Heart of a champion

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers offer an engaging blend of pop influences.

Katrina Wilber

This is one of those albums that makes you swear you’ve heard it somewhere before, you’re just not quite sure where. Then again, that’s what happens when the band’s frontman combines a Counting Crows modern rock edge with a bit of Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac folk rock.

“Bulletproof Heart” is the first offering from Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, but this band is anything but a bunch of starry-eyed newcomers hoping to hit it big. Each musician has an extensive background with many other groups, and this collaboration looks like one that’ll be around for a while. We can only hope.

The middle of the song “Thirteen” sounds secondhand, like someone recorded it off of a radio from the other side of the room. The song pays homage to summer romance memories, back when there was “nothing so unlucky about being thirteen” and all the girls “seemed so confident back then / French kissing boys into men /Ö I wish my vacation never had to end / Hey now baby where you been?” This catchy tune brings an involuntary smile to the listener’s face, and the lyrics gently flow from one verse to the next.

The band proudly avers that the word “heart” appears 20 times on the record, but the connotations are as varied as Kellogg’s musical influences. That simple yet oh-so-complicated word could show up in a sweet love ballad and then pop up in a bitter, angst-filled song about a dead-end relationship. The contrasting styles, from hard rock to upbeat pop, make every song unique.

A carefree childhood is a recurring theme throughout the album, and in “Summer” the singers croon, “It wrecks me to think of the callous spring / Gradually pushing me out / Making me further from Summer / From my youth and the dreams and the doubt /Ö Tell me, why couldn’t Summer hold on?” His questions are rhetorical, but they slither down and start pecking at the conscience, begging for an answer or even an idea for a solution.

As if that wasn’t enough, “Diamond” also shows the versatility of the musicians. The backup vocals sound just like those of the Beatles, and if it wasn’t for Kellogg’s tougher baritone voice singing the melody, one might confuse the track with a long-lost Lennon/McCartney song.

The voices of the three singers smoothly blend and intertwine; a strong baritone rises to meet a rough top vocal that mixes with a subtle middle voice for a trio that’s just as good as the chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors in Neapolitan ice cream.

“Bulletproof Heart” grabs hold of the listener from the first strum of the guitar, carries them through the whole album and refuses to let go until the last chord fades out.

Just go along for the ride, since the CD starts down at soured relationship street, takes a left at happy memories boulevard and rolls right on through good times square.