Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Unaka Prong - Kudzu CD (album) cover


Unaka Prong

Crossover Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars With their fifth full-length studio album--all since 2015--the enigmatic, hard-to-pigeonhole band of boys from North Carolina continue to stretch themselves out in multiple directions while, as usual, never taking themselves too seriously (despite the customary incredibly tight, sophisticated song constructs). I have to say that with this album the band touches most closely and most consistently with that quirky intelligence of the first three Steely Dan albums of the 1970s--which is amazing since NOBODY has even come close to capturing the true, unadulterated spirit of those albums since. 1. "Kudzu" (1:53) a funny, cute, tongue-in-cheek introductory narration parodying doomer sci-fi. (4.5/5)

2. "On My Own" (4:16) sounds like a kind of collection of rambling notations from a particularly long and boring stretch of somebody's road trip. Funny in it's over-the-top exaggeration and self-deprecating lampoon--but, damn! can these guys create beautiful music! (9/10)

3. "Birdsongs" (5:35) a classic Unaka Prong, nature-inspired, impressionist piece in which the lyrics and vocal delivery are mysteriously emotionally gripping. I, too, like to pick apart birdsongs. Cool to hear guitarists Mike Welsh and Dan Stephenson experimenting with new sounds--and to hear keyboardist Chris Pope up front and loud in the mix. I don't know how these guys always seem to manage to create chord progressions that seem to pierce my soul, but that little section between 1:41 and 2:05 has done it again! Perhaps my favorite vocal ever from Dan Stephenson. And Chris is definitely channeling Zazu-era Donald Fagen here! (9.5/10)

4. "Sam the Inventor" (6:08) opens with a neat exercise in proggy time discipline before the song turns into something that sounds as if it came from Steely Dan circa 1973-74. Astounding! Even the vocal, despite not being anything like the voice of Donald Fagen, has a Donald Fagen-like quirkiness to its delivery. Then the instrumental parts are like a jam with the ghosts of Denny Diaz and Skunk Baxter (who are both still alive) duelling it out with Mr. Fagen. (8/10)

5. "Lake Jam #6" (5:30) the best of the Lake Jams (so far)! Chris Pope continues to shine though everybody is super clear, super involved, and super good on this one. Love the two guitarists' completely different sounds and styles-- playing off each other magically. A kind of Larry Carlton and Donald Fagen smooth jazz classic. (9.5/10)

6. "Fishing Report" (4:18) Adrian Belew-King Crimson meets Steely Dan. Musically, lyrically great. (8.75/10)

7. "The Ocho (Lake Jam #8)" (4:48) feels like a continuation of the excellent music behind the fishing report before going more Larry Carlton/The Jazz Crusaders jazz-fusion instrumental jam on us. Incredibly tight band play with John, Jonathon, and Chris's stellar play beneath those amazing guitar rhythmists. (8.75/10)

8. "Suspend Your Disbelief" (4:11) more well-composed and tightly performed, albeit countrified music (as the Dan were also known to do) with an innocuous vocal. Appreciated but not my favorite. (7.75/10)

9. "Phenobarbitol" (7:01) the first half is a little too much like "Come on Back" from Salinity Now! for my ears, and then it oddly, and inexplicably, shifts into a four-chord country rocker. As I am not a lyrics guy, and the second half of this is totally lyrics-driven, this is just not my cup of tea. There are some redeeming parts (these musicians are too talented to phone in a whole song), like the nice Ozark Mountain Daredevil-like guitar work at the 5:30 mark and then an awesome keyboard arpeggiated passage to lead into the guitar outro. (12/15)

10. "Such a Blur" (4:18) sounds like a cross between an example of the early style of The WHO, The ANIMALS, and something by BOB DYLAN--until 2:36 when a guitar and cymbal coda leads into another section of the 1960s blues- rock chord progression that is the song's foundation. (Maybe a little Nirvana in there as well??) Cute. (8.25/10)

11. "B.C. Budz" (5:13) a great little funky, jazz instrumental on which Chris is again allowed to really shine. Such great sound! (9/10)

12. "Shifty" (2:50) the musical companion to a hilarious video. What I'll call "lazy punk" or "too-late-at-night punk jam" or "we're all out of beer" music. Nice work on that axe, crazy man Mike! (8.75/10)

I was worried after the first couple songs that this was going to turn out to be an example of a sloppy "publish or perish" / do anything to try to stay in the public eye, but I was wrong! As usual, the band step and provide incredible studio engineering and production, as well as top notch play. You can tell that these are five musicians who continue to want and work to grow and explore. The lyrics are perhaps a little more humorous and loose than is typical over a whole album for these boys, but there is still heartfelt meaning and expression here. While I feel that each and all of the individual band members were allowed to experiment, express, and grow within this album, I do feel that Chris Pope's extraordinary keyboard prowess was finally allowed to really shine throughout the course of most of this album. Yeah! Whereas John Hargett's drumming was the real kicker for me on Salinity Now!, it's time to give the gold medal to Chris for this one.

B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collections: there are gems among the weeds.

Report this review (#2584548)
Posted Sunday, August 8, 2021 | Review Permalink

UNAKA PRONG Kudzu ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of UNAKA PRONG Kudzu

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.