Claire Kelly Offers Sublime Mix of Pop, Folk and Americana on ‘Scenic Route’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

On Nashville-based Claire Kelly’s latest, Scenic Route, she opens and closes the record with two versions of an endearingly charming song (“Thank You [Intro Song]” and “Outro”) essentially expressing her gratitude to the listener for making it possible for her to make a living as a musician. The sentiment is surprisingly genuine coming from Kelly. The fact that the songs between are a sublime mix of pop, folk and Americana, helps hammer home the point.

After releasing a handful of EPs, crisscrossing the globe playing her music, being recognized by Jack White’s Third Man Records for her songwriting and relocating from the Midwest to Nashville, it all seems like the momentum was building up to this record. Buried amongst some truly stellar contemporary songs is “Grace,” a stunningly emotional cover of an Irish folk song, sweet and tragic at the same time. Lyrically, whether Kelly’s singing about keeping it together with friends on “Dandelion Wine” or just enjoying the moment on “Sitting Still;” – both written during the pandemic – about bunking up with fans on the road (“Thank You”) or singing about a run in with a freaky hairless cat named Jeffrey Jones (on the aptly titled, and laugh out loud bonus track “Jeffrey Jones”), Kelly’s songs paint vivid pictures; the songs bring to mind folks like Guy Clark for their sentimentality and John Prine for their wry humor.  

In describing the record, Kelly said, “The tapestry of tales I’ve weaved throughout this album include stories collected during my time on the road, playing music around the globe. I’m so insanely grateful for this adventure-filled life I lead. Cheers to the scenic route and all its unexpected twists and turns.” And themes of playing songs on the road, being away from home and just being grateful for being able to play music keep surfacing throughout the record. 

There is a strong sense of optimism and gratefulness that envelopes Scenic Route that seems almost antithetical considering the past year we have collectively lived through. But Kelly’s voice, her lyrics and the beauty of this record somehow make this the perfect salve for moving past the last 12 months.  

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