Charles Kelley- The Driver 2016

Many artists find inspiration from pain or life changing events. Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley got his out of sheer boredom and it resulted in a Grammy nomination. The title track off of his first solo album “The Driver,” is up for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. With Lady A on hiatus, Kelley thought, “It’s winter,” “I’m bored and I want to make some music.” He contacted producer Paul Worley to test drive the title track and a few others he had on the back burner which he thought might not have been a fit for Lady A or that he was going to scrap or pitch to others. It turned out there were a lot of keepers and with the help of co-writers like Eric Paslay and Chris Stapleton, a nine track effort was compiled. Three of the songs employ heavy hitting guest vocalists Dierks Bentley, Stevie Nicks and Miranda Lambert.
Stylistically, the songs range from the rocking opener, “Your Love” to the smooth AM radio American Top 40 pop feel of “Just Keep Dancing.” As is becoming more commonplace in the genre, there is little use of traditional instrumentation, but given the strong contemporary feel, tossing in a token fiddle would feel gratuitous.
Somewhat surprisingly, the collaborations feel slightly out of place. Kelley’s voice outshines Bentley and Paslay’s contribution on the title track and the duet on Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” employing Nicks feels unnecessary. Kelley’s soulful grit combined with the pedal steel capably carries the southern rocker. Lambert‘s presence on “I Wish You Were Here” fares better, lending a smooth Emmylou Harris vibe. The album was mostly recorded live in Worley’s simple studio and throughout, Kelley’s voice is in a lower, rawer key than his work with Lady A. It results in a distinctly different vibe making it truly sound like a solo effort and not a spinoff clone from the superstar trio. “My biggest fear is being sure the fans understand the band isn’t breaking up. This was just a pure musical left turn; to take myself out of my own head and bring in a fresh perspective when we go back in to make the next Lady Antebellum record,” he said.


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