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Reckless Kelly

Bulletproof Live – 2019 (No Big Deal)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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This live collection was recorded at multiple venues in 2018 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Reckless Kelly's highly regarded Yep Roc release "Bulletproof." Most of the band from the original recording remain in place on the live set with frontman Willy Braun and his multi-instrumentalist brother Cody Braun along with drummer Jay Naz and lead guitarist David Abeyta. Bassist Joe Miller replaces Jim McFeely, and keyboardist Bukka Allen is added to the mix.

The band is equally compelling whether performing country rockers or ballads. "One False Move" and "Wandering Eye" in particular spotlight Abeyta's hot lead guitar licks while "A Guy Like Me" is driven by the bass as noted by Willy Braun's introductory urging of "how about a nice round of applause for Joe "Bass" Miller" in one of the few interactions with the audience. The most impactful rocker is "American Blood" with it's condemnation of the Bush administration's wars in the Middle East ("Now George stands up on a boat proudly waving a flag/He says the hard part's over and he knew it wouldn't be so bad") that remains tragically relevant over a decade later.

Perhaps the strongest ballad is the forlorn "I Never Had a Chance," a tale of not of lost love but of preemptive self defeat ("I soon cast aside all those foolish thoughts of romance"). Other highlights are "Mirage," featuring Allen on accordion, and "God Forsaken Town" spotlighting Cody Braun on fiddle.

For the most part, songs are presented in the same order as on the 2008 release, the one addition being an effective cover of Jimmy Rodger "California Blues (Blue Yodel #4)" inserted following "How Was California?" With the arrangements throughout being essentially unchanged, the performances on this live compilation are just as powerful as they were on the studio recordings.