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 40 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  

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
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
A BLK REVOLUTION, Channel Tres, Smashing Pumpkins, the Austin Record Convention, and more local music related shows worth seeing

Sept. 30, 2022

Moody Center Becomes <i>Harry’s House</i> for Styles’ First of Six Nights
Moody Center Becomes Harry’s House for Styles’ First of Six Nights
A riot of colors and near-constant screaming on historic run

Sept. 26, 2022


Kelly Willis

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

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