Words & Images by: David Higdon
Reckless Kelly :: 04.18.08 :: Variety Playhouse :: Atlanta, GA
In this day of instant celebrity and text messaging talent, an honest rock 'n' roll band still finds their footing by kicking open squeaky bar room doors with a dusty boot night after night, just looking for the opportunity to play a few songs that might win over a couple new fans. An honest band sees the ugly truth revealing itself all too often as the house lights brighten and the exodus begins. An honest band has spent enough time passing mile markers to realize that worrying won't help but playing music sure might.
Reckless Kelly's constant touring over the past eleven years has seen them crisscrossing this great nation of ours in a musical campaign to bring their fire branded country to music fans everywhere. Much like their famous namesake, these touring workhorses pulled into town kicking up a dust storm that didn't settle until the wagon pulled back out onto the highway. This Texas group greeted the audience at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse the best way they knew how, by diving right into the music.
"Baby's Gone Blues" was a lean opener that found Jay Nazz's pounding drums building upon guitarist David Abeyta's intro before welcoming the others in the quintet to a full fledged scorcher that proved we were in store for a country show served with a 110-proof rock 'n' roll chaser. The inclusion of Cody Braun's fiddle and mandolin into the raucous music infused a winding, up-tempo quality while simultaneously adding homey familiarity to a song like "I Still Do" that could almost make it a lost outtake from the Marshall Tucker Band's Searchin' for a Rainbow.
The confident, throaty vocals of singer-guitarist Willy Braun accent a pointed determination in a catalog that has already garnered the attention of such musical stalwarts as Joe Ely and Steve Earle. After changing out the electric for an acoustic guitar and addressing the crowd with the opening strums of "Wicked Twisted Road," it became obvious by Braun's delivery that his lyrics weren't written just to sing along to while balancing a beer in each hand. With just the right amount of emphasis left in his projection, his storyteller sincerity remained intact without ever softening the song.
David Abeyta :: 04.18 :: Atlanta
Having just completed the recording of their seventh album, Bulletproof, at Willie Nelson's famed Pedernales Studio, the night was a perfect time to debut "Ragged As The Road I'm On." As the new song with the galloping drum beat unfolded, the drinking and swirling audience greeted the number with total acceptance and encouraged the band to keep the party going - an easy request for a group that's been voted Austin's "Best Roots Rock Band" six times over.
There's no better way to pay tribute to one's hometown than by covering one of its musical heroes, which the band did by ripping into a fueled up version of Austin's own Alejandro Escovedo's "Castanets" that garnered a large response from the crowd and grins from ear to ear on the boys.
Live music has a way of bringing influences to the forefront. Just as some Reckless Kelly songs find themselves deep in outlaw country, others find a jagged rock edge jutting out. During the train track churn of "Floodwater," the band opened the door wide on their influences. Shifting the tune into a nice "Third Stone from the Sun," the transfer slowed things down just enough to keep bassist Jimmy McFeely maintaining the familiar groove before bringing the volume back up as the opening riff to "Helter Skelter" began shaking the house. There was no question that this show had graduated from a song-based rock show into an extended groove session as the solos were passed around before seamlessly returning the jam back into "Floodwater."
With an album due out on Yep Roc Records and a tour that extends into October, it was once again time for the band to pack up and swing out onto the road to spread the word and convert fans one stop at a time. They certainly picked a few new ones up in Atlanta.
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