John Tyler Kent - Familiar Lights In New Places

John Tyler Kent – Familiar Lights In New Places

John Tyler Kent is a guitarist and Stickist based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

You may remember Mr. Kent from such reviews as Geph and Apophenia by Geph. I urge you to check these out because they are absolutely fabulous albums. But today we are talking about his first full album release on Bandcamp; Familiar Lights In New Places, and I know you, you’re just itching to find the answers to the important questions:

Is it prog?


Can you dance to it?

There are no bombastic rock anthems here, no pompous stomping moments. Just intelligent music, beautifully produced and presented for you to make of what you will. The diverse instrumentation used throughout the album provides its texture and identity. With a guitar-oriented sound and, peppered throughout, the almost bell-like melody strings of Chapman Stick, gently seasoned with upright bass, violin, cello, piano and trumpet, this collection of instrumental songs can be set off and left running all day. There’s no ego-driven soloing. From the first bars of the first track, I wanted to hear more. It made turning the sounds I heard into a review a most enjoyable process.

Yet, as a device to get you to read more of this review and learn about the album, I must say it is mildly schizophrenic. In places, this feels like a subtle take on a type of music that itself had its roots in the blues and folk of North America and branched out into Progressive Rock. But there’s no mawkish sentimentality for that old music here.

Sometimes there’s an ambient, almost “noodly” backdrop. Even though all modern “rock” music draws from the roots of American musical history – parts I’m hearing wouldn’t be out of place as the soundtrack for cut scenes from Red Dead Redemption II (that’s a nerdy reference to a game with a more realistic interpretation of the state of the “American frontier” in the early 1900s, so less accurately depicted in mid-20th century Cowboys and Indians Western movies).

Familiar Lights In New Places has no show-off “look at me – see how I skill at you” moments. But that doesn’t mean that the musicianship is lacking. It’s restrained and nuanced. There’s an extremely “Sticky” feel to Spiral, the third track (and in other tracks) which wouldn’t be out of place among any other virtuoso Stickist’s work. To show what I mean, check out Nick Beggs’s Words Fail Me or search YouTube for Greg Howard, the late, great, and sorely missed champion of the instrument. But if you’ve heard his other work or anything by Geph then you shouldn’t be surprised. JTK is a bloody good Stickist.

Back to the point: Sometimes the songs give the impression that you’re in the build-up to the drop – you know, that old cliché, where the intensity builds and then the band comes in with an orgasmic bass and drums bang – but no, you might get some “backwards guitar” instead.

I don’t mind saying it: On more than one track this album reminds me of Led Zeppelin in their quieter moments, albeit without the massive drums and tenor vocals. Sleeping Giants might give more than a passing nod to Mr. Page & Co. To illustrate my point, Zeppelin was a group who, despite having one of the most powerful and skilled drummers in the history of modern music, knew when not to use him. Tyler knows and has worked with some particularly formidable drummers I could mention, and there’s no sign of them or even a drum machine!

Let me make this clear, though. This is no Led Zeppelin knock-off. I’m sure there’s nothing the Led Troubadours ever did that’s remotely as jazzy. With the combination of Chapman Stick, muted and mournful trumpet and fretless bass, swaddled in a wash of velvety reverb, on Midnight Snack, the last track on Familiar Lights In New Places, this is clearly its own animal, and it’s a cuddly animal with big eyes like that cat in Shrek. So, skip the Led Zeppelin bits in this review, just see if you can find them on the album. You won’t. None of this is anything like Led Zeppelin, even when they were being all sensitive an’ that. What an idiotic comparison! Forget I mentioned it. You should give it a listen, go on, I dare you. Prove me wrong!

Seriously, though, whether or not you think this is derivative, I would argue that each song is new and pure, unpretentious, and clearly performed for the sheer joy of making music. Any resemblance to bands, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

In conclusion: There are no click tracks here, no drums or drum machines, no explosive Woohoos or growly Yeeeaaahhhs in a James Hetfield stylee. Each track on this album is undeniably based on the same foundations, yet individually distinct. It may show its influences in the rock of ages past, but the lack of overt self-congratulation makes it particularly endearing. Subtly progressive. And that’s what we want, isn’t it?

So, is it prog? Can you dance to it? Behave.

I like this – a lot, and you should buy it.

01. Coyote Crossing (2:44)
02. A Bridge Too Far (5:12)
03. Spiral (4:47)
04. Valencia (3:48)
05. Rabbit Season (5:07)
06. Movement Between Frames (3:45)
07. The More We Drift Apart (5:19)
08. Flight (3:49)
09. Sleeping Giants (6:02)
10. Midnight Snack (3:07)

Total Time – 43:40

John Tyler Kent – Chapman Stick, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Natalia McDermott – Cello (tracks 1, 2, 3, and 7)
Keith Lewis – Electric Bass (track 2)
Dan Barracuda – Electric Guitar (track 3)
Nick Potters – Piano (track 3)
Eva Lawitts – Upright Bass (track 4)
Lilly Innella – Violin (track 4)
Derrick Elliott – Fretless Bass (track 5)
Christine Moad – Electric Bass (track 7)
ALFii – Rhodes Electric Piano (track 8)
Rahsaan Lacey – Electric Bass (track 9)
Laura Banner – Cello (track 9)
Eric Smith – Trumpet (track 10)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 3rd May 2024

John Tyler Kent – Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube