Reckless Kelly,
Was Here
(Sugar Hill, 2006)

When this Reckless Kelly live set -- two CDs and a full-length DVD -- showed up in the mail, I figured I'd sample a song on the DVD, a preview, nothing more, to check out the picture and sound quality. At the end of the first song, I told myself, "One more." At the end of the second, I thought I'd try a third, and an hour and a half later I realized I'd watched the entire thing.

Reckless Kelly will do that to you. These guys, an up-and-coming country-rock band from Austin, Texas, have put out a few previous albums, but their reputation rests on their live shows. Listening to these CDs and watching this DVD, you understand why. These guys rock.

The opening song features lead singer and rhythm guitarist Willy Braun playing electric guitar while David Abeyla plays slide on an electric. So far, it's a standard lineup, but the band shifts away from the conventional by having second vocalist Cody Braun play mandolin. The mandolin cuts through the mix, adding a country flavor to the solid rock the guitars and rhythm section provide. The song "Sixgun" is seven minutes of solid rocking Texas roadhouse music. They finish it up and swing directly into another one, a six-and-a-half-minute up-tempo rocker that drives as hard as the first one. Only after these two does Willy switch to an acoustic to play rhythm on the slower songs. And when the band does slow down Cody puts aside his mandolin for a fiddle.

Because the band is from Austin and they've chosen to record this stuff in an Austin club, listening to this set is like having a high-energy group of friends invite you and everybody they know to their house. The audience knows their stuff and applauds the opening notes of songs, as well as singing along with the band. It's one of those parties where the crowd is as important as the act. And the band appreciates the way the crowd appreciates them. They work hard to give their fans all they have, offering a variety of music in their set.

You get the feeling that you'll never be able to predict what's coming next. A country ballad will be followed by a folky number, which will lead into a Richard Thompson cover and an Irish jig. These guys will definitely keep you off-balance.

Whatever they choose to do though, you can count on a couple of things. Wherever they take you on their musical journey, you'll be glad you went along and if you weren't a fan of theirs when you put these CDs on, you will be when they finish playing and you take them off.

by Michael Scott Cain
17 February 2007

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