It’s been an interesting early 2016 for the Kelley brothers. Younger sibling Charles has briefly stepped away from his Lady Antebellum duties releasing a solo album and now we have a new project from Josh, his first studio album since ‘Georgia Clay’ in 2011.
‘New Lane Road’ is named after the road that runs alongside the Kelley ranch near Salt Lake City and the album features compositions that Kelley describes as his batch of songs “born out of the land we live on in Utah”.
His father’s voice features on the title track. The result of a secretly recorded phone conversation, and his daughters also appear on a number of tracks.
His wife, movie star Katherine Heigl, directed the video to the first single release ‘It’s Your Move’ and brother Charles co-wrote ‘Call It What It Is’ and ‘Take It On Back’.
It would be misleading however to merely describe this project as a country album. Kelley’s earlier career took him in a rock/pop direction and he delayed recorded his first country album until signing with MCA Nashville in 2010. There is very 70’s sound that pervades throughout this project. Think Crosby Stills and Nash or even James Taylor.
The dramatic opener ‘It’s Your Move’, a piano-driven tale of a previous domestic that occurred at the beginning of his married life with Katherine, is the lead track that will be released to radio.
The song that I suspect this project will be remembered for however is ‘The Rock Who Found A Rollin’ Stone’. It features the best use of a steel guitar we have heard for some time. Instrumentation can often transform a song from the standard to the exceptional and this is certainly the case here.
‘Call It What It Is’ is an 80’s throwback. Almost Billy Joel or, dare I say, Phil Collins but it works because Kelley isn’t looking to make an album with boundaries. He states that his aim was to present “a batch of songs that I like”. It’s Kelley’s tribute to his musical idol Jackson Browne.
‘Take It On Back’ is Kelley’s homage to the soul and gospel performers that were a permanent fixture on his turntable.
“I still hear that Soul Train whistle blowing and wish that groove had never stopped” … a great line in a great song that has the Kelley brothers’ song writing stamp all over it and would find a home very nicely on any Lady A album.
Country influences return in ‘The Best Of Me’ and ‘Cowboy Love Song’. Both stand out tracks, the former dedicated to the support and love of his wife and the latter dedicated to his youngest daughter… “hallelujah you’re my angel”. Family values are certainly at the forefront of this project
The title track ‘New Lane Road’ is wholly based upon the contentment he feels with home, his life and his family. It features a spoken cameo from his Dad who was secretly recorded on the telephone speaking about the importance of taking care of the earth “so that the earth takes care of you”.
We have twelve very varied tracks but no weak links. The album was recorded at his home studio in Utah and Kelley wrote, produced and played most instruments.
There are many stand outs but special mention has to go to ‘Life’s Too Short’, a song that has that magic ingredient. The ability to inspire you to be singing along almost instantly. Josh Kelley states that he has a song for every emotion. “something to get them through whatever they’re going through”.
This is his first album for Sugar Hill Records and he himself describes it as a “new beginning” both creatively and commercially. It’s been three years in the making and these 12 songs are what remain from a selection process involving over 500 songs that he has written since releasing his previous album.
He is currently supporting Charles on ‘The Driver’ tour in the US. We would relish the opportunity of experiencing that particular gig. I fully expect this album to be in our top 10 albums list at the end of the year. It really is that good.