By Conor Hooley
There’s a lot to like here, whether or not you’re a fan of bluegrass. With The Only Way I Know, Pete Kartsounes has created an endearing, workmanlike album with a tight structure and lots of pleasant instrumentation. Much thought and planning went into this piece, as it really does come off as a well-sequenced, properly arranged album – the structure is great.
Kartsounes’ own performance certainly does his album no harm. The songwriter has an excellent voice that has just enough polish and ruggedness. He sounds equally at home in both the album’s quieter, more introspective moments, as well as the more energetic, up-front jams. His singing on “Sweet Surrender” and “Takin’ Steps” is somewhat reminiscent of Springsteen, in fact.
“Moonlight Romance” is probably the pick of the bunch here: It’s a bare-bones-but-quite-catchy number that sounds like a bluegrass companion to Van Morrison’s similarly-titled “Moondance.” Girls could get away with calling it cute. Guys probably couldn’t.
With all that being written, another thing must be said: This stuff is pretty hokey. Take the chorus of “Takin’ Steps” for example: “Live your life, take your steps, use what you need and give all the rest! Yeah!”
Kartsounes’ lyrics, centered on his extensive travels, his hopeless romanticism and humanist philosophies, endlessly strain for big, transcendent musical moments, but fall well short. Listeners with a relentlessly positive outlook on life will eat this stuff up and wash it down with a glass of sunshine. The rest will probably find it a bit corny.