Review: Kent Goolsby – Trophies of Youth

TrophiesOfYouthCover_150You better tame your expectations.

With this opening line, Kent Goolsby sums up the lessons to be imparted on his debut solo album.

Amidst the cuts, scrapes and bruises that provide the album’s title, the emotional scars of settled lives and forgotten dreams are laid bare on Trophies of Youth, forging the blunt reality of the human condition. Jabbing nuggets of wisdom permeate each song; from the criticism of a potential suitor, a mother’s veiled threat to financial advice from a therapist, Goolsby shows how in hindsight the things you learn on life’s path guide and define one’s moral compass.

You tried on a dream
Jut to see if it’d fit — it didn’t
So you went door to door
In search of something
Worth fighting for

Largely gone is the southern twang and straight-ahead rock of his former band, The Only Sons, yet the soul remains, drawn out by fellow Murfreesboro, Tennessee stalwart, Joey Kneiser (Glossary), who produced Trophies of Youth. Flanked by a trio of musicians know as The Folks — and Kneiser himself — Goolsby veers from funk and roadhouse romps to somber laments and front porch sing-alongs. Never overplaying, The Folks remain largely in the shadows, stepping forward at exactly the right moments to accent Goolsby’s vocals or tag along on his jazzy Leon Russell-esque piano rolls that steam on songs like “Rags to Rags” and “Carrot Blues.”

With a voice as recognizable as Lyle Lovett’s — and just as sincere — Goolsby can traverse from serious (“Boomerang Kid”) and absurd (“Jesus is My Landlord”) to morose self-flaggelation (“Losers Sweepstakes”) without a hint of irony. Case in point: using classic nursery rhymes in “Living Proof” to highlight the naivete of youth and the disconnect between generations.

They say with age comes wisdom
But that ain’t the case
You don’t know Jack
About the youth of today

Like Lovett, Goolsby is a chameleon of sorts, adapting to whatever color a song dictates regardless of classification. If his output with The Only Sons trucked in youthful ambition — perhaps to a fault — the Goolsby of Trophies of Youth is one with miles under his sole leather. While not yet be withered by age, Goolsby’s songs come from a place inhabited by old souls. Having chased and captured the carrot, the prize is no longer what matters most.

And this old world marches two by two
Honey, just like me and you
Side by side, you come to realize the truth
That this old world was meant to be walked two by two

What Trophies of Youth tells us is it’s what you learn along the way that is most valuable.

Available today through This Is American Music, you can stream Trophies of Youth below.

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