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Kelly sounds ready for the long run

Great Scott Boston, Boston, October 25, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

To say that life has not always been so easy for Ruston Kelly would be a vast understatement. Perhaps the positive way to look at his long-running, but hopefully in the back mirror, substance abuse issues are that he sure got one real good album out of it, he's looking healthy, and on his first tour, he's sounding like he should be here for the long run.

Kelly has a bit of a smoky voice, sounding like he's smoked a few too many cigarettes (he used to). He also has a winning personality, telling a few stories along the way and easily engaging with the crowd, who sometimes would sing along. Not bad for only having an album, which is on the Americana side of country, out seven weeks ago.

Kelly offered a few brand new songs as well, "Into the Blue" and "Alive," with both fitting in well with the rest of the set. Kelly performed the latter solo acoustic, a song thanking his wife for helping him.

Kelly got a bit cute on the down and dirty "Asshole," which he has released independent of the CD. The song minces no words - it's based on Kelly being arrested, thrown in the pen with two coked-up prisoners and bailed out by his wife.

Kelly's honesty came through crystal clear with lines like "Taking everything for granted/The moment someone does something nice I take advantage/Easy breezy only when it pleases me, I've been told I'm kind of an asshole."

Or "Dying Star" Kelly sang, "I'm a dying star, front seat of your car/Where you brave the cold and come find me falling apart/Brought me out of the dark/I went way too far this time."

The song is an ode to his wife, Kacey Musgraves. Kelly made clear in comments and song that she was a powerful force in helping him overcome his problems.

Live, Kelly received more family help in the form of his pedal steel player, T.K. Kelly, who doubles as his dad. T.K. marked the songs with more of an overt country feel, even though his son fancies himself as a rocker. He isn't.

In country, it seems so rare for heartbreaking stories like Kelly's to be presented in song. Kudos to Kelly for having the wherewithal to do so. And even more so for getting it together to be able to bring it live.

Long may Kelly run.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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