A native of Lorena, Texas, Kimberly Kelly has spent years paying her dues in both the Texas and Nashville music scenes. After many years of hard work getting her Master’s degree and working full time as a speech therapist, she signed her record deal with Show Dog Nashville last summer, quit her full time job and sold her soul to music! ‘I made this album like it’s the last one I’ll ever make,’ Kelly said recently and that shows in the passion and the drive of ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’. From the opening twang to the closing guitar chord, this is an album packed with classic 90s and retro-tinged Country music that will delight anyone who has ever rolled their eyes at a finger snap and longs for the days when Trisha, Reba and artists like Mindy McCready paid homage to Dolly and Loretta and those greats of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
The album opens with ‘statement of intent’ song, ‘Honky Tonk Town’. This track is all chugging guitars, fiddles and handclaps. An organ kicks in on the second verse and you know, at that point, that Kelly means business on this song about two-stepping and midnight rodeos. Similarly, ‘Forget the Alamo’ and ‘No Thanks (I Just Had One’) inhabit the same ‘going to slay live’ universe. The former is a Texan-inspired ditty with delightful steel guitars and a chorus that just seems to go on forever whilst the latter is a clever, witty look at men, bars, drinking and broken hearts. Throw in a cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘Black Rose’, which sees Kelly go all ‘Alannah Myles ‘Black Velvet’-esque with a Tennessee twist and you’ve got some real oomph filling out this album.
Possibly the best of the uptempo songs is ‘Blue Jean Country Queen’ which features the legendary Steve Wariner alongside Kelly on a song co-written with husband, Brett Tyler who already has a number one under his belt with Jameson Rodgers’ ‘Cold Beer Calling My Name’. This track is an absolute banger, a 90s Country classic thirty years too late. It could have been lifted right off a Garth Brooks or Brooks and Dunn album. Wariner weaves some guitar magic on a song inspired by strong females like Dolly Parton, Dottie West and Reba McEntire and Kelly belts out the vocals with passion and aplomb, utilising a melody that will burrow its way in and refuse to leave.
‘I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’ isn’t just simply a honky tonk album though, like all great albums it’s got its fair share of nuance. ‘Some Things Have a Name’ is a superb fiddle driven song about cheating, leaving, drinking and pain. A wonderful, lilting chorus gives me Loretta Lynn vibes every time I hear it. ‘Summer’s Like That’ is a ballad of real class, a deep-dive into the evocative nature of the songs of the 90s and the milestones they marked. Tracks like ‘Strawberry Wine’, ‘Walkaway Joe’ and ‘Dust on the Bottle’ are name-checked amongst many others and the fragility of the vocals are matched ably by the power of the music on a song that is one of the strongest on the album.
Kelly’s favourite track on the album is ‘I Remember That Woman’. Mine is ‘Person That You Marry’. The former was written by long-time Garth Brooks writer Kent Blazey alongside Cindy Blazey and Karyn Rochelle. There’s some terrific traditional storytelling going on here and some of the best vocals on the album. ‘Person That You Marry’, meanwhile, just hits hard from the opening moments…….and then you find out Lori McKenna was involved in it and the penny drops! It’s a superb song about a divorcing couple who just ‘let the lawyers do the talking.’ Country music is at its best when it combines meaning with melody and this song has that in spades. It’s an honest look at how a couple can drift apart over the years without a lot of drama or major upheavals. ‘You know the person that you married,’ Kelly sings, ‘but not the one you divorced’. Beautiful, tragic, heartbreaking and melodic. It’s what we’re all here for.
With ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’ Kimberly Kelly has gambled. Gambled her full time job and career on making an album that she thinks Country music fans should love and will love. The tricky part now is getting that out onto the streets of Nashville and past all the major labels who all have their own agendas and artists they are flooding radio and TV with. If you loved Carly Pearce’s ’29: Written in Stone’ album, you’ll love this because this is the type of music Pearce was raised on. Kelsea Ballerini too. Kacey. This is an old fashioned Country music album from a new, emerging artist. In the same way that Midland made retro-sounding Country popular for a new generation, Kimberly Kelly could easily do the same for fans of great, 80s and 90s influenced female voices. I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen………….you’re going to love this record.
Track list: 1. Honky Tonk Town 2. Some Things Have a Name 3. Summers Like That 4. Why Can’t I 5. I Remember That Woman 6. Blue Jean Country Queen 7. Don’t Blame it One Me 8. Forget the Alamo 9. Person That You Marry 10. No Thanks (I Just Had One) 11. First Fool in Line 12. Black Rose Record Label: Show Dog / Thirty Tigers Release Date: 8th July 2022 Buy ‘I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen’ now