Kotulka kicks off Hi-lows with a folksy guitar-and-harmonica tune called “Born to Try” that seems to have a familiarity to it the first time you hear it. After a few listens it becomes apparent that the song is melodically very Dylanesque but a bit masked in that Kotulka’s voice on the track sounds more like a muffled Randy Newman.

Kotulka doesn’t have a particularly distinctive voice, but he works hard here to distinguish his oeuvre; that of the rarely satisfied artist like, say, Neil Young. On “Caroline” he’s waiting for the song’s title character to get it together, on “Hi-lows” he sings “it wasn’t good for you/it wasn’t good for me” and on the rave-up “Dumb,” well, that’s pretty much self-explanatory.

It’s refreshing to hear Kotulka crank it up on “Love’s the Profit” where he spits rapid-fire lyrics while letting the band rock out. Besides that one song, though, Hi-lows is tough to listen to; the hooks are weak on the upbeat numbers, and the downer songs don’t convey enough desperation to get any listener empathy. Kotulka may sell a few of these CDs at live appearances, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else being interested.

Grade: D



Hi-lows is currently available.