Look, you know me and ‘Americana’ singer-songwriters. I’m not fond of ‘em. Hard to convince. But there’s always bound to be the odd exception to the rule and this one had its hooks in before its first play was through, then spent most of a day on repeat, revealing more and more facets.
Kelly Hunt’s originally from Memphis but now lives in Kansas City and appears to have acquired Olivia Chaney’s hair. Somewhere along the way she found and bought a vintage 1920s calf-skin 4-string banjo that had belonged to – a note in the case said – one Ira Tamm in his dog and pony show from 1920 to 1935. Its soft tone suited her deft, soft finger-picking style – no clanky plectrum stuff here – and a soulmates partnership was formed between a woman and her instrument.
She doesn’t write the standard landfill acoustic rock or wannabe Nashville singer-songwritery stuff that floods in here on a daily basis. This is classier, drawing on rootsier things: a smidgeon of blues, a passing caress from older country, a nod to deeper roots in the way that The Band conjured up the ambience of an earlier era while being completely of their time. Tales well told, situations evoked. The PR places her among “modern traditionalists”, which can’t be argued with. She’s got a lovely voice which can do tender and smoky or an unforced belting soulfulness or that playful-but-serious storytelling of earlier Dolly Parton. Country without being nasal, bluesy without the over-acting. Even her closing Gloryland gospel romp is convincing. And her accompaniments are just exactly right for her songs. Subtle, no excessive flash, mostly just her and fiddler Stas’ Heaney.
She pulls off that difficult thing of being part of a deep tradition while seemingly fully self-formed and original. We don’t get those very often (think Devon Sproule or Leah Abramson for other such rarities). Oh, and she’s a graphic designer too – the cover is perfectly, subtly evocative.
Hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 73 compilation, and then take your credit card straight to kellyhuntmusic.com.
Rare Bird RBR001 | Buy from Amazon UK