Monday, September 10, 2012

Kelly's Lot: "Plain Simple Me" (2012) CD Review

Kelly's Lot is an excellent blues-rock band based in Los Angeles and fronted by Kelly Zirbes.  They've released several albums over the years including The Light (2008), Pastrami & Jam (2009) and Live In Brussels (2011).  This is a band that, to my ear, has gotten better and better.  I think their most recent release, the live album, is the best they'd ever done.

And now they're putting out a new studio album titled Plain Simple Me, an album that I was immediately drawn into. For the most part, the writing is really strong, and the band seems to be taking more chances than ever before, stretching out a bit into different territory.  There is still a lot of that kick-ass bluesy attitude, but the album is more in the acoustic vein, which I love.  And I especially appreciate the presence of Aubrey Richmond on violin, which definitely changes the band's sound too.  Not that every song is acoustic. "I'll Go" features some excellent electric guitar.  As does the closing track, "Runnin'," which is a seriously cool rock tune.

All of the songs are originals.

"Soften Me Up"

Plain Simple Me opens with "Soften Me Up," which is a surprise, with its catchy, happy rhythm. Kelly's voice has a delightful sweetness at times which I don't expect from her. But don't worry - there is still that raw, rough power that breaks in when she sings, "I tried to be sweet and nice/And do everything, everything that's right." How perfect it is for the sweetness to leave her voice just as she sings how she tried to be sweet. This song also boasts some nice work on guitar.  It's a wonderful tune, one of my favorites from this album.


"Restless" is another interesting surprise, for it has a darker mood. I love the addition of violin, and that instrument is allowed to drive the song for a while, which is great. I also really dig the bass line. That's Nate Light on stand-up bass.  But of course it's Kelly's voice that really makes the song live. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "I'm getting restless/Time to get out/From under this madness/From under this cloud."

"Plain Simple Me"

The album's title track is another surprising song. It's a pretty tune in which Kelly shows a vulnerable side. She really bares herself here, partly in the lyrics, and also because of the makeup of the song - just vocals, guitar, and violin (and that's Kelly on guitar). In some ways, this song feels like a late 1960s folk tune, in some of the imagery and the general vibe. Like these lines: "Are you the traveler of my dreams/Taking me to places that I’ve dreamed of but I never seen/And I long to take your hand and go with you to that distant land/Because I long to get away/Oh you know that I, I long to be set free from/Plain simple me."

"Lost And Found"

"Lost And Found" is another song of powerful beauty (this album is really full of surprises). It's a song of loss and yet optimism, and even joy as Kelly sings, "I feel love, I feel love, I feel love from above."  The violin adds to the song's beauty. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Lost and found, I'm lost again along the way/Up and down I'm searching everyday/For the angel once beside me and for an angel up above/I need a reason to survive this world without my little girl."

"Better Way"

"Better Way" is more in line with what we know and expect from this band, thematically, with Kelly singing, "I'm gonna bury my love deep today/Nobody gonna hurt me/Nobody gonna ever hurt me/Nobody gonna hurt me again." I love that sort of defiance in the face of heartbreak and mistreatment, and the way she attacks it vocally. But this is still an acoustic tune.  I like what Matt McFadden does on bass.

Of course, one reason why this song feels more like previous material is that a performance of this song was included on last year's release, Live In Brussels. That version is a longer, bluesier, electric rendition. "Better Way" was written By Kelly Zirbes and Perry Robertson.


The album concludes with "Runnin'," which is more of a rock tune, with a bit of a funky edge and of course more than a bit of blues. There is a certain Zeppelin thing going on her during one section. It's a seriously fun song, one that I imagine is going to be amazing in their live performances. Making the song even better is the presence of Elizabeth Hangan on backing vocals.

"Runnin'" was written by Kelly Zirbes and Perry Robertson.

CD Track List
  1. Soften Me Up
  2. Restless
  3. This Town
  4. Plain Simple Me
  5. Let's Go To Love
  6. 28
  7. Lost And Found
  8. I'll Go
  9. Better Way
  10. Runnin'

Kelly's Lot is Kelly Zirbes on vocals and guitar, Perry Robertson on guitar, Rob Zucca on guitar and backing vocals, Matt McFadden on bass, and Scotty Lund on drums and percussion. Joining them on this release are Aubrey Richmond on violin, Galen Shostac on keys, Nate Light on stand-up bass, and Elizabeth Hangan on backing vocals.

Plain Simple Me was released August 8, 2012, and is now available on iTunes.

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