If Rascal Flatts is country music's clean cut, commercially palatable Beatles, then Reckless Kelly is the genre's Rolling Stones; grittier, more authentically influenced, rawer at the core even when their output is every bit as polished. The brainchild of Idaho brothers Willy and Cody Braun, Reckless Kelly was crowned Austin's Best Country Band in the city's 2008 music awards, an incredible honor considering the talent that inhabits every square foot of the Texas capital, where the Brauns have been based since 1997.
Since then, Reckless Kelly released five studio albums, two live sets, a greatest hits collection and recorded for four different labels, but it was 2008's "Bulletproof," their debut for Yep Roc, that proved to be the quintet's biggest success, nearly cracking the country chart's Top 20 and even hitting the middle of the pop charts. It probably hasn't hurt that they've made high profile and highly vocal fans like Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle and Kevin Welch along the way.
For their new album, Reckless Kelly takes on something of a concept project; "Somewhere in Time" is a tribute to Pinto Bennett, a renowned singer/songwriter and fellow Idahoan whose work had a big impact on the Brauns. Although on paper it might seem a risky proposition for Reckless Kelly to follow their commercial breakthrough with someone else's relatively obscure songs, Bennett's deeply felt cowboy songs of love lost and hard times fit the band like a tailored glove and they present them with the spirit and verve of their original material. Little Blossom kicks the album off with a Skynyrd-like fury, followed by the Springsteen/Mellencamp/Petty heartland country anthemics of The Ballad of Elano DeLeon (featuring vocal assistance from Joe Ely) and Some People's Kids.
But RK shows off their pure honky tonk chops with purer country fare like I've Done Everything I Could Do Wrong and the brilliant I Hold the Bottle, You Hold the Wheel, a fairly significant departure from the band's Texas Red Dirt/twang rock roots. Bennett himself even shows up on a couple of tracks, as do members of his revered Famous Motel Cowboys, but even as Bennett's songs form the foundation, it's Reckless Kelly's boundless energy and vibrant interpretations, both within and beyond their established country rock range, that make this album a tribute album that bristles with originality.