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Music Review - 'Another Sky,` by Kelly's Lot (jh)

Kelly's Lot -  Another Sky (click on image to watch video)

13 September 2020 


Another Sky, Kelly Lot’s 15th CD, marks another progression on the roots music continuum for The band is now celebrating their 26th year since founder Kelly Zirbes, a folk singer/songwriter, with a heart for the blues fronted the band for their first gig at the Roxy in Hollywood. In a larger sense, this recording represents a return to Kelly Z’s folk roots. Kelly Z met guitar player and sound man, Perry Robertson in 1996, who soon after produced Kelly’s Lot - Live at the Troubadour. Within a year he joined the band, started writing songs with Kelly Z and added the southern rock and Texas influences that have shaped their sound. Early on they toured as duo but in the last decade they have played as a 5-8 piece blues band. Robertson, who shares songwriting and band leader credits with Kelly Z, has recorded and produced most of the band’s music including the 2019 release Can't Take My Soul which featured Americana, blues, folk, and roots/rock creations. For Another Sky Kelly Z and Perry worked with Doug Pettibone to record a new selection of songs that stressed genres like contemporary folk, roots rock and alt country.  Six of the tracks on the album were inspired by words from fans on Facebook. Kelly Z challenged them to look in their hearts and share just one word. She then challenged herself to choose a word and write a song in two hours. 

The core unit for Another Sky is a five piece with Kelly on vocals, Robertson on acoustic guitar, Pettibone on electric guitars, pedal steel, mandolin, and supporting vocals; Art Mendoza on drums, and Matt McFadden on electric bass. Eleven other collaborators contribute to select tracks. Pettibone sings “Tangled” as a duet with Kelly and Rick Monroe takes a vocal turn on “Sleep On It.” The album opens with the folk song “Butterfly” ushering warm farewells to those we love as guitars and mandolin caress Kelly’s vocal which is augmented by the background harmonies. “I Will Find You Again” gives a good sampling of Pettibone’s melodic, stirring electric guitar work, (the same kind that served Lucinda Williams well for years). There’s an Irish feel to it with Aubrey Richmond’s fiddle which weaves in and out of a rich backdrop of B3 and pedal steel.

The interesting musical flourished continue as accordion and mandolin imbue “Foolish Try” while Richmond’s mournful fiddle colors the solemn “Freedom,’ one that really captures Kelly’s vocal nuances. The wailing aspects of Kelly’s vocals appear in angry, bluesy “Took It Back,” a standout. The accordion returns for “Tangled” as Kelly takes to the whistle and trades lines with Pettibone. “Irish Luck” sounds just as one would expect a reel and jig dance number complete with fiddle and accordion. “Simple Man” is another strong Kelly vocal and has Bill Johnston on a clarinet solo providing yet another new sonic touch, as Phil Parlapiano’s accordion is heard for the third song consecutively. “Lock Me Up,” like “Took It Back” was written by Kelly, Robertson, and Pettibone and has a similar theme but heads more in a country direction. 

“Christmas Is Calling” is a potent song of yearning and it reminds us how much most of us miss family and close ones during these stay-at-home times. “Sleep On It Tonight” is a folk song written by Kelly and Pettibone, like some of the others echoing British Isles folk, rather unusual for this California-based outfit. Monroe’s vocal proves the perfect complement to Kelly’s against Pettibone’s weeping pedal steel, making this another standout. The closer “Hurricane” opens with Frank “Cisco” Hinojosa’s harmonica and has a ‘big sound’ replete with B3, multiple guitars and a rave-up vibe befitting its title, as Kelly wails away.

Considering that this is a band that built its reputation primarily as a blues band, they demonstrate a facility for many roots forms with impressive vocals from Kelly, some outstanding songs, and stellar musicianship all around.


Jim Hynes



Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here


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