Reckless Kelly Take ‘Time’ to Honor Songwriting Hero
Reckless Kelly set the musical bar high for themselves after the release of their sixth album, 'Bulletproof,' in 2008. Soon after its release, the album became the Austin-based band's biggest seller, hitting the Billboard Top 200 chart and reaching the Top 25 of the magazine's Top Country Albums chart. 'Bulletproof' contained their first No. 1 on both the Texas and Americana charts, 'Ragged as the Road.' The success of the song and album also scored Reckless Kelly a nod for Best Band or Duo at last year's American Music Awards.
With the release of their latest project, 'Somewhere in Time' (in stores Feb. 9), the country-rockers stepped out on a limb by trying something brand new -- recording a full album of tunes they had no part in writing. The 12 tracks on 'Somewhere in Time' were all penned by the band's mentor and idol, Pinto Bennett. (Listen to the album track-by-track, here.)
"Usually I do all the songwriting or most of it," Reckless Kelly's lead vocalist and guitar player Willy Braun tells The Boot. "This was a record we've wanted to make for a long time. Pinto is a big hero of ours and an old friend, so it's been an idea we've had for quite a while. We finally just got the timing right to pull it off."
So just who is Pinto Bennett? The honky-tonk singer/songwriter never really found great fame in the U.S. but had huge success in Europe. He founded Pinto Bennett and the Famous Motel Cowboys, and boasted collaborations with Jack Clemens (who produced Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, among others) and the Everly Brothers. The 64-year-old Idaho native now plays with Trio Pinto, a three-man ensemble with Bill Parsons and Brett Dewey.
The guys in Reckless Kelly wanted to honor their hero's many years of influential songwriting by making this album of their favorite Pinto hits. So, since Willy and bandmates David Abeyta (lead guitar and lap steel), Jay Nazz (drums), Chris Schelske (bass), and Willy's brother, Cody Braun (fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and vocals), were off the hook for writing new music, they were able to put their focus into a different aspect of the recording process.
"We got to produce this album on our own from start to finish," Willy reports. "We've done things like that before, but this was the first time we started and finished a project on our own. I think we'll probably do that next time, too, just because we had a lot of fun doing it. It's fun to be able to call our own shots and see what we're capable of coming up with in the studio on our own."
The first single off 'Somewhere in Time' is 'Best Forever Yet.' "That's one of my favorites," notes Willy.
Another standout song which the band is anxious for their fans to hear is 'The Ballad of Elano DeLeon,' which features another musical influence, Joe Ely. "That's another one of my faves," notes Willy, quickly adding, "Really, all of the songs on the album are my favorite tunes. It's hard to narrow them all down. There's not really a bad song in the batch, if you ask me."
Like the last couple of their albums, 'Somewhere in Time' was recorded in Texas rather than in Nashville. "Austin's fun for us, because we're all home, and we can go home at the end of the day. Austin's a really fun city. There's a lot of artist vibes floating around there. It's an inspirational town. There's a lot of great musicians who will come over and play on the records ... Austin's definitely our favorite place to record. Nashville's got cool studios, too, but I think we just like to pick the home-field advantage on that one!"
While the RK guys have had some success over the years with radio, the band still has yet to be embraced by mainstream country, but don't think that gets to them all that much. "That's not something that really bothers us," Willy says. "You have to find other outlets to get your music out there and take advantage of other opportunities. We just go out and get them one at a time.
"There's a lot of underrated people out there right now [in country music], I feel like," Willy continues. "There's plenty of talent out there that hasn't been discovered. That's one of our main reasons for doing this whole record is to get some songs out there by a guy who nobody's ever heard of. For the most part, all of that stuff is brand new to people. I think there's more undiscovered and underrated people out there then there are overrated people."
In the past 14 years, Reckless Kelly has achieved many great honors that still bring smiles to their faces today. "We got to record a couple of songs with Steve Earle a few years ago. That was a very unique experience," gushes the lead singer. "We've gotten to play a lot of really cool stages. We got to play the Ryman last year. We've actually been able to play there a couple of times. We've gotten to do a lot of fun stuff like that ... putting little notches on the ol' belt along the way!"
There is one stage missing from that list, however, which Willy says is on the band's "to do" list. "We haven't gotten to play 'Saturday Night Live' yet," he laughs.
In the meantime, Reckless Kelly will stick to their "bread and butter" by performing throughout Texas, where they have their biggest following. Next month, the band joins fellow Texas-based band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, for a 10-day run in the Southeast. "I'll probably come back with a couple of good stories from [that run], I imagine!" laughs Willy. "It's been a while since we've done a full-on tour with those guys, so that will be pretty fun."
If there's anything that the members of Reckless Kelly know about, it's fun! In recent years, the band has become notorious for their wild and crazy pranks that have taken place on the road, including streaking Robert Earl Keen's stage (which can be viewed through RKTV at Reckless Kelly's website).
"There's [one prank] called 'Operation Trigger' which is the start of a Ragweed prank war that we've had going on for years. That one kind of goes back and forth," Willy reveals with laughter. "It started out with them putting a [dead] fish under the seat in our van. Then we dumped a bunch of horse manure on their stage. Then they dressed up like clowns and silly-stringed us. We dressed up like Easter Bunnies and did what Easter Bunnies would do ... it kind of goes on from there. That one is still a work in progress!"
Through it all -- the ups, the downs and the pranks -- Reckless Kelly are grateful for it all.
"There's always things you wish you could go back and change," says Willy. "But we've had a pretty good run, and we've had a lot of fun doing it. Other than a couple of lousy songs I've written, we don't have a lot of regrets!"