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LOOKING INSIDE AND OUT Pete Kilpatrick Band.

If anyone has grown up right in front of his fans, it's Pete Kilpatrick. On the cusp of releasing his fifth full-length album (with an EP mixed in) and finishing out his first decade of performing professionally, Kilpatrick has gone from an impossibly winsome and charming, squeaky-clean young lad to, yes, a father, with a voice and sentiment both deepening along the way.

In the nearly four years since Hope in Our Hearts, Kilpatrick's sound has grown immeasurably, gaining an important maturity and substance that has significantly augmented his already apt talent for pop-rock songwriting. With the brand-new Heavy Fire, not only does the band sound more weighty, layering in a bedrock of foundation on top of which Kilpatrick's vocals rest effortlessly, but there is an undercurrent of introspection and the kind of examination of what's important that comes with an infant squalling in the next room over.

There is a steadfastness here, a comfort level, that allows for songs to take on pop airs, even to adopt some '80s percussive techniques and dance on the edge of some light-rock guitar tone from engineer/guitarist Pete Morse, without seeming inconsequential. This is helped immensely by Ed Dickhaut's presence as resident drummer — he's a force. An in-demand session drummer for years (he was on David Mallett's Artist in Me, way back in 2003, I just noticed), here's hoping he's found a home for the foreseeable future, as his rhythms add a Paul Simon vibe to the record that are good enough to capture your attention all by themselves.

Dickhaut is complemented well, too, by vet bassist Matt Cosby, who's subtle and easygoing and acts as the band's center when so much can be swirling through each song. Morse and keyboardist Tyler Stanley (of Sly-Chi and more) generally eschew traditional lead parts in exchange for phrases that interlock and intertwine and often make for a tightly controlled chaos of notes.

They echo life's unrelenting forward momentum, with which Kilpatrick seems determined to come to grips. The album is full of battle imagery, warring ideas and factions, but also at least four of his songs reference "home," that place "where your heart is," as we hear on the title track, or "where you left it," or "what you make of it." He is constantly exploring what the past has built, what the future holds, standing on the cusp of decisions that hold tremendous import.

In the excellent "Two Armies," arranged in an orchestral manner, with Dickhaut rolling floor toms through the mix, we get a narrative of a "boy who lost his way." What Kilpatrick has found over the course of the past few years, though, is some considerable range. I love how he reaches for the bottom in the chorus: "She said the past will set you free/It's just a glorified looking glass to me." He's added a bit of accent to his delivery, too, and improved his falsetto, now leaning toward Brit singers like Chris Martin or Keane's Tom Chaplin.

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  Topics: CD Reviews , Steely Dan, Pete Kilpatrick, Tyler Stanley,  More more >
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