For their fourth full-length, BULLETPROOF, Austin, Texas' Reckless Kelly wring the tears out of roadhouse weepers and shred the asphalt in highway anthems with equal aplomb. With cranked guitar grit acting as the rock foil for the pure honky-tonk vocals, … see full wiki
Pros: Great drums, rocking tunes, well - crafted songs
Cons: Not country enough
The Bottom Line: Great latest album from the Texas-based country rockers
first became acquainted with Reckless Kelly a few months back when I heard a track played on Bob Harris Country on Radio 2. I was listening online and scribbled the band name down and the post-it sat by the computer for a few weeks until I finally got round to acquiring the album "Bulletproof" - one which could well end up winning the "Fizzywizzy album of the year" award when the announcements are made.
Reckess Kelly are a five piece "country rock" (I know how terrible that sounds to Brits) band based in Austin, Texas. I haven't been able to confirm where the band was formed, Wikipedia lists both Bend, Oregon (and who wouldn't want to come from a town with a name so great!) and Stanley, Idaho (a name so dull you have to hope they are from Oregon).
Brothers Willy (lead vocals and guitar) and Cody (vocals, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica) Braun form the nucleus of the band along with David Abeyta (lead guitar, vocals), Jimmy Mc Feeley (bass guitar)and Jay Nazziola (drums). Their first album was released in 1998 and 2008's Bulletproof is their eighth. The band's name is a reference to Australian outlaw Ned Kelly and the cover art of the Bulletproof album shows a man clad in the sort of armour that Kelly was famed for wearing.
I should say first that Reckless Kelly will never win any awards for originality, either in their lyrics or the music itself. However, they pen practically perfect country rock songs that are catchy, well-constructed and just that little bit cheesy. In typical American country rock fashion there are lots of songs about how great it is to be out on the road, a smattering of heartfelt love songs and a lot of rousing choruses and the obligatory guitar solos.
The energetic opening track "Ragged as the Road" is a perfect introduction for what's to come "I'm rolling faster than a locomotive, Tougher than the edge of the Rockies, Hotter than a smoking gun, Ragged as the road I'm on" while the second track, "You don't have to stay forever", slows the pace and injects some mellow keyboards before what is a really gratuitous guitar solo that you can imagine being played somewhere in the Grand Canyon in the video.
"Love in her Eyes" was an American single release and is one of the stand out tracks on the album. It's another rocky number that is bound to get the crowd going at live shows. If there is one track on this album that sums up Reckless Kelly's ability to craft great songs, it's got to be this. It has all the features that make a good song and moves brilliantly in pace from punchy verse, to superb guitar solo, a slowed down section perfect for live shows and then building to a crashing finale.
"Passin' Through" slows it down again and is one of songs that most fits the country label Reckless Kelly have earned; it's a mid-paced song, the sort of thing that US country radio stations play all day long. "I never had a chance" is a gentle ballad that brings in Cody's fiddle playing and has a lovely country feel. If I had one criticism it would be that the guitar section at the very end should have been pedal steel instead to give a warmer country vibe.
"Guy Like Me" is the sort of track that gives American country rock a bad name and in content reminded me of Shania Twain's "Man, I feel like a woman", which is a pity because the musical content is among the best on the album, especially the brilliant harmonica.
"American Blood" is an anti-war song about the way that there are lots of people in the USA making money out of the soldiers who are sacrificing their lives. Apparently there was some complaining in the States that the song was critical of the troops themselves but Willy Braun has publicly made his point clear incase the lyrics have been misinterpreted. I believe this is the first time the band have made any kind of political statement in their music and could be a result of having been working quite a bit with Steve Earle who is well-known for expressing his views in his music.
"How was California?" is another quite cheesy song but, again, it manages to almost redeem itself by featuring some great guitar work. However with lyrics like "Just like every place you go, New York City's got the blues" the music does have to work extra hard.
As much as I have enthused about this album there are some negatives. Personally I find that the sound tends more to rock than it should with the guitar solos often being gratuitous, especially when they appear in isolation at the start of some of the songs and not as a motif that carries on through the song. There is some pedal steel, but not enough and certainly not nearly enough fiddle. One of the last tracks "God forsaken town" demonstrates how this album could have been; the lyrics come from the point of view of someone from New Orleans trying to survive in the aftermath of Katrina. This is a track that could have come from a Richmond Fontaine album with its evocative blend of acoustic guitars and trumpet, the latter being a clever nod to the New Orleans jazz tradition yet used here in an entirely different way.
The very best thing about this album is Nazz's fantastic drumming; usually I hardly consider the drumming at all but it really does stand out on this album. More than the vocals or the energetic guitars, it is the variety of drumming styles and percussion sounds that sets Reckless Kelly apart. For a band like this it's not just rare but perhaps unheard of for the drumming to be the sound that drives the music but here it's certainly the case.
I have to concede that Reckless Kelly make the sort of music that is more appreciated in the US than in Britain; some might say its pretty unfashionable stuff, I say who cares what's fashionable - I never claimed to be that anyway! There's more than a touch of Springsteen, a great big dollop of Steve Earle in his rockier moments but other than that it's hard to pigeonhole because this stuff doesn't really get the airplay in the UK.
Mock me if you want, I love Reckless Kelly and this album gets my recommendation!
1. Ragged As The Road 2. You Don't Have To Stay Forever 3. Love In Her Eyes 4. Passin' Through 5. I Never Had A Chance 6. One False Move 7. Guy Like Me 8. American Blood 9. How Was California 10. Mirage 11. Don't Say Goodbye 12. God Forsaken Town 13. Wandering Eye 14. Bulletproof