Keith Welsh – Where My Belly Hangs

Keith Welsh
Where My Belly Hangs

Welsh could represent the softening of the American hardcore scene. Perhaps the strict discipline of social-standards is being relaxed to allow for a new pluralism as far as what constitutes good music? Then again, a part of all scenesterism is the ability to succeed based on who you know independent of the style of music you play, unless of course you are accused of “selling out” (terminology that may be applied without regard for your popularity or financial status). I don’t read Maximum Rock N’ Roll very often, so I’m not sure if the punk critics have demonized Welsh yet or not, but his ability to tour with hardcore acts despite the fact that his recent singer-songwriter work makes Cat Stevens sound like a tough guy indicates that he is getting away with it. And hell, why not? His straight-up approach to music, with the nakedness of vocals and guitar without anything to hide behind, demands respect. His singing style is personal and open but more commanding than vulnerable. His are not the crazed eccentricities of old-time music, nor the self-indulgent “empowered” stylings of modern folk (e.g. Ani DiFranco). Welsh neither alienates listeners with decontextualized individualism nor beats them over the head with a particular formula that he has falsely claimed as his own. Instead, he takes the well-beaten path of chord progressions and song structure used in countless ditties past and uses them as vehicles for his own voice.

“Where My Belly Hangs” is a solid example of Welsh’s technique and songwriting prowess. Lyrically, the song is personal but uses images that most of his audience will be able to relate to. His weathered melodies are those that we have heard before, but much like the words “I love you,” they of course sound different and fresh every time you hear them about yourself. Gentle and somber in place of shy, this is a loving song of quiet adoration – contemplative and almost sexy, although not in the sensuous way that a good soul record can make your spine quiver.

Welsh writes simple love songs, whether or not they are about love. There is not a lot else to mention about his music, although despite being so simple, it is rarely boring – and as he progresses, he adds a flourish of other instruments to his songs, which make the mix a little more diverse and memorable.