Kirk Mann bears a physical resemblance to the late, great Harry Chapin and that’s of note because if Chapin were still alive today, “Johnny,” the opening track on his new EP, East Wind, would be something Chapin would have written. An interesting and thought-provoking, character-driven story, it’s by far the release’s standout track.
The other songs, however, go in a different direction. While they are still in the Americana, folk, singer/songwriter world, there’s an undoubtedly hippie feeling, at least lyrically, with verses about nature complete with lines like “ecstasy and no confusion, breaking free of all illusion.”
“Sleep” is a strong ballad, with a haunting feel that would fit well in a reflective scene in a movie montage. But despite the great melody, there’s more talk of rustling leaves, nightingales and maple trees. By all means, if you’re prone to being one with nature, Mann has you covered — but with an intense track like “Johnny” starting things off, you’d hope to hear more of the same.
Outside of the writing, the musicianship is excellent: great harmonies and background vocals, quality instrumentation and production. There’s some really tremendous guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, throughout. Mann can play and clearly surrounds himself with those who can do the same.
In the end, it’s important to note that East Wind is really only a four-song EP, considering that the fifth song is an instrumental of the title track. If it was full-length, it would be more telling to see where Mann’s vision as a writer is, overall, out on the highway kicking it with questionable guys named Johnny, or deep in the woods grooving out with a peaceful dragonfly.