After scoring with the John Mayer-esque pop of “Amazing” and the upbeat country of “Georgia Clay,” Josh Kelley has decided it’s time he bared his soul to us all. For his eighth album (and first for Sugar Hill), 2016’s New Lane Road, Kelley
has taken a detour into singer/songwriter territory. The album delivers
a dozen personal songs about love and family with a feel that’s
half-Nashville and half-Laurel Canyon. Kelley has said that he was listening to a lot of vintage Eagles and Jackson Browne material while recording the album, and it’s not hard to hear the influences. Kelley even soaks up traces of Browne‘s vocal inflections on tracks like “Call It What It Is” and “I’ll Be Standing Tall.” If this music favors Kelley‘s country side, the mood is laid-back and contemplative. Most of the time, Kelley
has relationships on his mind. “It’s Your Move” and “Call It What It
Is” don’t make such things sound easy, but “The Best of Me” and “Cowboy
Love Song” suggest it’s all worthwhile. “Take It on Back” shows the man
loves soul music, and he cuts a pretty convincing groove with the
goofball funk of “Anywhere You Wanna Go.” Many of the songs on New Lane Road cover familiar lyrical tropes, but Kelley brings a warmth and sincerity to this music that’s honest and effective. And Kelley
certainly sounds more comfortable singing about the glories of married
life than he did trying to fit into the boundaries of mainstream
country. New Lane Road is a few steps short of a triumph for Josh Kelley.
But it’s strong and well-crafted enough to sound like he’s found a
direction that works for him, and this ranks with the singer and
songwriter’s best work.
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