Review: Kiefer Sutherland goes country on ‘Down in a Hole’
Kiefer Sutherland, “Down in a Hole” (Warner/Ironworks)
The actor best known for racing against time as agent Jack Bauer in “24” slows down and unwinds on his debut album, a collection of 11 rough-edged country songs.
Kiefer Sutherland has a gravelly baritone and a fondness for stinging guitar licks. He’s described the album as “the closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal or diary,” but the tracks — credited to Sutherland and songwriter-producer Jude Cole — cover well-trod hurtin’-song territory: booze, breakups, regret and fragile hope.
At his best, Sutherland conveys a battered world-weariness, as when he sings on “My Best Friend”: “Most of the people that I’ve known have let me down or caused me pain, most of the people that have known me, too, probably say the same.”
The album has an unexpected, unvarnished authenticity that is pleasant, if sometimes familiar. The fierce “Down in a Hole” brings to mind Tom Waits’ similarly titled “Way Down in the Hole,” though Sutherland’s voice lacks Waits’ distinctiveness. “Gonna Die” evokes late-period Johnny Cash, but Sutherland is no Johnny Cash. Still, who is?
“Shirley Jean” is a death-row ballad — and like other songs of that ilk may strike some listeners as maudlin. Tougher and better is “All She Wrote,” full of gritty soul. And Sutherland’s musical influences come together nicely on “Not Enough Whiskey,” a boozy ballad tinged with pedal steel and melancholy.