Late in the album we finally arrive – A Long Drive Home To Tarzana and The Great Highway feel like they might almost have something to say – but until then, Americana is an embarrassment. A ghastly, turgid crawl through country-rock settings that appears to be getting a free pass because – hey! – it’s Sir Ray Davies of The Kinks you know. And the backing band is The Jayhawks.
The music, unsentimental, neither stirring nor exciting, is perfunctory, white and guileless. The lyrics and vocal delivery like a corny, humourless wedding speech that goes on. And then on.
I love The Kinks but Ray Davies has never made a good solo album. What does that tell you about how great his songwriting is? Either he needed the band or he’s run out of mojo. Probably both.
Americana is receiving some rave notices and that feels infuriating. It’s as if people are reviewing the knighthood, rewarding long service, or deciding that this great, quintessential British songwriter must be clever for turning his attention to America. Well, some things don’t translate. And Davies’ longwinded rambles here, whether monologuing about the time Alex Chilton told him that a good song “cheats time and makes you feel safe” or putting across a sad-fuck character in The Deal (which feels creepy and not well written) just groan and grate and sound almost completely without competence. Not what you want from the songwriter that offered up such towering works as Waterloo Sunset, Days, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and however many other gems you care to mention.
This is almost comically bad. Just the fucking pits. If anyone else’s name was on the cover it would be 1-starred out of town, sent packing, back to Blighty…