TK & The Holy Know-Nothings Keep the Cosmic Country Rock Flowing on ‘The Incredible Heat Machine’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Taylor Kingman – known to many as TK, the frontman of the Portland, OR-based TK & The Holy Know-Nothings – has described his band’s music as “psychedelic doom boogie.” And I’m hard pressed to find a better description. There are certainly plenty of Willie and Waylon Outlaw influences throughout, but just as strong are the heavy nods to ‘70s Cosmic Country cowboys like Doug Sahm and The Lost Gonzo Band, so pretty much anyone that played a sold-out show at Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters in its heyday. All of those influences mixed with a distinctly Pacific Northwest coating of edge to it.

As solid as their 2019 debut Arguably OK was, their latest album The Incredible Heat Machine is simply inspired. At times endearing and playful (the album opener “Frankenstein,” is laid back perfection), they are just as quick to tap into real emotions and sentiments. While “I Lost My Beer” is probably… fuck that, DEFINITELY the finest song about being so high you can’t find your beer, “She Wonders” just a couple of tracks later is a sadly beautiful song that finds the band wringing every bit of emotion out of this four-minute song. 

Recorded just two years after their debut (with an EP of odds in and ends thrown in to keep fans tied over), this one was recorded live with no overdubs. And you can feel that immediacy and consistency throughout all 11 songs here. While musically, both LPs are satisfyingly great, it’s the lyrics on The Incredible Heat Machine that makes it stand taller, tackling both the mundane (too high to find your beer) and the profound (trying to make ends meet, finding and keeping love and handling life’s disappointments along the way). Incredibly TK approaches both with a mix of humor, realism and humanity. 

“I like to alternate between plain-spoken truth and fragmented visions of painfully vivid dreamscapes,” Kingman notes. “Songs need a listener to be complete. And I don’t want to tell the listener what to think or do. It’s our job to present honesty, good or bad: an unfinished song from an unfinished life. And everybody hearing it gets a co-write because each moment is unique.”

The band is playing a couple of local shows in Oregon this month before heading out on tour opening for JJ Grey & Mofro. Catch them now so you can say you saw them live before the rest of the world caught on.

Photo credit: Matthew Kennelly

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