Reckless Kelly proudly carries the Americana/alt-country/Red Dirt torch. The Idaho-born, Austin-based group has been going for more than a quarter of a century now, but they remain as strong as ever live and in the studio.
The latter was borne out with the release of 2020’s “American Girls/American Jackpot,” an ambitious double album that fits nicely with the Red Dirt sound they helped popularize. And the former is showcased in concert halls and clubs across the country.
Fresh off an opening slot on one of Robert Earl Keen’s final concerts, the group is touring the East Coast this month, including stops this past weekend at two legendary music halls in the greater Washington, D.C., area. The first was at The Birchmere in Alexandria on Saturday; the second at Rams Head in Annapolis, Md., the following evening.
As a native Texan who moved to the East Coast just as the Red Dirt movement was taking hold, I always enjoy seeing bands from my home state make a run through the DMV. (Others do as well; a sizable contingent in the Birchmere crowd was wearing references to Texas on Saturday.) The fertile Texas music scene, especially groups like Reckless Kelly and the Band of Heathens, provide just the right mix of honky tonk, rock, blues, country, and folk, with some Western swing thrown in for good measure.
With a contingent of fans traveling from stop to stop on what has become an annual September trek, the band showcased that varied setlist, playing a mix of classic RK songs, recent music, and crowd favorite covers. On Saturday, the latter included Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and two by Alejandro Escovedo (“Castanets” and recent addition “Always a Friend”).
Early in the show, lead singer Willy Braun paid brief tribute to Keen, a mentor, longtime friend, and occasional co-writer who also served as the band’s first manager when they moved to Austin in the late 1990s. “It was an honor,” Braun said of working with Keen, who retired from touring last weekend.
With the show coming the night before the anniversary of 9/11, the band also gave a shout out to several Navy SEALS in attendance. The table was there to pay tribute to fellow SEAL Austin Ivey, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in Hawaii in August. Ivey’s favorite Reckless Kelly song was “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah,” and the band said they would make sure to play it “a little louder” in his honor.
As usual, they delivered.
The latest studio album received its share of attention as the trio of “I’ve Been Thinking About You All Night,” “Lost Inside the Groove,” and “Goodbye Colorado” were performed by the group after Braun opened the show solo with “Long and Lonesome.” Later, they played the lovely ballad, “I Only See You With My Eyes Closed” from the same album.
At that point, his brother Cody noted that many musicians were prolific during the pandemic, but instead he preferred to be lazy and keep performing the “same old shit” he’s been doing for 27 years. And with that, he pulled out the classic “Wild Western Windblown Band,” drawing a heavy and lustful response from the crowd, a few of whom had trouble staying seated at their tables by the encore.
Ben Voskeritchian, guitarist/vocalist for opener These Wild Plains, a Boston-based group that is opening shows on this tour, noted that it was strange to be playing a rock show for people who (mostly) were sitting down. During Reckless Kelly’s two song encore (“Wicked Twisted Road” and “Seven Nights in Eire”), you could see several couples dancing at their tables in the corners of the crowded venue.
And that, the band said, is what makes The Birchmere such a good place to hear music, especially when you’re so far from home.
“So many amazing artists have graced this stage,” the band wrote on its Facebook page after the show. “The crowd is the perfect mix of hush up and listen, and thunderous applause after the song is finished. (Almost as if they’ve been here before). One of our favorite stops on the East Coast and last night was right on par.”
Indeed it was.
Find Reckless Kelly’s tour info and more, here: http://recklesskelly.com
Check out our previous coverage here: Reckless Kelly Rocks The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, CA
Discover more about These Wild Plains here: https://www.thesewildplains.com