Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers

"You try and you try and you try again/But you can't try enough," Stephen Kellogg sings on "Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts," a key track from The Bear, his latest recording — and that pretty much sums up his worldview. Through much of the album, he comes across like Horatio Alger with an acoustic guitar, certain that bad times are temporary conditions: Witness the "Everything's gonna be fine, fine, fine" hook that distinguishes "Oh, Adeline." True, Kellogg, who'll share the Fox stage with Carbon Leaf and Toby Lightman, occasionally dabbles in downerism. But even on "Dying Wish of a Teenager," he can't resist underscoring lyrics about ropes, chairs and hopelessness with a soaring chorus that symbolically tells the protagonist not to give up. This attaboy attitude would wear thin sooner than it does were it not for Kellogg's abundant melodic gifts and a refusal to surrender, musically or otherwise. Because if at first you don't succeed...


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