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Ruston Kelly

Dirt Emo Vol. 1 – 2019 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Ruston Kelly

Do we really need an Americana artist's version of emo songs? Well, Ruston Kelly seems to think so. If you've ever wanted to hear unplugged versions of Wheatus, Dashboard Confessional and Saves The Day songs, "Dirt Emo vol. 1" is your big chance.

It's not all emo, however. Kelly does a fine job with the Carter Family's "Weeping Willow." He gives it a darkly moody reading, which makes the recording fit right in with the rest of this sadly morose eight-song collection. Wheatus's "Teenage Dirtbag" is performed twice; once live, once in the studio. The other non-emo cover is Kelly's take on Taylor Swift's "All Too Well," which proves - as if it was still even necessary - Swift is a strong songwriter.

The EP's overall sound is quietly acoustic, without any of the histrionics usually associated with emo music. Emo, put simply, is manically depressed punk rock, and Kelly has kept the depression, and foregone the punk. The project points back to many of Kelly's primary musical influences. If nothing else, it's encouraging to find an Americana artist inspired by something other than classic and Southern rock. But do we need this release? Probably not. However, it gives added context to Kelly's overall catalogue, at least, and he's one artist well worth keeping an eye on.