King Cole – The Mean Season

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Great songs need five-star vocalists to properly shine. J. Buck’s soulful bray is the most powerful thing in Andrew “King” Cole’s new single “The Mean Season”, but it isn’t the only distinguishing element of this modern pop jewel. Buck, nevertheless, inhabits each minute of this recording with a freeing joy in his voice as it navigates through the verses and refrain. He brings the song’s lyrics to life as if he penned them himself and his obvious chemistry working with Cole, renowned songwriter Barry Coffing, and talented arranger Charles Calello. Each single from Cole’s new release is accompanied by artwork courtesy of Barry Gross and the imagery coupled with this particular single, a worked entitled “The Screamer”, nicely embodies the song’s emotion. The thought Cole and his creative partners put into this release is clear.

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It helps fully realize the work’s potential. The song’s musical influences are apparent throughout the entirety of the track – “The Mean Season” is thoroughly steeped in classic R&B and given an added twist with its funk leanings. The latter quality of the track, however, is never so pronounced it overtakes the track. Instruments such as horns and Buck’s own performances keep it well within the R&B camp. Much of that funky feel comes from the percolating bass playing rife throughout “The Mean Season”, but the drumming gives the track a bright step as well.

The lyrical contributions to the track are across the board effective. It won’t alter your perspective on life, it won’t push emotional buttons, but it speaks honestly to listeners from the point of view of personal experience and wants to engage as many people as possible. The same instincts that help shape the musical arrangement into such a satisfying vehicle are working throughout the lyrics as well – there’s no extra fat weighing down individual lines or the overall structure.

Buck’s phrasing elevates them. I cannot say if the vocal melody is his invention, it likely isn’t, but Buck owns the melody as if he imagined it himself and his comfort with the way it develops shows, if nothing else, that Cole and his collaborators understood well how to best utilize Buck’s gifts. He never dominates the track, but there’s no question in my mind he is the thing that will keep listeners revisiting this track and I hope Cole features him on other tracks as well.

The Florida based songwriter’s personal story is as compelling as the best songs and you’re advised to find out more. It isn’t difficult to hear or envision how the pivotal events in Cole’s life helped shape his songwriting point of view or extrapolate how it might affect songs you have yet to hear. There’s an internal consistency present in the heart of his songwriting that far outpaces what many of his peers serve up and it will keep me coming back for more. “The Mean Season” will hit a chord with many listeners. It’s a good way to describe a tumultuous 2020 and its relevance may extend into this new year.

Emily Knudsen

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