Album review: Shelby Kelley, "Alone" 

On the appropriately titled Alone, Shelby Kelley strips away the garage rock of his Creepin' Charley and the Boneyard Orchestra band to craft an intimate yet rocking solo record showcasing his folk rock side. The guitar-based, Americana album features only Kelley's voice, guitar and occasional harmonica.

Standing somewhere between Tom Petty and Robert Earl Keen, the record proves inviting and engaging, though the lyrics, despite some good lines, are always fighting to keep up with Kelley's terrific rhythm guitar. But when Kelley's music and lyrics do connect ("Based on a True Story," "End of It All," "Down This Road"), listener patience is rewarded.

"I Know," a tale of innocence lost reminiscent of Petty's "Free Fallin,'" opens the record. "Down This Road," a country-tinged rocker, hints that Kelley may have some Joe Ely cassettes at home. Kelley's hard strumming rhythm guitar makes the tune one of the best on the album, and a sweet harmonica solo in the middle is all the more powerful because of the record's sparse instrumentation.

"End of It All" carries the record into the rough pop-rock hooks and Springsteen themes at which Kelley excels. Kelley channels a Pretender-era Jackson Browne on "Wish Upon Wish," letting his voice become the leader; his California rock sound is no more evident than here.

There's an immediacy and live feel to the album, which was recorded at Stable Studios in Spencer, Ind., and engineered by Michael Osborne.

A bit less successful is "Camelot is Burning." It's not as pop-influenced as other songs, and tougher to instantly like. Kelley and Osborne add a bit of processing to the guitar that compromises the album's intimate connection with the listener.

"Based on a True Story" ends the short, eight-song album with a powerful flourish. Again, it moves into Robert Earl Keen/Todd Snider territory; it's a story-song that works well for Kelley.

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Rob Nichols

Rob Nichols

A music writer for more than 30 years, Rob began as a rock radio jock at age 17. Born in central Indiana, Rob moved north and spent his college years in Hillsdale, Michigan. That meant traveling to Detroit for all the good rock shows, and explains his affinity for Seger, the J. Geils Band, and Mitch Ryder. He's... more

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