Okay, I feel a little ashamed of admitting that I have not heard of a band that is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year by releasing their 15th album. Of course, the fact that there is an entire country between us should come into play, but I was stumped when I received a copy of Can’t Take My Soul by Los Angeles based Kelly’s Lot.
The Kelly in question is Kelly Zirbes, a singer songwriter who started out in the folk and independent scene and moved more towards her love of the blues. Zirbes has a great voice and is a very strong songwriter, co-writing all 12 of the albums song with guitarist Perry Robertson.
The other members of The Lot include Matt McFadden on bass and Mike Sauer on drums. They are joined by several quest artists scattered over the songs including: Michael Mason on drums; Bobby Orgel on keys; Rob Zucca on lead guitar; Frank Hinojosa on harp; Jean Paul Monshe on accordion; and Eddie Baytos on accordion and washboard.
Backing vocals are provided by Jeri Goldenhar, Andrew Mushin, Jenna Mushin, and Aviva Maloney. Jean-François Thomas provides specialized vocals for one song.
The album starts off with a rousing number, All I Ever Want Is The Blues, that should be on every blues lovers’ playlist. We’ve already played this one on Time For The Blues, and you can bet you’ll be hearing it again sometime soon. It’s lively with a strong shuffle beat and Zirbes unleashes a sexy growl to deliver the lyrics.
They slow things down for the follow up song, All Hope Ain’t Lost. It’s a universal song about the things humanity faces on a daily basis. I love the subtle keys and Robertson’s guitar work. One thing the band quickly establishes is that they are not just going to perform traditional blues, they are going to add some funky rhythms and blend elements in from other genres to make their own sound.
The next track, Alyssa, starts off low and smoky. Zirbes does a good job with the ballad, and gives the lyrics a punch. Backing vocals are good with this one. Wasn’t as crazy about the song when I first heard it, but the lyrics, delivery, and guitar have grown considerably on me.
Got to love that Zydeco sound and once you hear that accordion and washboard on Woe Is Me, you know you’re in a different territory. Good dancing number, good drinking number, just plain good. Might not be everyone’s cup of jambalaya, but it sure works for me.
Safe And Warm is a tender ballad that would easily be at home in any roadhouse or honkytonk to give the patrons a chance to hold their partner tight and swirl around the dance floor, or just stare into each other’s eyes. A very different sound from what they’ve been playing.
Jean-François Thomas adds his distinctive vocals to Rise Up (Lève-Toi), singing his part in French. I’ve always had a soft spot for French lyrics and actually have a pretty fair collection of French pop that I listen to when I have some time late at night. I really like this song a lot – the vocal arrangement is tight and the lead guitar from Rob Zucca is sweet.
Nice harp work from Frank Hinojosa opens the next song, Broke Myself. Zirbes gets down and gritty with her vocals and this song drives. She screams and Hinojosa’s harp answers. It’s a nice juxtaposition. She then slows things down for Let It Breathe, a breathy number that reminds me of Dylan’s work on Nashville Skyline. This would make a hell of a country song and Zirbes really stretches her vocals.
Zirbes starts the song Dirt a cappella and the bass and drum come in slowly. The song blurs the lines between blues and country but Zirbes seems comfortable in both genres. The next number, Little Bit Of This, is another gentle ballad that blurs lines between country and pop. It’s a sweet song.
Next up is the title track, Can’t Take My Soul which also starts a cappella. She then turns it into a not so subtle growl and gets down and dirty. This one will probably end up getting the second most airplay (behind All I Ever Want Is The Blues).
The accordion is back for Mon Ami, and Zirbes shows off her bilingual skills singing in both French and English. It’s a surprise ending to an intriguing album. And for me, at least, a sweet croissant to bring the curtain down.
Kelly’s Lot is a fascinating group; they can appear as a duo, trio, or full band with ease. I don’t hit the West Coast very often, but I’m going to charge some friends of mine who live there to go check out the band and report back about their live shows.
Be sure to check out their website and find out the whens and wheres for their playdates. If you live in France, they’re coming your way this summer! Wish I could join them.
1998 Test Drive
2003 Come to This
2006 The Music of Kelly's Lot
2008 The Light
???? Plain Simple Me
???? Live in Brussels
???? Bitter Sweet