Kelcy Mae, Half Light (Independent)

Kelcy Mae, Half Light, album cover, OffBeat Magazine, May 2014

Singer/songwriter Kelcy Mae has also been published as a prose writer (and OffBeat contributor), so it’s no surprise that the lyrics on her previous releases were the first thing that stood out. On this “double EP”—combining six new tracks with five from last year’s The Fire EP—her words remain remarkably well crafted, with key details revealed in a few vivid phrases.

“I Remember” has enough information for a good short story about a doomed romance, and the song’s final line puts a twist on the character’s future. “Revival” is another love story with a more upbeat resolution, using one image—the annual blooming of a crepe myrtle—to show the permanence of the couple’s bond.

The news here is that she’s also fleshed the songs out musically, with the new tracks sporting a higher level of production/arrangement than before. The stand-out track “Favor” is presented in two versions; one an unassuming folkish take, the other a full-fledged rocker on which her studio band (anchored by guitarist Sam Cordts, who alternates lead duties with Alex McMurray) do a good impression of peak-era Los Lobos.

She’s even looser on “My Love,” a roadhouse rave-up whose chorus (“Quit bein’ stupid, quit bein’ stupid with my love”) says about all that needs saying. The highlight of the Fire tracks remains “Oh How the Whiskey,” a bottom-of-the-bottle song on which a gospel choir appears like an hallucination at song’s end. Whether the singer gets saved or keeps sinning is up to you, but the vocal is nicely understated in either case.

Kalcy Mae proves here that you can be literary and still kick up your heels. She stands out from the trend of slow and downcast Americana, and hurray for that.