Kenny Bissett, Jr. is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter from San Antonio, Texas, whose latest album, The Balancing Act, follows up on his superb solo 2020 release, Broken Wilderness. In addition to his solo work, Bissett is also a member of the crossover progressive band Built for the Future.
The Balancing Act is a fabulous, well-rounded, and relevant album. From the pulverising jolt of opening song Radiate to the gorgeously sung and haunting final song Brief Mortal, I revelled in its jangle, its driving energy, and its relentless power chord riffs with progressive twists and flourishes. Bissett’s vocals are perfect for this style of progressive rock and his guitar prowess is superb. Over the 10-song album, the unique sound of the Rickenbacker 12-string guitar is evident and added so much to the overall feel of the music. It should be noted that Kenny plays all the instruments, except the drums. He produced and engineered the album as well.
The overarching theme is balance, and according to Kenny, The Balancing Act “is inspired by the idea that we each need to determine what we should keep in our lives, and what we should drop from our lives. Balance.” More than just things or objects in our possession, but people, lifestyles, and ideas too. The music reflects those aspects of human nature that sometimes get in the way of living a fuller engaged life. Hence the relevancy of the album.
Usually, when people hear new music, they try to relate it to something similar, be it a group, an album or song they have heard previously, and I am no exception to that rule. There are many musical influences that made a defined imprint throughout the song cycle that need to be mentioned, and whether Kenny was conscious of them when writing and recording the album, I am not sure. I heard snippets of The Byrds and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as well as Tears for Fears, XTC, The Cure, The Cars, REM, and Rush. Bissett brilliantly melds these influences and richly incorporates them into his unique style to create an original and immensely satisfying album. It’s Bisset’s music in the end. And it is utterly magnificent.
The first three songs, Radiate, Wake Up and Holding Pieces, are relentless and driven with such sheer emotion and vitality, setting the foundation for what lies ahead. There is an overriding energy here that is infectious, serious, and focused. Pulsating guitars and a rhythm that send the music into overdrive. I found these songs to be anthemic and cathartic, thoroughly enjoyed at high volume and, in my case, when listening in the car. Hard driving rock and roll with a modern progressive twist. Bissett’s genius is taking that distinctive Rickenbacker sound and making it his own.
The next three songs, Life and Time, Human Nature and Imposter Syndrome evolve the album further. Life and Time introduces us to questions about life and existence and ‘what ifs,’ with a slower pace and the addition of a finely played acoustic guitar-driven melody. Human Nature brings back the driving rhythm and infectious dance beat that you cannot help but be literally moved by! Imposter Syndrome is a masterpiece. It has all the ingredients of a rock anthem; the guitar drive, drumming, and bass undertones with its in-your-face heavy vocal delivery is simply magnificent. It is the watershed moment for me on this album. I cannot get enough of it.
The album finishes with Lost and Found, Balancing Act, Alive and The Brief Mortal; all superb with Kenny’s voice in fine form. The gentle acoustic overlay of Lost and Found talks about hanging on in a tough world, gorgeously sung with emotion and empathy. An incredibly positive and uplifting tune, this is another gem on this stellar release.
The title track opens with incredible drive and verve. Superbly sung, it sums up the whole album theme of balance in our daily lives. Alive is another anthemic tune that unleashes power and soars sonically, the lyrics begging us to drop the baggage that has been holding us back, with a thumping rhythm and almost monotone vocal delivery that drive the point home. The Brief Mortal is the closing track and, as the title suggests, we are here for a brief time, and it is a struggle and a day-to-day existence with choices to make, good and bad. This is a haunting song with strong vocals accompanied by Kenny playing an acoustic guitar superbly. The fading effect as the song closes is just stunning and finishes the album brilliantly.
I cannot say enough about how good this album is. I also cannot overstate or exaggerate how fabulous Kenny Bissett is as a musician. One of the unnoticed but particularly important aspects of making music these days are the engineering and production elements which create the album. Although technical, this is so important to the quality of the final product. The Balancing Act is an example of the best of both. Did I mention Mr. Bissett is also the engineer and producer of this work?
Kenny Bissett took great care in making an utterly magnificent album. I will be one of his most vocal fans and cheerleaders. He needs a wider audience.
01. Radiate (4:59)
02. Wake Up (5:26)
03. Holding Pieces (4:07)
04. Life and Time (3:39)
05. Human Nature (4:40)
06. Impostor Syndrome (4:09)
07. Lost and Found (3:38)
08. Balancing Act (3:31)
09. Alive (6:12)
10. Brief Mortal (2:59)
Total Time – 43:20
Kenny Bissett – Guitars, Bass, Drum Programming, Keyboards, Lead & Backing Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 2nd February 2022