Kelcy Mae, The Fire (Independent)

Kelcy Mae, The Fire, album cover

Though Kelcy Mae established herself in 2011 as a viable singer-songwriter with her self-produced, acoustic release Pennies in Hand, here she starts fresh with this five-song EP. She enlisted Elephant Quilt Productions’ Jason Rhein and Marigny Studios’ Rick Nelson as co-producers (along with herself) and they, in turn, brought in a cast of musicians unfamiliar with Kelcy’s work for a fresher perspective. Obviously the strategy worked. The arrangements are densely layered with lots of soloists while the background vocals are occasionally resounding. On “Would Love,” soul-sharp horns are juxtaposed with lap steel for a brief, yet unexpected, contrast. Two songs were written for family members; the rollicking country-picking “King of Tennessee” for her Elvis-admiring father and the return-to-roots “Get Back Home” for her grandmother. As evidenced by “Oh How the Whiskey,” her lyrics are intriguing: “Oh how the devil loves a sinner / oh how the whiskey burns in the summer / pouring like the sweat of a funeral drummer.” Though admittedly she’s not a writer of social injustice, “The Fire” was inspired by a tragic incident and New Orleans’ inability to curtail such senseless violence. It also represents the disc’s best performance as Kelcy builds up emotion masterfully. Later this year, she plans to repackage these five songs with another five songs for quite possibly the first double EP ever.