Mountain Fever 190510
There are songs about feelings and moments in time, but some of the best are story songs with characters so real their personalities leap out between the notes. Irene Kelley demonstrates she can write all three. Co-writers includes Terry Herd, Jerry Salley, Ronnie Bowman, Billy Smith, Bill Whyte, and her daughter Justyna Kelley, among others.
The album begins with a train song (“Something About A Train Sound”) and ends with a gospel number (“Walk With Me Today.”) “Bluegrass Radio” was co-written with Salley and includes harmonies from Justyna and Jerry. Favorite line: Nothing like a Carter Stanley song to satisfy my sentimental bone. “Cabbage Head,” the title cut, and “Out Of Arkansas” are fine story songs with intriguing characters. “Cabbage” has Wayne Southards and Dale Ann Bradley on vocals. Buy the album to find out how poor old Cabbage Head became the hero of the town. “Out Of Arkansas” is about a young woman determined to escape bad memories at home. Like many bluegrass tales, things don’t end well.
“Benny’s TV Repair” is a sweet vignette about the singer’s brother in Pittsburgh who dressed like a working man and smiled like a millionaire and taught himself to fix anything he could find parts for. “Thunderbird,” co-written with Billy Smith, has Native-American overtones and bears repeated listening to understand the spiritual layers of the song. “Hills Of Home” and “Highway Back To You” are about home. In the latter, the singer is coming home to someone and making plans to start all over and leave this crooked road behind. Another great line: I went looking for a rainbow. The only thing I ever got was blue.
Darin and Brooke Aldridge sing harmonies on “Faster Than Angels Could Fly” and “Walk With Me Today,” both co-written with Bill Whyte. The former is a sparkling memory of exuberant young love, and the latter is a prayer for the day-to-day, step-by-step relationship with the Lord. Irene sings like an angel, and is ably backed by Bryan Sutton, Adam Steffey, Stuart Duncan, Matt Menefree, and Mark Fain. Irene made her way in Nashville as a successful country music songwriter. We’re thrilled she has found her way back home to bluegrass and look forward to the music to come. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)NCW