ROBBY K – His Burden is Light
(2005 Telemark Blue Sky)
Like Van Morrison in his enlightened phase, McFarland’s Robby Kjonaas adorns his songs with such elegant instrumentation that the overtly Christian lyrics blend seamlessly into the whole. More direct in his lyrical approach than Morrison, Kjonaas nonetheless doesn’t abandon the mysticism entirely for Biblical references. His Burden is Light is seven songs featuring six different lead vocalists. Six songs stick squarely in the grooving, soulful pop-rock that made albums like Morrison’s Beautiful Vision so endearing. Only the last number, “Beautiful Houses,” strays from the formula; the arrangement suddenly turning to church-tent polka and the lyrics addressing that treacherous Satan. Kjonaas’ mid-range, single-coil guitar tone is reminiscent of Chris Michie’s from that period in Morrison’s catalog and the title track features the muted trumpet tones that made Mark Isham such a vital part of those records.
“In My Father’s House” is a rollicking number with the most soulful lead vocal and strong, supportive harmonies. Kjonaas’ guitar has just the right amount of slap-back to keep the rhythm bouncing. Heidi DuCharme’s flute on “Glory Bound” makes the piano/acoustic guitar arrangement a thing of beauty; airy and melodic. Doug Jones’ organ playing brings life to “Sinned” and “Back in Your Loving Arms.”
There are a few minor inconsistencies; both rhythmically and in some of the lead guitar tones that have that grainy, direct-to-the-board sound, but they are overcome by a very clean mix. At times the vocals are a bit stiff as if the music was being performed in a congregation, but overall the delivery is relaxed and natural, especially in the first five tracks. The album was recorded at Telstar Studios and was produced by Kjonaas and Jones.
Kjonaas wrote all of the compositions on the album. I swear, however, that I’d heard “Back in Your Loving Arms Again” somewhere on a Three Dog Night album, but perhaps the melody is just too close to “Old-Fashioned Love Song.” It’s a good performance, however, and the chorus is memorable, if familiar.
Kjonaas is a sincere and motivated man who is also looking to promote some music events at the Masonic Temple. He is interested in doing something productive in the community while bringing the celebration and joy of musical expression into people’s lives. The world can always use more of that.