Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers
On Gift Horse, their second album for Vanguard and fifth studio effort overall, Stephen Kellogg and his bandmates— Kit “Goose” Karlson (keys, bass, vocals), Brian “Boots” Factor (drums, vocals) and Sam “Steamer” Getz (guitars, vocals)—bring the rich legacy of American rock & roll into the present tense. This is thrilling music, muscular, immediate and life-embracing, steeped in tradition but addressing the present moment boldly and eloquently.
To get to this point in their evolution, SK6ERS (as their loyal fans fondly refer to them) simply had to come to terms with their collective identity once and for all, and producer Mark Weinberg had a hand in getting them there.
“Every time you make a record, you learn a whole bunch of new things, and this was no different,” says Kellogg, who formed the Sixers with Karlson and Factor eight years ago in Western Massachusetts. “When we met with Mark, he encouraged us to be unapologetic about who we are, not masking our influences but embracing them and running with it. He kept reminding us, ‘You’re not gonna be Bob Seger if you spend your whole life trying. You’re Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, so just play this music the way you write, from your hearts.’”
Kellogg chose to title the album Gift Horse for a clear-cut thematic reason. “When you name a record,” he says, “you’re looking for something that feels right. There’s the old saying, ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,’ which translated to me as showing appreciation for what you have.’ And I thought, that’s exactly what this record’s about - appreciation that I have a job right now in 2011, with all that’s going on economically in our country; appreciation for my family, because there’s nothing that I value more; and appreciation of America in general.”
By and large, the songs of Gift Horse are real-life narratives, most of them directly relating to personal experiences. “1993,” recounts Kellogg’s relationship with the childhood sweetheart who became his wife; the highway anthem “Who We Are, Who We’ll Become” is based on a piece of grandfatherly wisdom; “Watch You Grow” poignantly expresses a father’s love; “Song for Lovers” considers mortality in the context of a lifelong relationship; and “We Belong Here” is the album’s string-laden thematic centerpiece
“There’s not one lyric on the record that’s not about me or somebody I know,” he points out. “It’s gotten to the point on the last three records where my family is such a big theme, and I decided to close this one with ‘Noelle, Noelle,’ which is about our youngest daughter. The last verse is, ‘Someone asked me just the other day/ “How many songs you gonna write about those kids and the one you took for life?”/I just smile and say “As many as it takes.”’ I wrote the last two songs on the record, ‘Roots and Wings’ and ‘Noelle, Noelle,’ while we were making it. I realized I had more to say about the subject of family, and that makes me think it’s got to be a huge thing for a lot of people. So I try to write in a way that’s going to positively impact people without being too obvious or literal.”
At the same time, the album is set against the broader tableau of … Read More