After 30 years in Nashville, Kevin Welch now calls the Texas Hill Country home. His first solo disc in eight years, A Patch of Blue Sky also doubles as his local bow since he moved here two years ago. While the album isn't specific to the singer-songwriter's new surroundings, it's charged by accompanying Texans: Bukka Allen, Brian Standefer, Glenn Fukunaga, son Dustin and daughter Savannah (the latter via the Trishas), Eliza Gilkyson, and the lone ringer, his longtime sidekick Fats Kaplan. Together they take Welch's well-wrought tunes to another level, where insights are obvious and emotions tangible. It's Welch at his sharpest, beginning with the intrigue of "Come a Rain," a litany of what he calls "subconscious impressions of a bunch of dead icons" – e.g. "Jesus was a pagan, Woody was a punk, Gandhi was a soldier, Hendrix was a monk." Two kinds of broken hearts are sailed on "Andaman Sea," and in "Marysville," a community burns to the ground. Ending with the title track, a sort of gospel plea mixed with hope and defiance, A Patch of Blue Sky feels short at the standard 10 songs, but that's only because its spell, whether somber or filled with promise, is so inviting.
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