“My intention is to be honest with my music – not to be ashamed of anything and to turn myself inside out.” So says up-and-coming blues artist Keaton Simons, yet after hearing his five-song EP. Currently, I can’t shake the sense that he forgot his guts at home. Think John Mayer without the jazz, and Johnny Lang without the candid, spooky growl, and you get Keaton Simons, a 25-year-old songwriter from California who takes himself so seriously, he wouldn’t dare launch into Madonna covers or get sidetracked with a jam. The title track, which is somehow getting airplay at KCRW, features a smooth piano accompaniment perfect for the rainy day. Yet as the climax builds, it suddenly collapses under its own misdirection and leaves you wanting more.
He shines only on “Lift Me Up,” a dark confession where Simons finally reveals his hidden guitar skills, “I’m-being-murdered-in-the-studio” screams, and lyrical talent: “I’m a sinner / I’m a cynic in a blinding rage.” The honesty continues with Simons complaining, “I’ve been sold out / and mistreated,” the only point in the EP where I believe he telling the truth. It’s unfortunate to see an artist who shared stages with leaders of the L.A. hip hop circuit, including Kim Hill (Black Eyed Peas) and Tre from the Pharcyde, taper off the soul and spirit on his first effort. Go hit the road, get your heart broken a few times and then you’ll feel the blues.
[Ironically, Aaron Small is actually quite large.]