional country, one which suggests both verve and versatility. Opening track "Where We're Standing" begins with a sway and a swoon before the pleasantry culminates in a discordant crush. "At the Old Taco Bell" sounds like an easy, breezy honky tonk ramble, but the self-effacing humor carries with it just enough of a wink and a nod to affirm his off-kilter designs. Likewise, "Knock Kneed Ballerina" purveys just the right amount of hokeyness and happenstance.
That's not to say The Kernal bypasses serious intent entirely. The casual yet heartfelt sound of "Lubbock County" and the knowing nod of "Tennessee Sun" uncover the sentiment in his sun-dappled delivery. Here especially, sparkling keyboards and shimmering steel guitars reaffirm an allegiance to his hard country origins. And if "Cold Shoulder" doesn't bring back memories of John Hartford's "Gentle on my Mind," well suffice it to say, a nice medley ought to be in order.
With only eight songs in all - plus some samples of his Georgia relatives harmonizing gospel-style via some transferred vintage tapes -- "Light Country" is merely a teaser in terms of what he has yet to offer. Still, as a first step out on his own, Kernal captures attention and brings eager anticipation.