Tony Kevin Jr. – “Poverty”
Tony Kevin Jr. at Conor Byrne Open Mic ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
The next name you’ll be hearing lots more about from the Conor Byrne open mic crowd is Tony Kevin Jr. Following in the footsteps of other open mic regulars The Head and The Heart and Bryan John Appleby, Tony’s potent poetry and bell clear voice is starting to make people take notice far outside Conor Byrne’s warm brick walls.
This week Tony Kevin Jr. has shared three songs off his latest DIY EP, Poverty. And if a three-song EP can be a concept album, Poverty is it. Three inter-connected songs that explore the larger socio-political ideas of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa, non-violence and selfless giving, as well as focusing on the individual application of those ideas. Tony’s songs are as much about being kind to and forgiving ourselves as it is about doing the same with others. While some of the imagery, concepts and titles of the EP stray into soap box territory, this isn’t a sermon and there’s a deft delicateness to Tony Kevin Jr.’s song-writing and singing which hints at future greatness.
Future as in the final song on the EP and its title track, “Poverty.” Available as a free/donate what you want download through midnight tonight, “Poverty” is an aching anthem that is certain to sing to many people. It speaks of the poverty that Mother Theresa rallied against here:
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
It is a poverty that seems ever more prevalent in a world where Facebook and social media encourage shallow relationships, where friendships become all about what you “like” about someone and your cutest photos, but not the messy human parts of relationships. A society that says you have 200 friends, but still no one to call when tragedy strikes at 3am, when you’re down in the dumps or you just need a shoulder and a laugh. It is this loneliness, the sense you’re alone even amid a crowded room, that weaves itself within all of Tony Kevin Jr.’s songs. It is palpable in the bare quivering refrain of “Poverty” – “I need someone tonight.” The emotional emphasis on the word “someone” in the chorus gives a distinct, almost desperate feeling that what Tony really means is “anyone.”
On the song this refrain is sung by a chorus of friends and family, Damien Jurado, Bryan John Appleby, Rory Corbin and little brother Kramer Kevin, people who came when called upon, people who showed up. (In the song’s debut performance at Conor Byrne Open Mic, the backing vocals were sung by Jon and Josiah of Head and the Heart and Bryan John Appleby.) And while this is an album of “sad songs,” there is a serendipitous beauty and silver lining to it. In the process of recording and releasing “Poverty,” in the act of sharing it with us all and asking for help from friends in recording, singing and spreading the word about the EP, in confessing he needs someone, anyone, Tony Kevin Jr. has lessened not just his loneliness and poverty, but that of those who participated through listening and contributing. We’ve all done something more than mindlessly saying “I like this” with a click of a mouse.
“Poverty” is a protest song for our day and age. This is a call to make a change. This is a note to say lets care more about each other off-line than on. This is a confession: this song was written for me. And I suspect, many of you feel exactly the same way. Lets say “Hi” the next time we see each other.