Most of Madison is no doubt unaware that there is a certified star that’s been living in their midst. Since moving here from Orlando in 2007, Kyle Henderson, formerly a member of power-pop sensation the Producers, has kept a relatively low profile. With the release of Life Goes On, all that should change. Henderson’s story traverses the range of human experience. You can read about Henderson in our feature story here.
Though he’s been performing as Kyle Henderson’s Blue Eyed Soul, a crack band currently featuring bassist John Christensen, ace guitarist Mike Ripp, drummer Michael Brenneis and jazz artist Alison Margaret on keys and backup vocals, Life Goes On is not a Blue Eyed Soul record. Henderson enlisted his son Ted to assist in creating the drum and bass tracks and the Jimmy’s Jimmy Voegeli provides keyboards while Ripp and Margaret do make contributions of their own. Hall & Oates’ resident saxophonist Charlie DeChant rounds out the lineup, adding his parts from a studio in Orlando, Florida.
One only needs to hear the leadoff track “Aeroplane” to recognize the talent and sensibility that Henderson brings. This is a classic three-minute gem of pop song; a peppy beat, a catchy melody, a sure-fire hook. But what has always made the pop song so immediate is its ability to lay bare a fundamental truth: a broken heart, a lost lover or acquaintance, a tinge of sadness or in this case, regret. “I’m on an aeroplane under someone else’s name / I fly alone while trying to forget / this storybook I call my regret…Aeroplane won’t you come back / I’ve left myself on the tarmac / I wanna go home,” Henderson sings over a bubbling bass line. DeChant’s saxophone is the perfect icing on the cake here.
A few songs on the album steer more toward the blues. “Ring Around Your Finger” and “Watch her Dance” are both funky blues workouts, the latter featuring an impressive keyboard solo from Voegeli. “I Been Down” is blues rock with a great guitar solo from Ripp. “Winner Take All” has a political message with references to Wisconsin’s current sorry state of affairs.
But when Henderson stays in the pop vein he really shines. Many of the songs on Life Goes On are about just that for Henderson, who has seen more than one man’s rightful share of pain and loss. When you understand that, songs like “Daddy Don’t You Cry” will simply rip at your heartstrings. A very Beatle-esque number, this is the moment of truth for the album. Voegeli’s organ hits the emotional nail right on the head, the backup vocals get brought up in the mix to deliver a powerful punch, and Ted Henderson turns in a beautiful guitar solo. Top it all off with the infectious melody and you’ve got a masterpiece that would make Elton John envious.
“On Your Memory” is another one of these. Dealing directly with his grieving process (the loss of his eldest son in 2009), Henderson delivers a soulful vocal line over a stuttered rock beat which is again perfectly accented by DeChant’s sax.
Life Goes On will immediately take you back to a time when music was everything, not some immediately dismissible collection of ones and zeroes that you can download in a minute and delete in even less. A reflection of a man’s life deserves more than that and, if you’re like me, the next time you bump into Henderson about Madison you’ll find yourself resisting the urge to just give him a hug. There is sorrow in loss but there is joy in the discovery that music still has the power to translate, heal and even redeem.