ALBUM REVIEW: The Grant Farm's Kiss The Ground
Words By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot)
Fort Collin’s based, National Flat-Picking Guitar Champion, and Trey-Anastasio look a-like Tyler Grant has done it again. Kiss The Ground is Grant’s latest release under his own independent record label “Grant Central Records” and it has all sorts of goodness attached to it. Conceptualized, funded, and in the end recorded through the help of an ambitious “Kickstarter” campaign The Grant Farm’s 3rd album is, “An ambitious concept album focusing on struggle and achievement in modern society” according to the Kickstarter webpage. I would have to agree.
The Grant Farm consists of Adrian Engfer (bass/vocals), Sean Macaulay (drums), Kevin McHugh (keyboards/vocals), and of course Tyler Grant shredding away on a variety of guitars (electric/acoustic) and lending a hand on vocals as well. I remember first seeing Tyler back in 2008-2009 as a part of the well-missed and hugely-loved Emmitt Nershi Band, and he was playing bass! (I was also at his last show as part of EM Band in Boulder at the Nomad Theater) Whether Grant is playing bass or shredding away on guitar, he has a commanding stage presence and a tone that is truly recognizable. The Grant Farm is a well-practiced touring machine, playing all over the country headlining and opening for a variety of bands in the bluegrass/jamband scene. All four musicians lended a hand in creating Kiss The Ground and Grant played the role of main producer/master technician.
Kiss The Ground: The Grant Farm (2016)
Get In Line: The main song of this album (Reprise/Radio edit also appear at the end) is a bluesy opener with Grant taking center stage right-away on electric guitar. Kevin McHugh plays a great/funky keyboard riff in the background as Grant shreds away with his country-ish tone. Get in Line is a great way to foreshadow the rest of the album with lyrics such as “No matter what you hope to find” giving me the impression of this being a “set-up” for later songs.
Wanderer: Take the story-telling of a Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson and combine it with a jazzy/piano centric beat, "Wanderer" is a great way to continue this album. “Siren’s are singing loud tonight, we’ve got a long way to go” is sung with a deep baritone voice playing right along with Sean Macaulay tapping on the high-hat with perfect precision. I wonder what Grant would sound like playing a true jazz-style guitar…
The Keg: The first song featuring Grant on an acoustic guitar on this album, "The Keg," is an interesting song to say the least. Coupled with a bluesy sound and folk-like vocals is a slide guitar solo which highlights the diversity of Grant’s guitar abilities. “Colorado here we come, when we make it back we’re going to have some fun” proves to me that Grant is a true Coloradoan no matter how far away touring takes him. I will say The Keg does have a weird-sounding guitar intro and a funky bottle breaking/dog barking ending…but not all things can be perfect.
Monarch King Meets His Maker: A funky bass line to start from Engfer, church-like feel starting from McHugh’s organ playing, and a wailing guitar solo from Grant make this one of my favorite songs of the entire album. “Let go, Let go, Let go” is repeated numerous times through "Monarch King Meets His Maker" reminding us listeners of the idea to not get stuck on the little things, and make sure to focus on the positive. The real highlight of this song for me is Engfer’s funky bass line that is present throughout the entire piece, with various time changes woven in between.
Fill Your Cup: Not my usual cup of tea, "Fill Your Cup" is the first true “country oriented” song from Tyler Grant and his talented bandmates on this album. As soon as I heard the lyric “Flat-tire on your Chevy truck” this song was lost on me, but I will say the vocals did sound very harmonized and went with the beat provided by Macaulay on drums.
One Hundred Ways: A Spanish guitar-sounding intro gives "One Hundred Ways" a truly Grant-centered focus as he can be heard playing numerous instruments on this number. Utilizing a pedal-effect to enhance his guitar distortion, Grant shreds on top of his own acoustic guitar playing with McHugh playing some very nice “Island-y” type of organ. I would say this song is one of the best examples of Grant’s guitar prowess, and overall is a great addition to Kiss The Ground. (It also feels like Part 1 of a 2-part song, with “To Kneel” being that 2nd part.)
…To Kneel and Kiss the Ground: Most using just their instruments, playing around with numerous time changes, and a definite progressive-rock type of finish gives this original Grant Farm song very unique qualities among the many great songs on this record. Grant takes center-stage with one progressive guitar lick after another, and vocals only do come in at the end to help round out the two-part song. (With One Hundred Ways being Part 1 in my opinion)
Fireflies: With a much slower pace and definite country style lyrics, "Fireflies" is a nice change-up for The Grant Farm as this is this records first true ballad. “Don’t leave me lonely when you’re with me babe” and “Keep the light burning babe” are just two of the lyrics which give me the impression that whoever wrote this song for Tyler Grant’s band is deeply in love with their significant other and wanted to make sure this record proved it. Grant uses some great chord progressions with a very high-pitched tone to wrap this beautiful song up in one pretty ballad/package.
Colors: A complete 360 degrees turn-around from "Fireflies," "Colors" is a much quicker/bluegrass type of song which highlights Engfer on the upright acoustic bass and his great rhythm keeping ability. This tune does have some interesting lyrics with “Monkey Joe sat on the beach watching all the colors” being just one of many. McHugh can also be heard raging on what sounds like an old-school upright piano, playing in unison with Engfer’s thumping bass lines.
The Innocent One: Another song featuring Grant on acoustic guitar, "The Innocent One" feels like a tribute song with many of the lyrics referencing seeing a friend in the distant future. “See you on the mountain, see you on the mountain” is repeated over and over with the emotions of each time it is repeated increasing ever so slightly. Utilizing much slower pace and very empathic lyrics this original number is a nice tribute to whomever's loved one past away.
I Wish That It Would Rain: The last song of Kiss The Ground, before the radio-edit of "Get In Line," highlights Grant’s guitar shredding ability with a country-ish vocal style. “I Wish That It Would Rain” is a great way to end The Grant Farm’s 3rd independently released album and gives Grant one last chance to show us why his name is at the forefront of the band.
Overall, I enjoyed Kiss The Ground and look forward to seeing The Grant Farm perform these songs live around our great state of Colorado. I thoroughly recommend checking them out if you have not already, you will not be disappointed!!