When it comes to country music in all its various forms, my first love will always be its more traditional side but I am open to listening to anything that falls under its seemingly widening banner. And I really have been loving some of some of the genre’s “ less traditional” releases out this year, ……. preferring female singer/songwriters names including Tenille Townes, Lainey Wilson, Caylee Hammack, Emma White and Jenny Tolman spring to mind, artists who are influenced by the classic side of country but who put their own unique contemporary spin on their music. And after the independent release of her album “ Favourite Colors” last Friday Kelleigh Bannen is definitely an addition to this list.
The Nashville native/resident co-wrote all of the album’s fourteen tracks and I absolutely love the mix they provide. Kelleigh is a busy touring singer/songwriter as well as a regular podcast presenter ( check out the fascinating “ This Nashville Life”) and is no stranger to the music business. Having been a signed artist and had a publishing deal in the past she is now back to releasing music independently and all this experience shines through on this album, be it in her insightful writing ( she teams up with a vast array of collaborators) or her delivery. Tempo wise there’s upbeat toe tappers alongside slower tracks, and subject wise there’s the heart breakers, thought provokers and downright hilarious! Vocally Kelleigh demonstrates attitude and emotion, strength and flexibility throughout, and I love her intelligent, observational lyrics which she uses to paint pictures and tell stories as country music should do in my opinion. The arrangements and production are equally varied and impressive, depending on the song’s requirements, with Cadillac Three’s frontman Jaren Johnston at the helm on the majority of the tracks.
There are definitely some very infectious tracks here, not least the R&B infused album opener “ Damn, I Still Love You”, which has been stuck in my head all week ! Like many of the songs is also highly relatable to a lot of people I’m sure, expressing the frustration of still having feelings for an old flame.
In fact break ups and ex’s in a variety of guises feature on quite a few tracks, I’m not sure how autobiographical the album is or if I’m reading too music into things! But each time the subject is cleverly approached from a different point of view, whether its giving advice to “ pull yourself together and stop laying on the sofa” in the upbeat ( recent single) “ Boys Don’t Cry” ; looking ahead to the time she can “ make a clean slate from this heartbreak” and forget her ex totally in the fun and very clever “ John Who” or surprising herself at how well she’s coping in the beautiful ballad “ Sleeping Alone”, something she realises she’s actually been doing for some time. Then there’s the gorgeous title track, she knows everything little detail about her partner but can’t fathom out why or where their love has faded …. “ some kind of black magic turns the future to the past” . “ Happy Birthday” sees her calling her ex on his 30th to see how he spent the day, which is followed on the track listing by a stunner of a closer, “ Long Shadow “ . Written about missing someone who is still omni present I feel is left open for the listener to interpret as to whether it about a relationship breakup or the death of someone close. Its haunting and simple acoustic arrangement ( that cello!) is perfect.
But the album definitely is not all doom and gloom when it comes to subject matter! Just give “ The Joneses” a listen, a hilarious but at the same time blisteringly true and well observed indictment of some strands of society who feel the need to keep up with their friends, neighbours and current trends rather than just appreciating what they have ….this was actually the title track of her 2018 EP, all three songs reappearing on this collection.
“ Suit “ is another fun write, visualising marrying a guy she’s only known for a short time but who is ticking all the boxes ….maybe it’s the same guy she sings about not being able to get enough of in “ Deluxe” ? And in the punchy and catchy “ Haters” she sings with venom and attitude about those who have nothing better to do than criticise others on social media, confronting them full on for having nothing better to do with their time and hiding behind their phones .
There’s so much more to this album than I can really include in this review, I hear something different with each listen which is something I love and which keeps drawing me back to it and I hope you feel the same way. She’s an artist I’d love to see live and i’ll definitely be keeping my fingers crossed that she makes a trip across the pond in the near future.
2. “Deluxe” (Bannen and Danielle Blakey
3. “Boys Don’t Cry” (Bannen, Todd Clark, Jason Saenz)
4. “Diamonds” (Bannen, Stepakoff)
5 “Your Favorite Colors” (Bannen, Bowen)*
6 “The Joneses” (Bannen, Clark, Travis Wood)**
7 “Suit” (Bannen, Claire Douglas, Dallas Wilson)
8 “Faith In You” (Bannen, Clark, Sean Van Vleet)
9“Sleeping Alone” (Bannen, Bowen)*
10 “John Who” (Bannen, Bowen, Christopher Rafetto)
12 “Time Machine” (Bannen, Mark Trussell)
13 “Happy Birthday” (Bannen, Claire Douglas, Wilson)
14 “Long Shadow” (Bannen, Bowen, Tia Sillers)*
*Produced by Will Bowen **Produced by Todd Clark