CD Review of Reckless Kelly Was Here by Reckless Kelly

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Reckless Kelly Was Here
starstarstarstarno star Label: Sugar Hill
Released: 2006
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The recipe for great rock & roll is so simple, it’s depressing more people haven’t figured out how to replicate it consistently – or, to be more specific, that they haven’t figured out the music is most effective when distilled down to its most basic ingredients. Billy Joel (certainly no stranger to unnecessary rock-derived foolishness himself) noted this in 1980, but he was whining about punk and New Wave, both of which were relatively close to home, musically speaking.

These days, our obsession with fresh sounds has produced some fairly dire results. Post-rock? Math rock? Korn? They’re nice if you like that kind of thing, but they all miss the point, which is this: to make great rock music, all you’re ever going to need are three chords, a few guys (or girls – we’re enlightened here) to play drums, bass, and guitar, and maybe a piano player. Lather, rinse, repeat. Everything else is just needless horsing around with a good thing, and may produce unintended results.

Thankfully, there are always at least a few bands on the planet who understand this, and right now, Reckless Kelly is one of them. If you regarded the Georgia Satellites as heirs to the throne built by the Faces, or shed a tear when either group ceased to be, this band’s music will soothe your troubled soul. High praise, to be sure, but it’s been earned.

This type of music often sounds best onstage, where the band’s and audience’s energies can bump up against each other and create a sweaty feedback loop, and that’s why this two-CD, one-DVD live set is Reckless Kelly’s best release yet.

There is a difference, of course, between music that’s simply basic and songs that are powerful in their simplicity, and therein lies the challenge facing any rock band worth its salt; namely, making things sound easier than they really are. Reckless Kelly excels at this – Was Here is a raucous, tequila-soaked party of an album, but underneath it all, there’s a thick layer of old-fashioned craftsmanship that’s solid enough to weather the jump from the band’s original material to covers of classics by Richard Thompson, Freddy Fender, and the Beatles.

The set’s got its flaws, naturally – the liner notes include the dreaded “additional recording at…” credit, and the DVD is mostly just straight video footage of the concert – but they’re hardly worth mentioning. If you’re already a fan, don’t miss this; if you’re new to the group, Reckless Kelly Was Here makes for a mighty persuasive introduction

~Jeff Giles