As the frontman of Alter Bridge and the Mayfield Four, plus the vocalist for Slash’s solo projects since 2010, Myles Kennedy has distinguished himself as one of the most powerful and unique voices in hard rock. In his first solo album however, Kennedy takes a more stripped back approach, delving into blues and country as well as hints of a more eastern sound evoked by a mandolin in some songs. It’s a grand departure from his usual style, but works extremely well in telling the album’s deeply personal story.
As a Christian Scientist, Kennedy’s father died in 1974 – the titular Year of the Tiger – after refusing medical treatment due to his faith. The title track opens the album by introducing the story from the point of view of Kennedy’s mother (a perspective which he continues to dip in and out of throughout) and immediately establishes the country-esque tone that permeates most of the other tracks.
‘The Great Beyond’ is perhaps the closest to Kennedy’s previous work, unleashing his full vocal might on top of riffs that echo some of Alter Bridge’s more dramatic songs. ‘Blind Faith’ then returns to a more bluesy sound, as Kennedy explores his frustration at his father seemingly choosing his religion over his family, in one powerful line recognising his father’s uncompromising faith, but then asking “is it worth it in the end / to never see my face again?”.
[pullquote]An upbeat, powerful tribute to his mother's strength and resilience[/pullquote]
Arguably the catchiest track is ‘Haunted by Design’, which fast forwards to Kennedy as an adult and explores how the tragedy continues to shape his worries and anxieties. The lap steel is used here to great effect in providing a keening, thoughtful backdrop to the intricate finger-picking riff. ‘Mother’ is another standout track, with Kennedy leaving behind the more reserved tone of previous songs in an upbeat, powerful tribute to his mother’s strength and resilience, which allows him to again show off his full vocal abilities.
This is followed by the much more sombre ‘Nothing but a Name’. Here, Kennedy addresses the questions he was left with following his father’s death and the accompanying sense of abandonment; “Your conviction, your belief / how could you choose that over me?” is a particularly poignant lyric. Equally powerful is ‘Love Can Only Heal’, the turning point in the album’s narrative where Kennedy begins to come to terms with his feelings, reaching its climax in a beautiful guitar solo.
The album ends on a more upbeat note, with the uplifting “Songbird” celebrating the endurance of love. Bringing the record to a close is the slightly more reserved but equally hopeful “One Fine Day”, seeing Kennedy optimistically looking to the future, ending on a high as he lets his unique voice shine one last time.
Year of the Tiger has been a project long in the making for Kennedy, having already written and recorded an entire album and then shelved it because his usual hard rock tendencies were diluting the themes too much. His decision to explore new musical territory outside of his comfort zone is a resounding success, resulting in a record that showcases Kennedy’s diverse talents as a musician and tells a moving, emotional story. Exploring his father’s death in such a way is no doubt a cathartic act for Kennedy; it’s a testament to his talent that he evokes these feelings so keenly that the listener can’t help but share in them.