Reckless Kelly: Bulletproof

By: David Higdon

Music has the power to inspire, move, heal, provide awareness and just plain groove. Some bands may choose one theme and carry that through a whole album. Other bands bring what they’ve got into the studio and let the pieces fall into place. Reckless Kelly falls into the latter category on their fifth studio album, Bulletproof (released June 24 on Yep Roc), which addresses socially relevant topics while never abandoning the barroom roots rock revelry that has garnered them a devoted cult following.

Recorded at Willie Nelson‘s famed Pedernales Studios in Austin, the Texas rockers have delivered 14 beautifully mixed tracks that play with a much harder rock edge than the country tinged albums of their past. The country spirit is certainly alive in Cody Braun‘s fiddle work on “Never Had a Chance,” but it’s Cody’s younger brother and principle songwriter Willy Braun whose grungy baritone vocals on songs like “A Guy Like Me” reminds us what this band’s always been about.

I’ve got a bad boy reputation
And I’ve earned it on my own,
But even bad boys are good for something
And there’s no harm in a little fun.

Casual fans will find an album full of supercharged rock ‘n’ roll highlighted by guitarist David Abeyta‘s fiery solos, but returning fans will notice a maturity that has developed in the songwriting. While the past few years has seen a great number of albums released in all genres of music, there has not been an onslaught of bands using the medium of song to protest our country’s current situation (James McMurtry‘s Just Us Kids is a notable exception). There sure hasn’t been any “Ohio” or “Machine Gun” during the Bush II era. However, Reckless Kelly has taken this opportunity to address the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina refugees in the Robert Earl Keen co-penned “God Forsaken Town.” The boys even address the current war in Iraq on “American Blood” by accurately depicting how the leaders of our country sit high and untouchable above their violent decisions.

Well, George is a real go getter and he’s running the show
He should’ve known better, but his old man told him to go.
He sits at home with his feet on his desk,
While the boys got theirs in the sand,
A million miles away with American blood on their hands.

These boot wearing rockers aren’t trying to make the next great protest record; they’re just singing about what they’ve come to know after 11 years on the road. It’s not an overstated point to the album, and they’re simply addressing some of the overwhelming events of our lifetime. It’s good to know someone’s paying attention.

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