Unlike the title of the album and the cover photo suggests, Snow White Memories from singer/songwriter Irene Kelley is not a holiday album, but a contemporary bluegrass recording filled with gorgeous original material from start to finish.
The opening track, Wild Mountain Stream, contains lots of symbolic imagery. Irene’s delivery of the song really makes the “cool clear waters rushing to the sea” vivid within the imagination of the listener. As with all of the songs on this project, this track contains a dynamic group of instrumentalists and vocalists. Along with Irene on lead vocals and her daughter Justyna on harmony vocals, this piece also features Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, Matt Menefee on banjo, Adam Steffey on mandolin, Cody Kilby on guitar, and Mike Bub on bass.
Come Some Winter Morning pairs Irene with the Kruger Brothers. Co-written by Kelley, Ronnie Bowman, and Terry Herd, this was an appropriate choice for the collaboration to record. This track also features the Krugers’ longtime bassist, Joel Landsberg, as well as Jody Call on cajon.
4th of July in My Hometown was one of several standout tracks. Written by Irene and Justyna Kelley along with Steve Cropper, this piece contains warm nostalgic sentiments about simpler, carefree times, as well as a strong sense of patriotism and gratefulness for those that have served our country. Country star Trisha Yearwood provides harmony vocals on this song, and instrumental backing is supplied by Jesse Brock on mandolin, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes on fiddle, Scott Vestal on banjo, Josh Williams on guitar, and Mike Bub on bass.
Another standout is the energetic gospel number, Satan, Get Behind Me, by Irene and Bill Whyte. With Scott Vestal’s banjo in a low D tuning, the song’s melody has a punchiness that matches the lyrics and message of this track perfectly.
The title track Snow White Memories is very much a family affair. Featuring beautiful vocals from Kelley and her two daughters, Justyna and Sara Jean, this song was also written by Irene and Justyna. It’s one of the most memorable performances on this entire project.
Although Can I Tell You is the only track not written by Irene, she performs it so believably that it sounds like she might have penned it. Co-authored by Phillip Ehart, David Hope, Steve Walsh, and Richard John Williams, this piece has such a solid rhythmic groove. Once again featuring Irene, Justyna, and Sara Jean Kelley on vocals, this track also features some tasteful mandolin playing from Aubrey Haynie.
Snow White Memories is Irene Kelley’s fourth bluegrass-oriented project. It’s a wonderful offering chock full of original material with superb backing talent bringing each of these songs to life.