If you’ve always wanted to hear more of Lady Antebellum’s male vocalist, then rejoice. Charles Kelley is branching out on his own with the release of his debut solo album The Driver.
With the country pop group, I’ve always loved how Kelley’s rugged and raspy voice melds beautifully with fellow lead vocalist Hillary Scott’s sweeter, honeyed vocals, which begs the question: can he still hold his own without Scott?
The answer is yes. Away from Lady Antebellum, Kelley comes off sounding like a whole other artiste who has his own stories to tell and different ways of telling them.
The title track lead single, for instance, is a touching tribute to those working behind the scenes in the music industry. The song explores the point of view of a driver ferrying artistes and their crew who are on a tour.
And delivered with the help of country singers Eric Paslay and Dierks Bentley, the result is an emotional, hair-raising performance. So much so, it earned a nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the recent Grammys.
Leaving Nashville is another stripped down, emotional ballad that captures the highs and lows of musicians reaching for their dreams in the country music capital. Kelley’s heartfelt delivery suggests he is all too familiar with the notion himself.
It’s obvious I have a thing for the album’s slower numbers but Kelley has got some strong uptempo and midtempo tracks such as the rock-infused Your Love and the funky Lonely Girl.
Musically, The Driver still sees Kelley in country territory, but with Lady Antebellum’s pop leanings stripped off.
And unlike the country group, Kelley’s songs don’t strike listeners as immediate earworms.
They’re not necessarily radio friendly but they have a lot of heart.