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Kevin Welch likes ‘Life Down Here on Earth’

It’s the day after his 40th birthday, and Kevin Welch is still reeling from a surprise party thrown by family and friends.

The not-so-subtle cake was the kicker.

“It had little footprints that went up over a hill and led to a tombstone,” he said recently, “and in front of that it said, ‘Still ain’t pushing up daisies,’ and the tombstone is surrounded by daisies.”

“Pushing Up Daisies” is the opening track off Welch’s stunning third album, “Life Down Here On Earth,” which marks his debut on the artist-owned-and-operated Dead Reckoning label. Based in Nashville and distributed by Rounder, Dead Reckoning is a dream come true for Welch, Kieran Kane, Harry Stinson, Tammy Rogers and Mike Henderson.

Now that he has turned 40, Welch is more appreciative than ever of his life down here.

“One of the birthday cards I got listed the things people say when you turn 40, like ‘I don’t feel any different than when I was 25,’ ” he said. “I’ve probably said them all at one point or another. But what helped me was thinking about the last decade, from age 30 to 40, and really how much has happened in those 10 years, like two of my kids being born.

“When I started thinking about it like that, then I went, ‘Oh, I have a whole other decade ahead of me.’ I’m thinking surely I’ve got past all the screwing up and hopefully can now get down to business.”

The business at hand is “Life Down Here On Earth,” an authentic country-soul-gospel stew filled with fresh writing and a keen wit. The reviews for a truly Americana album free of big-label hype and manipulation have been overwhelming, making it all the more interesting when Welch says he wondered what the reaction would be.

“We cut it in two days,” Welch said. “Most of them were first takes. Very little discussion went into them, as far as arrangements, and I don’t remember if we even rehearsed.”

No matter, “Life Down Here On Earth” rings clear and authoritatively, just like Welch’s first two albums on Reprise – “Kevin Welch” (1990) and “Western Beat” (1992).

It was after his disheartening major-label stint that Welch gathered with his Nashville buddies around a dining room table and mapped out the strategy for Dead Reckoning, tuned strictly to the artists and the songs.

“We started this officially on Jan. 1 of this year,” Welch said, “with the assumption that we would get no radio play whatsoever with anything. At the time, we were prepared to simply sell records out of the house, the trunk of the car, over the telephone or over the computer. Our feeling was that as long as we kept our expectations, our goals kind of reachable, we could make ourselves happy.”

It’s more icing on his birthday cake that the music industry, even the big labels, have responded positively, Welch said.

“In a lot of ways, we’re acting on the same kind of frustrations that a lot of people in the business these days have, and for that reason, I think a lot of people are quietly pulling for us.”


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