The 60-something(?)-year-old Keijo comes from Finland. I guess I didn’t realize Finland’s road—that long and traveled one, over all those spots rough and smooth—looked so much like the one we know and love. Like the same road the early bluesmen walked down. Dry and dusty or wet and swampy. It’s hot out there. Sweltering.
Keijo isn’t re-telling their stories on “Boom Town” exactly. They’re his own, born of his generation, and they certainly share an affinity for the same kind of pain those old 78s had (see: Sub Rosa’s excellent recent compilation, I’m Going Where the Water Drinks Like Wine). He’s shedding, sweating, working off the weight of issues we still face. Exhaling society, age politics, death, stock market crashes, defeated love… and oh, how it pains the way only the blues can soothe. Keijo’s deep-South style like a back scratcher, combining just the right voices all recorded just the right way. “Boom Town” sounds like a small band of pipe-smokin’ gents out on the porch, playin’ those blues away. Harmonica, bottleneck solos, and that sultry-sad rolling swing. The guitar style, the lulling accents and bluesy turns, are just exactly right. And Keijo keeps it in the realm of modern music with some pretty mean electric, too, and the more you listen, the more it sounds like the blues and the more it doesn’t. Because Keijo also gets freaky. As authentic a sound he’s able to capture, it’s still strikingly original and experimental, psychedelic and plodding ahead with junkyard percussives and clamoring, trashy jams, especially toward the end of the record. And his voice, blind as a bat, searching for the pitches while nailing the melody’s arc, soulful in its sandpaper texture that somehow wraps around your ears in a comforting way.
Keijo’s been making music for more than 30 years now, and though this latest record centers on themes of distance traveled, the great journey and experiences contained within, you can’t help getting the hint that the end is in sight, which of course is quite sad. “One more year to wonder,” he sobs on “After Another,” staring death in the face, addressing an ominous truth with haunting beauty and scared curiosity. Though I’ve got plenty of work to do on his back catalogue, “Boom Town” still sits in my CD player as a quiet masterpiece, one I’ll spin over and over again to remember and yearn for what I can only hope doesn’t turn out to be the end. “We don’t live forever,” he says. So true. Scary and true. Always almost there.