Saturday, July 28, 2018

Kelly Willis Back Being Blue 2018 and Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis Our Year 2014

Time to catch up with Kelly Willis. Ms. Willis has a new one out, produced by her husband Bruce Robison, and backed by a great band. Kelly wrote six of the ten songs, and while she has benefited from past writing partners, it would seem that she's learned all she needs to from the experience. And the covers she has chosen are equally fine songs.

The title track leads off, and it is just one of her finer moments. A sultry Willis sings of losing her love to an old flame. "She's back in my baby's arms, I'm back being blue." Only You follows in rocking mode, as Kelly tries to understand the rationale of a cheating bum. Fool's Paradise is a sweet country ballad, and Modern World rocks again, and laments the pace of life these days. Freewheeling is a country weeper with fine fiddle accompaniment. Willis nails the sad side of country again with The Heart Doesn't Know, with a smart lyric delivered with feeling and twang. All of them from her own pen.

Ronnie Light's I'm A Lover (Not A Fighter) swings with Texas panache and a fun lyric. Geoff Queen's pedal steel guitar is just right for this two-step. Rodney Crowell's We'll Do It For Love Next Time is a perfect country tune with a great lyric. Afternoon's Gone Blind by Karl Straub is a sweet country ballad that Kelly sings perfectly, and more great instrumental talent shines on the fiddle and guitar lead break. Don't Step Away ends the program on an upbeat note, and leaves you wanting for more.

I've called Willis the finest voice in country, and there's nothing here to change that opinion. She continues to mine gold with every release, and Robison's analog production captures a band in fine form.
While Back Being Blue is the first new release from Willis since Translated From Love in 2007, she's released two excellent duet records with husband Bruce Robison, Cheater's Game 2013, and Our Year 2014.

Our Year is a highly successful follow-up to Cheater's Game, and may even improve on that record's formula. Kelly and Bruce take turns on lead vocals, and as great as Kelly is, Bruce is also an excellent singer, made even better with Kelly's harmonies. Song selection is impressively tasty. Bruce nails the sadness and melancholy of Departing Louisiana, Carousel, and Anywhere But Here. Hangin On is a beautiful love song celebrating the woman that gives "just enough to keep me hangin' on".

Kelly takes the lead on the rollicking Motor City Man, the yearning Lonely For You, and the title track, a cover of the Zombies This Will Be Our Year, which turns the baroque original into a sweet, simple country love song. Oh, and Kelly also updates Harper Valley PTA, backed by the spare, organic, country that is on display all over the record.

The band is perfect at every turn. The arrangements are simple country done with just right combinations of acoustic instruments recorded beautifully. I've said it before, but you just can't go wrong with Kelly Willis.

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