Reviews Zone

King Calaway: Rivers (BMG) 6th March 2020




5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)




A growing number of US modern country and Americana fans love this young Nashville band, but they really are far more mainstream and pop than just the country genre.

Just breaking through in the US, but over here, they have only had one live show so far – at London’s Gibson Show Rooms – but BBC Radio 2 playlisted the title track of their debut album and recently booked them for a live session on the Michael Ball Sunday show.

They were due to appear at the Country2Country (C2C) festival, but it has been cancelled because of the current Coronavirus situation.

The dozen cuts on debut album “Rivers” – released in the US late last year and here on 6th March – are faultless and should propel these young guys to international stardom.

Five big fat stars for the songs, the musicianship, the vocals and the production….But it is the spectacular six-part close harmonies – and the fact this band do not have one lead singer, but there are three, that makes this one very special indeed. Jordan, Chad and Simon.

Before coming together in 2018, bandmates Caleb Miller, Chris Deaton, Simon Dumas, Jordan Harvey, Chad Michael Jervis and Austin Luther all pursued their own solo careers.

They could all sing. They could all play. And one by one, they all found their way to Music City, Nashville, drawn to the city by its rich, diverse music scene. One guy from Scotland, one of the guys from Gibraltar and four US citizens.

All six are accomplished and experienced musicians, despite their young ages. From the guitar-playing youngest member of the band, Caleb from Ohio — who became a professional studio musician at 13-years-old — to Austin, a highly trained bassist from Minnesota who toured the world with multiple acts before joining King Calaway.

Simon first earned an audience at home in Gibraltar, with his expressive piano playing and pop-oriented song writing, while Jordan from Edinburgh, is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist who played drums before becoming one of King Calaway’s main vocalists.

Chad from Delaware, a lifelong vocalist whose past includes theatre productions and cross-country gigs. Tennessee native Chris played drums for performances on the CMA Awards, with artists such as Steven Tyler and Jennifer Nettles.

Co-producers Robert Deaton and Ross Copperman are most certainly the unofficial seventh and eight members of King Calaway for their sterling work on this record.

As further evidence that these six chaps really know their stuff….Sorry, let’s make that these eight chaps, including the brace of producers, all dozen tracks were done in one take and recorded “as live” in the studio”. For the strength of these harmonies, that is something.

A team of no less than 31 song writers are responsible for the 12 songs here. None of the King Calaway six contributed to the song writing. No shame in that at all, as the art is to find the very best songs for a recording project, no matter who penned them.

A singer must serve the song or go sing karaoke…But for anyone knocking an artist who doesn’t write their own songs, we’d be here all week if I listed all the megastar bands and singers who became famous with other people’s songs, but the likes of The Beatles and The Stones and Sinatra were all singing covers back in the day.

The opener and current single, “No Matter What”, is a strong start. A hooky Ronan Keating / Boyzone / Take That commercial track. The shared lead vocals and the amazing harmonies grab you and don’t let go until the last note of the final track.

“More Than I Do” is in Lonestar territory. One cover, the Stephen Stills classic “Love The One You’re With”. Great version and could have been written for this band.

Former single, the title track “Rivers” is a magnificent pop and rock anthem. The voices sound fabulous, as do the guitars.. Penned by RuthAnne Cunningham, Teddy Geiger, Bruce Felder, Tom Parker and OJM.

What we are actually dealing with here, cards on the table, is a BOYBAND. Shock!Horror!

Six young, good looking, uber-talented singers and musicians with a bunch of mega-commercial but credible songs, ready to dent the top of the charts in many countries, and to notch up many “sold out” arena tours globally in the next few years.

But mention the “B” word, as in Boyband, and many people above the age of 14 will grab the crucifix and string of garlic. A stigma attached, as many boy and girl bands are “manufactured” and put together by the music moguls with one aim, to make lots of $$$$ £££.

Well, I understand that the boss of BMG apparently recruited these six individual guys and put them together to form this band.

When you hear this record, and know that this band are already thrilling packed stadiums and arenas across the US as opening act for big names such as Garth Brooks and Rascall Flatts, appearing on big TV shows such as Jimmy Kimmel and even a guest spot on Aussie TV soap Neighbours…..

There really is no place at all for snobbery or stigma at all. Great music and gifted talent speaks for itself. But first, you gotta listen. Go on….

One of the most infectious and hooky tracks is “Obvious”. Radio hit all over it. Written by Steven Lee Olsen, Nolan Sipe and Brandon Day

They slow down the pace for the first time on the record, at track # five, with the lovely “Missing You”. The harmonies are to die for.

The single “Driver’s Seat” is an ear-worm, with its sing-along “Ohh ohh ohh’s” – and I guess people liked it, based on these eye-watering social media stats: 1.5 million listens a week and a staggering 38 million streams to date.

“Grow Old” is a wee bit Mumford and Sons or The Wandering Hearts, and a rousing slice of alt. folk/Americana.

“I Do” is a killer song. Template boy band structure, just needs six stools! Sweet ballad with superb harmonies. Arena-ready and destined to prompt 20,000+ iPhones to light up and sway side to side. Hats off to writers Ross Copperman, Jon Nite, Brad Warren and Brett Warren.

Very nice job on the mid-tempo “Picture of The Way You Are” with U2/Simple Minds treatment on the guitars.

“World For Two” is probably my favourite of the set, for the glorious hook, the glorious vocals, the glorious art of song writing by Ross Copperman, Josh Osborne and James Abrahart who have crafted a bit of a pop masterpiece.

Sole cover, “Love The One You’re With” precedes the final cut, an emotional ballad “I Did”, from songwriter Logan Turner. Just piano, lead vocal (shared) and beautiful Eagles’ style close harmony backing vocals.

King Calaway have a BIG sound. A stadium sound. They will go postal. Sure of it. Most definitely one for Music Republic Magazine’s “Best Of 2020” round-up at the end of the year. We cannot wait to see and hear what these boys do next.

As audacious, as assured and as accomplished a debut album as you will hear –  oozing with quality and class that few bands and artists get to achieve even after many albums.

But these boys, this band have done it after less than two years together and with their very first album. Yes, they’re a Boyband. Get over it!!


By Simon Redley



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