Kelly’s Lot has just released a new album. It’s titled Another Sky. But first, for those not yet familiar with the band in question, a bit o’ background.
The Los Angeles-based band Kelly’s Lot was formed by singer-songwriter and guitarist Kelly Zirbes in 1994. Two years later, Zirbes met guitarist and soundman Perry Robertson. Robertson produced Kelly’s Lot – Live at the Troubadour’ and soon signed on with the act and began writing songs with Zirbes.
According to the official Kelly’s Lot website, the act has a flexible roster and performs as “a duo, a 4 piece or a full 8 piece band.” Today the 26-year-old multi-piece group has a resume that includes 14 previous platters and tons of touring both in the US and Europe. Their material has been heard on television and in motion pictures.
The band’s tuneful trademark is usually a boisterous blend of multiple music genres including Americana, blues, folk, roots, southern rock, and west coast soul. On this disc though, their sound is more of a mix of alt-country, contemporary folk, and roots rock.
The disc includes 12 tracks. Zirbe leads the way on (vocals and whistle). She is backed by co-producer Perry Robertson (guitar), co-producer Doug Pettibone (guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, background vocals), Art Mendoza (drums and percussion), Matt McFadden (bass), Bobby Orgel (B3), Paul Kennedy, and David Grover (upright bass), Aubrey Richmond (violin), and Phil Parlapiano (accordion). On the website, they discuss the origins of this new release:
“In May and June of 2020, Kelly Z and Perry worked with Doug Pettibone to record a new selection of contemporary folk and roots rock songs. Six of the songs on the album were inspired by words from fans on Facebook. Kelly Z challenged them to look in their hearts and share just one word. She then challenged herself to choose a word and write a song in two hours.”
Track by Track
The album opens on “Butterfly.” It’s a pretty piece rooted in contemporary folk music and appropriately sets the mood and tone of that which is yet to come. In a previous communique, Zirbes said she hopes the song makes people smile when they listen to it. It’s a musical metaphor for loved ones.
The second selection is “I Will Find You Again.” Co-written with Robertson, this nigh romantic song concerns those employed in the military and work in foreign lands. It has apropos percussion and a definite roots rock and Irish influence and features Rob Zucca on guitar and Jeri Goldenhar (background vocals).
“Foolish Try” was co-written with Pettibone. It has a definite Latin or world music feel to it and comes complete with bilingual lyrics to boot. It’s the first example of how the two work together to produce a song that has its own sound but still fits in with the other material on the album.
Not to be confused with Paul McCartney’s 2001 song of the same name, this “Freedom” is a slower, sad ballad. It’s almost reminiscent of something one would have heard decades ago in some hole in the wall club while others might claim the underlying message is still even more relevant somewhere in the world today.
They pick things up again with “Took It Back.” This one was co-written with Robertson and Pettibone. This track is another tuneful team-up. You can almost hear the familiarity here on this song of lost love and determination.
The next number is the positive “Tangled.” Somehow this has a real retro feel to it although it’s brand new. The cut is highlighted by a memorable duet by Zirbes and Pettibone.
“The Irish Luck” was co-written with Robertson. This one is fun and obviously big with live audiences. It features Aviva Maloney on penny whistle and Jeri Goldenhar on background vocals.
“Simple Man” may be a bit overshadowed by previous pieces but it still maintains its own musical identity due in part to Bill Johnson guesting on clarinet and a bit more of that Latin touch.
The segue into “Lock Me Up” is surprisingly wonderful considering the album’s random origins. The songs fit so well together. It’s the result of yet another tuneful team-up with Robertson and Pettibone.
“Christmas Is Calling” is a welcome seasonal selection. It’s the perfect response to those people who insist on cranking up crusty Christmas music far too early in the year. Put this one on and enjoy something new yet apropos.
“Sleep On It Tonight” features the vocals of Rick Monroe. This endearing and no doubt enduring song was co-written with Pettibone. It’s one of the best songs on the CD and yet another example of how the two work together to produce a song-story that has its identity but still fits in with the other material on the album.
The album endnote is “Hurricane.” It’s a strong closing cut with Rob Zucca on guitar and Frank “Cisco” Hinojosa on harmonica. This one is definitely soundtrack ready and radio-friendly.
Overall . . .
With a running time of over 46 minutes, this disc is both welcomingly familiar and refreshingly new. As usual, the band puts in an energetic and at times heartfelt performance. What is nicely surprising is that the group backs away from the blues they have played the past 15 years to present listeners with a dozen original tracks that most pleasantly return the act to its folk music origins complete with interesting international elements. So check out Another Sky by Kelly’s Lot and experience the “Hurricane.”