Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kelley Mickwee: “You Used To Live Here” (2014) CD Review



One of the albums on my list of ten favorite CDs of 2012 was The Trishas’ High, Wide & Handsome. Now Trishas member Kelley Mickwee is releasing her debut CD, You Used To Live Here, featuring mostly original tunes. Mickwee co-wrote several of the tracks on that 2012 release, including the beautiful "Strangers" and "One Down," so I was already well aware of her songwriting abilities. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that she picked some excellent folks to co-write her new material, including Kevin Welch (who also co-wrote a song on High, Wide & Handsome). But as good as these new songs are, it's really her vocals that make this album something special.

Kelley Mickwee begins the album with “River Girl,” a cool, soulful tune. Its opening line is “I just want to sleep all day,” something I can relate to these days. The song features gorgeous, heartfelt vocals (which remind me a bit of Patty Griffin’s work on Living With Ghosts). “And I’ve been on my knees/God only knows/So sing one for your river girl.” There is a sweet lead part by Kevin Welch on electric guitar. It’s a beautiful song, co-written by Kelley Mickwee and Kevin Welch.

“Take Me Home” is more of a folk tune, with some country elements and excellent, soaring vocals. But in the section that really wins me over, the vocals are almost more in the pop realm, as she sings, “Sing for me/Quietly/Walk with me/Slowly/Dance with me/Smile for me/Comfort me/Hold me.” There is something catchy about the sound of that section (the way she sings it), that I found myself singing it after only a couple of times of listening to the album. “Take Me Home” was co-written by Kelley Mickwee and Phoebe Hunt.

“Beautiful Accidents” is a duet, with female and male vocals together throughout the song rather than each taking a section or certain lines. It’s an interesting way of doing it, particularly as this love song is at first not told from the first person perspective: “She had the smell of magnolia on her hair/And a southern drawl that stretched from here to there/They didn’t know what they were doing/But they knew it felt good.” Then it turns to first person, so it’s like when they look back at the beginning, they’re looking at other people. The changing in viewpoints reminds me of some of Bob Dylan’s work. And by singing the lines together, it’s like their perspectives on the story are the same. It’s less a conversation, and more of shared thought. Their experience of their love is the same. The male vocals are provided by Owen Temple, who also co-wrote this track with Kelley Mickwee.

“You Used To Live Here,” the album’s title track, begins with a good groove. There is a sad beauty in the repetition of the title line, “You used to live here,” followed by the simple statement, “And I still do.” That delivery makes that line all the more heartbreaking. It’s such a nice moment. This track was written by Kelley Mickwee and Jimmy Davis.

“Blameless” begins beautifully with acoustic guitar and vocals: “Finish the work that you started/Don’t leave me some half-painted dream.” The rest of the band comes in, including pedal steel, providing that delicious tone. I like the lyrics to this song, though the line “Trade my tomorrows to borrow an hour of yesterday” reminds me of the line “And I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday” from Kris Kristofferson’s “Me And Bobby McGee.” This is one of the album’s two covers, written by John Fullbright.

“Hotel Jackson” begins with a good bluesy vibe, and Kelley’s vocals have a sexy tone to match. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “You might be something I’d like to use/You talk with lips I want to kiss/You think it’s okay I’m saying all this/You look like something I want to eat/You look like something puts off some heat.” Nice, right? This is one of my favorite tracks, even with its cliché, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” “Hotel Jackson” was co-written by Kelly Mickwee and Jonny Burke.

The album concludes with its second cover, “Dark Side Of Town,” which was written by Eliza Gilkyson and Nancy Gilkyson. This one too has a very cool vibe. “If the backbeat’s born in hell, then that’s the place I want to be.”  Amen. Kelley Mickwee does a great job with this song. Brandy Zdan plays lap steel on this track.

CD Track List

  1. River Girl
  2. Take Me Home
  3. Beautiful Accidents
  4. You Used To Live Here
  5. Blameless
  6. Hotel Jackson
  7. Dark Side Of Town 

You Used To Live Here is scheduled to be released on July 22, 2014.

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