For years Irene Kelley has been one of the best kept secrets in Nashville, weaving her magic into song after song for artists like Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood, Loretta Lynn, Rhonda Vincent, Carl Jackson, Claire Lynch, Pure Prairie League, the Osborne Brothers and others. But last night it was her turn at Nashville’s world famous Station Inn.
One look around the room spoke volumes about the friends, fans and colleagues she’s made over the years, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to hear the voice and lyrics from one of Music City’s top talents. This was a capacity crowd; not an easy thing to pull off in a town awash in music and live performances. But then after all, this was Irene Kelley.
On the eve of the official release of These Hills, her fifth project to date and the second for Mountain Fever Records, those fans were in for a special evening indeed.
Flanked by a rock solid group of her peers consisting of BJ Cherryholmes, Wayne Southards, Mark Fain, Matt Menefee, Ross Holmes, and her daughter Justyna, the show opened with a smooth version of Carolina Wind, an original co-authored with Milan Miller and Thom Jutz that’s already attained #1 status on both the Bluegrass Today weekly and monthly charts.
As the evening progressed, Irene shared backstories about the songs contained on the new project. Johnson’s Hardware Store, a song co-authored with Ronnie Bowman, that revisits a time gone by was a crowd favorite, as were Lester’s Song and the title track to the new CD, These Hills.
Peter Cooper may have summed it up best: “Irene is nothing like much of what we hear, and something like most of what we seek. Her voice has a break to it, and in that break I hear truth and love and the places where truth and love come to fragile reconciliation.”
Out today, These Hills is a must have for everyone who enjoys her inventive songwriting or any good bluegrass music.