- Reckless Kelly
November 11, 2017
8:00 pm - 11:55 pm
It’s been twenty years since WMNF was introduced to Reckless Kelly at our one and only Lone State Music Festival – held in Vinoy Park. Two decades later, Reckless Kelly continues to be WMNF favorites while they gained wider recognition, with fans, critics and singing praises.
Understanding the virtuosity of Reckless Kelly requires the perspective of where the band has been. Cody and Willy Braun grew up in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho. They moved to Bend, Oregon, and then migrated to that great musical fountainhead, Austin, Texas.
The band’s co-founders and frontmen toured the country as part of their father’s band, Muzzie Braun and the Boys, as children. They performed on The Tonight Show twice. Their father taught his four sons a professional ethic – integrity, persistence, hard work and professionalism – honed over three generations. They overcame hardships, struggled for recognition, and learned the lessons of the trial and error that defined them. Reckless Kelly, born in the dreams of the two Braun brothers and their heritage but nurtured in the bumpy road of maturity, became the very essence of Americana music in all its far-flung glory.
“We came along in that second wave of the movement,” Cody Braun says. “Son Volt’s album Trace had a major effect on us. People like Joe Ely, Ray Kennedy and Robert Earl Keen were always big supporters. Our goal was to make music that had a country vibe but a solid rock edge.”
As Music Row magazine proclaimed, “In my perfect world, this is what country radio would sound like.”
The band took its name from the legend of Ned Kelly, the Australian highwayman, when they moved to Austin in the autumn of 1996. Early on, Keen, a Texas legend himself, took them under his wing and became their first manager. They listened, watched and interacted with the creative dynamos of the outlaw country scene – Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark and others – and joined them in a redefinition of what contemporary country music had become. Theirs was gritty, hard-edged, uncompromising and convincing. They turned country music real again.
Willy Braun wrote half the songs of Millican, 1997’s self-released debut, in an abandoned school bus, where he had lived for six months in Bend. The effect of that album was to emblazon Reckless Kelly with a reputation as a band of no-nonsense insurgents that could raise the rafters while still retaining a heart and soul of honesty, soul and conviction.
They evolved, adding David Abetya, a graduate of the Berklee School of Music, on lead guitar in 2000. Kansas-bred bassist Joe Miller — who had grown up on a family farm before becoming a broadcaster at his college radio station and migrating to Austin – signed on 2012.
Reckless Kelly’s string of critically acclaimed albums – Under the Table and Above the Sun (2003), Wicked Twisted Road (2005), Bulletproof (2008), Somewhere in Time (2010), Grammy-nominated Good Luck & True Love (2011) and Grammy-winning Long Night Moon (2013) – set a standard of reliable excellence and commitment to an instinctive vision of Americana. No band exemplifies the broad genre better.
Independent? Oh, yeah. Doggedly so. Nothing demonstrates it more than the band’s path through a succession of prestigious record labels – Sugar Hill and Yep Roc, among them – en route to a label, No Big Deal, of their own.
For two decades, the band has toured coast to coast relentlessly. It has demonstrated its longevity in a world where trendy newcomers are proclaimed the Next Big Thing by spinning a couple pop hits. Not unlike the pioneers who preceded them on the western frontier where the Brauns were raised, they have forged their survival without compromise, combining hard work with a resolve that success is only satisfying when achieved by their own standards and definition.
The group’s newest album, Sunset Motel, is, like all its predecessors, distinctive in its own way while true to form. Self-produced and recorded in Austin’s renowned Arlyn Studios (where Millican was made two decades ago) and mixed by famous producer Jim Scott , it reflects Reckless Kelly’s attention to craft and continuity.
The songs hit one emotional peak after another: the infectious “Volcano,” the urgent “One More One Last Time,” the desperate desire that comes full circle in “How Can You Love Him (You Don’t Even Like Him)” and the bittersweet title track. With steady guitar drive and a series of insistent choruses, they all ring with power and conviction that make Sunset Motel a breathtaking listening experience.
Great bands know good music. They make it the way they like, confident that what they love, what excites them, will also gain traction with thousands and thousands, perhaps even millions, of passionate fans. Reckless Kelly is, by the best possible definition, a great band.
Cottondale Swamp, an exciting new roots rock alt-country band, is opening.
The Trongone Band Rapidly gaining momentum with a sound that falls perfectly between southern Rock ‘n’ Soul and Americana Jam, The Trongone Band is turning heads and making an impact on the east coast music scene. Formed as a family band by brothers Andrew and Johnny with father John Sr. on bass, The Trongone Band is now a tight five-piece band with a deep pocket groove and funk.