Singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly has announced Dying Star, the full-length debut album by the Nashville troubadour. It follows up the criminally underrated 2017 EP Halloween and the playful stand-alone single “Asshole,” which Kelly released earlier this Spring. Kelly kicks off the new album with the lead single “Jericho,” a stark and dark country reflection built around Kelly’s powerful lyricism and the hauntingly beautiful exchange between pedal steel and harmonies.
“Jericho,” which Kelly penned with songwriters Natalie Hemby and ex-Civil Wars member Joy Williams, may be flushed with dark tones and shaded with moonless nightfall, but it also finds Kelly offering a guiding light along the way. There’s a resilience rooted within Kelly’s “Jericho” that escapes and shines.
Much like a mix of Bruce Springsteen‘s Nebraska and Ryan Adams‘ Heartbreaker, Kelly’s “Jericho” is a bare-bones minimalist’s approach to song building and is flooded with solitary lonesomeness. It’s in part what makes the pedal steel—contributed by Kelly’s father Tim “TK” Kelly—and harmonica that much more hauntingly memorable. There’s a heightened emphasis that breaks through. Hemby and Williams join Kelly with delicate and warm harmonies for a textured accent.
“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,” says Kelly in a press release. “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.”
Kelly’s lyricism walks a fine line in which he presents a familiar allegory while still introducing it with a refreshed approach. Lines are often filled with poetic alliteration that naturally rolls off the tongue.
“Rivers weren’t made for drowning, souls were never made to fail. I raised Jericho around me, but these walls were built to scale,” sings Kelly with a comforting ease.
The 14-track Dying Star was recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, a small border community near El Paso. Jarrad K (Kate Bush, Weezer) co-produced the album with Kelly and sees contributions by the Ian Fitchuk, Eli Beaird, Kyle Ryan, Jon Green, Kate York, Abby Sevigny, Kacey Musgraves and the aforementioned Jarrad K, Tim Kelly, Hemby, and Williams.
Dying Star is due out September 7 via Rounder Records. In addition, Kelly will kick off his first headlining tour this fall.
‘Dying Star’ Track List
1. “Cover My Tracks” (Ruston Kelly, Jarrad K)
2. “Mockingbird” (Kelly)
3. “Son of a Highway Daughter” (Kelly)
4. “Paratrooper’s Battle Cry” (Kelly)
5. “Faceplant” (Kelly, Jarrad K, Brendan Benson)
6. “Blackout” (Kelly, Jarrad K, Joy Williams)
7. “Big Brown Bus” (Kelly)
8. “Mercury” (Kelly)
9. “Anchors” (Kelly, Jarrad K)
10. “Just for the Record” (Kelly, Jarrad K, Lucie Silvas)
11. “Trying to Let Her” (Kelly, Joe Leathers, Kyle Jacobs)
12. “Jericho” (Kelly, Williams, Natalie Hemby)
13. “Dying Star” (Kelly)
14. “Brightly Burst Into the Air” (Kelly)