Kelley McRae - The Wayside
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The Wayside (Self-released, 2016)

Kelley McRae

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

Kelley McRae and her husband, Matt Castelein are vagabond Americana musicians, traveling the highways with their music full time since 2011. This latest CD, all from her pen, explores a variety of emotions. This is quiet, contemplative music, suggesting you close your eyes to listen and digest the phrases she sings. "I don't know how to reach you anymore, too many years of keeping score." If love has ever turned sour in your life those words will ring true. Listen to McRae, with an electric guitar carrying the music behind her, tell the story of good love on the rocks, searching for a way to make it good again. "Hard Night" has an engaging tune and some interesting lap steel woven throughout, but you may struggle with understanding the lyrics. It's mixed with the instruments loud, close to overwhelming the vocals. You're teased, striving to understand her message.

"Red Dirt Road" is a lively number with an extended musical break, perhaps the track with the most drive. There's a variety of instruments on the CD - piano/keyboard and bass, pedal and lap steels, cello, violin, mandolin and bouzouki. - adding a level of interest. The arrangements are tasteful, keeping the music from becoming humdrum.

"Land of the Noon Day Sun" has an engaging guitar melody running through it and, listening to it, you'll likely find yourself lost in the music, enjoying it, but not sure why. That seems a common theme in most of the tracks: they make for really good listening, but you find you're not sure what the lyrics say. They are mesmerizing without clarity, messages like grey paintings in a dark room. No doubt, some will knowingly nod their heads, indicating full understanding without proving anything, while most will just accept the good feeling that comes from the music.

Perhaps that's all that matters. This isn't a Mitch Miller singalong. This is a CD you'll play over and over and perhaps never understand why.

CDs by Kelley McRae

The Wayside, 2016

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