Kelly Willis Record Review

Back Being Blue (Thirty Tigers)

Kelly Willis Record Review

"Hey, modern world, release me," begs Kelly Willis over a rollicking, foot-stomping, honky-tonk backing. Her insistence feels genuine. "Modern World," which braces Back Being Blue, the local's seventh album, laments the hold of contemporary tech, highlighting a dependence on smartphones she couldn't have predicted 11 years ago, when she last released a solo album. For all of her antipathy toward the current state of affairs, Willis' collection of original songs and covers feels effortlessly of the moment. The punchy percussion and blues guitar of the R&B-tinged title track capitalizes on the lilt of soulful throwbacks such as Leon Bridges. The front-porch aesthetic of "Fool's Paradise" sways behind subtle mandolin strum and Willis' steady, sure soprano. Even the Western swing of Skeeter Davis' "I'm a Lover (Not a Fighter)," a genre too often playing out as a period piece, sounds present day with subtle, flattening vocal effects and a no-frills delivery from Willis, never mind the lyrical reference to Cassius Clay. Coalescing a range of styles, Back Being Blue proves this overall tonality more relevant than ever, and three decades in – better than even modern – once again brands Kelly Willis as timeless.

***

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Kelly Willis
Worst Tour Stories Ever
Worst Tour Stories Ever
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

July 8, 2016

Texas Platters
Kelly Willis
Translated From Love (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, July 6, 2007

More by Abby Johnston
Beach House Storms the Moody
Beach House Storms the Moody
Neo-gothic atmospherics come on like a hurricane

Aug. 1, 2018

Amanda Shires’ Closet Craft
Amanda Shires’ Closet Craft
Texan fiddler adapts her process and updates her sound

June 28, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Kelly Willis

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle