Album Review: Kelly Willis - "Back Being Blue"

Americana stalwart returns after a long solo hiatus to deliver one of 2018's best moments (so far).

Kelly Willis has the perfect voice for expressing sadness, which she expertly applies to her latest album’s title track. “You’re back in my baby’s arms,” she cries, “I’m back being blue.” Although most of this album’s songs lean toward more traditional country sounds, "Back to Being Blue” rocks gently to a soul groove. And it’s one of many highlights on a consistently stellar new

The fiddle-accented “Fool’s Paradise,” however, is one of the album’s staunchly traditional country songs. Along with its honky-tonk piano and subtle electric guitar, this song celebrates – albeit, reluctantly – human foolishness. Willis revs up the groove with “Modern World,” and over tasty, twangy guitar, Willis wrestles with living life in our contemporary world. Willis’ cover Skeeter Davis’ “I’m a Lover (Not a Fighter),” provides hints about where her traditional sounds come from. The song includes the wonderful one-two lyrical punch of, “If you want a fighting partner/Go live with Cassius Clay.” Cassius Clay, you may recall, was Muhammad Ali’s ‘slave name,’ before he changed it in 1964. This couplet also reveals just how old this song is.

One called “Afternoon’s Gone Blind” is one more example of Willis doing traditional country music right. She doesn’t need all the pop elements so omnipresent in contemporary country music. Yep, a girl can still make wonderful country music in our modern world and remain relevant.

Willis was once a mainstream country artist. But like Lee Ann Womack, she’s chosen to follow her heart and make great traditional country music. And God bless her for that!