In his short career, Kyle Craft has established himself as one of music’s sharpest and most gifted songwriters. For the Shreveport, Louisiana native, the music is secondary. The words are what counts. His debut, Dolls Of Highland, was a break-up album like no other, filled with Ziggy Stardust-like characters and stories that would make Kurt Vonnegut envy. He one-ups himself on his rollicking sophomore album, Full Circle Nightmare.

Whereas his first record was a personal one, LP number two could be interpreted as a compendium of stories about women from Craft’s imagination (or possibly actually encountered), as a commentary of American life, or a little bit of both. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between.

The raucous, ’70s rock ‘n roll number “Fever Dream Girl” opens the album with a bang. Sitting behind his trusty piano, Craft bangs hard on the keys while delivering witty one liners about a group of men lusting over a single woman. The story continues on the similarly uproarious “Full Circle Nightmare”, which sees Craft or some other guy spend a night with this mysterious female. Despite her unpredictability, he cannot get her out of his mind. Craft continues to stir the pot with “Exile Rag”, which sounds like it came out of My Morning Jacket’s deep playbook. This time, however, he describes how the tables have turned, where an older man’s lust sees him broke at the hands of the woman he desired. Intentionally or not, the songs challenge people on their perceptions of women. Are they seductive beings or have we, society, objectified women?

Craft offers answers on the next two songs. On the sure-to-be crowd pleaser, “Heartbreak Junky”, which tinges with a touch of Americana-soul, Craft admits his guilt. As he reveals,

“I want to back to the girl I had before.
She was so sweet baby, so sweet maybe.
I could reconcile what I ripped into
The haphazard love I was making with you.
Yeah I made it with you.”

Meanwhile, he channels his inner Dylan and Springsteen on the classic-folk rocker “The Rager”. As the arrangements create a gentile atmosphere, Craft describes a woman with destructive habits and who performs in front of select clientele in order to make ends meet. And he is one of them, one of those who would take advantage of another person’s misfortune. Unfortunately, her story doesn’t have a happy ending, which is the case for tens of thousands of Americans. Another way to think of this brilliant number – “The Rager” is Craft’s equivalent to Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, a song about the decaying of America and we, men, are primary the cause.

Craft does get a bit personal in the album’s second half. The bombastic “Belmont (One Trick Pony)”, which soars with fiery guitar work, is Craft sharing his frustrations about trying to keep up with his partner. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the surprisingly tender “Slick & Delta Queen” has Craft pouring out his emotions and seeking forgiveness for his mistakes. Similarly, the Americana-drenched ballad, “Bridge City Rose”, sees Craft transform into Glen Hansard and recount a story of his true love. For all the chasing and womanizing he did in the past and for all his misfortunes, he still has that one person and that one moment to hold on to.

On Full Circle Nightmare, however, there are plenty of moments for us, the listeners, to remember. Its modern-take on classic rock and country-rock will leave music enthusiasts recounting the ’70s and ’80s while lovers of great stories will relish his vivid tales. As such, the record is a reminder that rock ‘n roll can still sound fresh, and there will always remain a place for the great storytellers like Kyle Craft, who one day will become the standard to which all are compared.

Full Circle Nightmare is out now via Sub Pop. Order it at the label’s store or on Bandcamp.

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