Artist: Ruston Kelly
Release date: 7th September, 2018
Genre: Americana, Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Record Label: Concord Records
Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
When your wife has released one of the Grammy nominated albums of the year, it quite easy for you own debut release to be slightly overshadowed. But Ruston’s 'Dying Star’ is well worth exploring further. What really stands out for me is the cinematic storytelling and songwriting plus some great pedal steel arrangements
‘Dying Star’ is a very impressive debut from Ruston, a little-known Nashville singer-songwriter with a fine voice and a gift for pairing heavy lyrics with remarkably graceful melodies. The album is full of impressive high crafted songs. It is a lovely blend of Americana, Country and Folk.
The album has the recurring themes of love, loss, pain, substances, desperation, self-discovery and the hope for salvation. As Kacey Musgraves’ marriage to Ruston inspired the blissful cosmic country sound on ‘Golden Hour’, perhaps Ruston’s next album might explore more positive themes.
The album was co-produced by Kelly and Jarrad K (Kate Nash, Weezer) and recorded at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, TX. It includes 14 songs written/co-written by Ruston and features Ruston (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, xylophone, harmonica), Jarrad K (12-string guitar, background vocals, electric guitar, Rhodes), Tim Kelly (pedal steel), Ian Fitchuk (piano, organ, drums, percussion), Eli Beaird (bass) and Kyle Ryan (banjo) as well as background vocals from Jon Green, Natalie Hemby, Kacey Musgraves, Kate York, Abby Sevigny and Joy Williams. Of the album, Rushton comments, “A lot of my music is focused on suffering, or trying to understand the human condition through the lens of suffering…which probably sounds totally depressing, but it’s actually the flipside of that. Sometimes you’ve gotta go into that darkness—you need to get lost and then figure out for yourself how to find your way back. That’s the only way we can find pure joy, and really be thankful for the life we’ve been given.”
The album opens with the acoustic pop ‘Cover My Tracks’ followed by the lovely ‘Mockingbird’. I really like the acoustic guitar, pedal steel and harmonica interplay on this one. Classic Laurel Canyon fused with mid-tempo Country Rock, almost Neil Young meets Ryan Adams. Ruston shares, “I wrote ‘Mockingbird’ in a Dominican hotel, on the edge of a bed, at like six in the morning. I needed a release from a cyclical pattern of a doomed relationship. The kind that leaves you with less than what you went in with. It’s a story for everyone, the human condition, our connected plight in a mad world. Regardless of how it’s expressed, we all struggle through something with hope on the other side.”