Midwest born and raised, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Claire Kelly does plenty of justice to her Irish roots on her first full-length album Scenic Route. It comes after releasing four EPs. The album features her soaring soprano vocals, all but one original track, and spare arrangements that feature multi-instrumentalist Nick Stone doing most of the heavy lifting playing electric and acoustic strings as well as piano and bass. Chris Kearny plays drums while Alex Stradal (cello) and Meredith Krygowski (violin) contribute on selections, giving it that Irish feel on tunes such as “The Land That Time Forgot” and the cover “Grace” (more on it later).
The themes, as suggested by the album title and beautiful accompanying postcard-like cover art, are autobiographical focusing on many serendipitous moments and unplanned events she calls ‘detours.’ She even has a song with that title. She’s grateful for an adventure-filled life, chronicling bits of it in these songs. There are several major standouts of the eleven tracks. “Dandelion Wine,” the single features her lilting melodic style. It as well as “Sitting Still’ were written at the beginning of the pandemic, when Kelly and a group of friends headed to a family farm to isolate themselves from the proverbial rest of the world. She revels in this period of piece and in fact comes across as bright and animated throughout the album even with the slow pace of many of the tunes. It’s no accident there her website bio has the headline “Meet the Optimist.” Her sense of humor and enthusiasm is only full display in the live closing bonus track, the singalong “Jeffrey Jones.”
“Running Out” and “The Land That Time Forgot” earned her recognition at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival, The Songwriter Serenade, and on Unsigned Only Music Competition. The only cover, “Grace,” is about a true, tragic love story during The Rising in 1916, a nod to her heritage and her childhood when her father put her to sleep by singing Irish lullabyes.
Kelly made the move to Nashville in 2016 to pursue her music and songwriting career full time. Since, she has toured at major festivals stateside and internationally, of course, in Europe performing in cities across Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, and Germany. The Nashville move has already paid dividends as she’s had a song placed on an ABC Network primetime television show and won a songwriting contest at Jack White’s Third Man Records.
Claire Kelly gives us a calming, gorgeous listen, stocked with well-crafted songs. Grab a bit of your favorite Irish beverage and listen up as it’s timed well for St. Patrick’s Day.
- Jim Hynes