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Irene Kelley

Simple Path – 1999 (IRK)

Reviewed by Holly Gleason

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CDs by Irene Kelley

Irene Kelley, the veteran of two-still born major label record deals, is further proof that there+s no place in Nashville for pristine acoustic-driven country music. With a voice like a silvery ribbon, Kelley sings songs that muse about the jagged edges of real life disappointment and the saving sweetness of everyday anchors.

It+s not a flashy thing Kelley does. Imagine a more knowing Alison Krauss, a witness to the way things can go so wrong, a survivor who+s figured how to make her way through the conflicting paths and stories, a shimmering presence who knows what her music is supposed to be - and revels in a spare mournful line from Aubrey Haynie+s violin, the dreamy bed of Peter Hyrka+s wheezing accordion and the comfort of her voice caressing a melody that comes straight from one+s own heart. Drawing on co-writers ranging from country hipster Kim Richey to bluegrass+ exquisite Claire Lynch, this is an album about quiet resistance. There is no miltant stance about walking away from a system gone seriously awry...just the quiet witness to what could+ve been had Nashville let this woman offer her voice to the mix.

And Music Row+s loss is most certainly music lovers+ gain. (Available for $15 from IRK Records, PO Box 642, Hermitage, TN 37076-0642)