Reckless Kelly have oodles of people to thank on their liner notes—from Steve Earle letting them use guitars to The Sopranos to Kim Richey to Ray Kennedy. Such a group should mean that this album is par for the course with this label, country without the “new” or “manufactured” tag associated with it. And when Robert Earl Keen writes about the group’s sound, well, it’s best you pay attention. This album begins with the roots rock sound of “Let’s Just Fall”, a mid-tempo song that has just a bit of spit and polish in its verses and especially the chorus. The keyboards and guitars don’t have much of a punch to them, and lead singer and songwriter Willy Braun doesn’t add much to the proceedings. Fortunately, “Nobody’s Girl” has more of a hook to it in the vein of the Mavericks and the aforementioned Earle. It also has “single” written all over it.
The group works better on the ballad tracks. “Desolation Angels”, which speaks of being around and still looking for what you need, doesn’t consist of the routine alt.country dirge arrangement. This song often comes across as the Americana version of Matchbox Twenty, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “We’ll roll down that Western Coast / Fields of green / Valley’s of Wine / Saint Theresa don’t you worry / We’ll make it on time”, Braun sings as the supporting cast each play their parts. The flow of the song is another plus, making the five minutes fly by. Much slower is the traditional country sounds of “Everybody”, a tune Steve Earle or Blue Rodeo would nail time and again. Here, Braun gives one of his best performances one of the album’s best tracks. They keep the momentum with the infectious roots pop of “I Saw It Coming”. Instead of relying on fiddle or pedal steel for this one, Reckless Kelly opt for a straightforward Springsteen rock sound.
Under the Table & Above the Sun
US: 13 May 2003
UK: 19 May 2003
Bands like Meanflower and the Coming Grass have much in common with Reckless Kelly, straddling the line between alt.country and a more polished and refined country pop. “Vancouver” has that great swinging or swaying feel to it with David Abeyta on lap steel and Cody Braun on electric mandolin. If there are any drawbacks, it might be the lack of a slightly longer fade out to round out the track. “Willamina” starts this album’s great run of songs—a mid-tempo rock track that has enough Americana to please nearly everyone. It’s the first track with a pop-like melody also. Here though the fade is too long. Oh well, I’ll have to have a chat with them. “Mersey Beat” resembles Celtic rock band the Waterboys plopped down in the heart of Georgia—a very gritty Southern track with a quirky arrangement. The middle portion of the song has some totally bizarre Middle Eastern influence that comes figuratively out of left field.
Another asset to the album is that it’s very difficult to skip over any of these songs. “Set Me Free” doesn’t disappoint initially, although it takes longer to get its footing. A big problem here is the song runs out of steam quickly at the midway point, resulting in a series of solos from the supporting cast. Loose and losing the plot, “Set Me Free” is the first so-so song here. “Snowfall” is another slow melodic ballad about being on the road and looking to get back home. There’s some fine guitar solos near its conclusion as well. Finishing with the waltz of “May Peace Find You Tonight”, Reckless Kelly isn’t as reckless musically as one might assume. Under the Table & Above the Sun is an album reeking of alt.country’s greatest assets.
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