Since the release of her 1990 debut album Well Travelled Love, Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter Kelly Willis has established herself as a country and Americana artist who represents both the new traditionalist era and alternative country.
Between incredible solo records such as 1999's What I Deserve and collaborative records with husband Bruce Robison (2013's Cheater's Game and 2014's Our Year), Willis has established a country music career built on rollicking honky-tonk and heartfelt confessionals. In 2018, Willis released Back Being Blue, her first solo album in 11 years.
From an update on a '70s country classic to a search for solace, here are the 12 best Kelly Willis songs, ranked.
"Heaven's Just a Sin Away"
Willis put her own spin on The Kendalls' 1977 hit "Heaven's Just a Sin Away" on her 1993 self-titled album. It wouldn't be the last time Lawton,Oklahoma-born artist would cover a country classic. She updated the Jeanne C. Riley smash "Harper Valley PTA" in 2014.
"Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim"
For her 2002 album Easy, Willis recorded Kirsty MacColl's "Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim," a call for empathetic love and dependability over the unreliable cowboys that Waylon and Willie sang about.
"Baby Take a Piece of My Heart"
Alongside "The Heart That Love Forgot" and the Steve Earle and Robert Earl Keen co-write "Sincerely (Too Late to Turn Back Now)," "Baby Take a Piece of My Heart" is a standout from Willis' 1991 album Bang Bang.
"He Don't Care About Me"
Recorded on her rare 1996 EP Fading Fast, "He Don't Care About Me" is Willis' take on her husband Bruce Robison's "She Don't Care About Me."
"The More That I'm Around You"
Willis' 2007 album Translated From Love saw the singer exploring a new sound with the effervescent "The More That I'm Around You" and the Brit pop "Teddy Boys."
With "Little Honey," originally recorded by the rock band The Blasters, Willis became part of Hollywood history when she was featured on the soundtrack to the 1991 film Thelma and Louise.
"Looking for Someone Like You"
Written by Kevin Welch and Paul Kennerly, "Looking For Someone Like You" was recorded for Willis' 1990 album Well Traveled Love and proved the singer as part of the new generation carrying on the tradition of honky tonk heartbreakers.
"Not Forgotten You"
This tune from Willis' 1999 album What I Deserve explores the feelings that occur when old memories still hang around long after a relationship has ended.
"Wrapped" may be known as a George Strait hit, but Willis' rendition of the Bruce Robison-penned tune shared the female perspective on what happens when an old flame keeps hanging around.
"I Don't Want to Love You (But I Do)"
This ode to a love that's so wrong but still feels right appeared on Willis' album Well Travelled Love and One More Time: The MCA Recordings, released on MCA Nashville.
"That'll Be Me"
Along with the breezy "Whatever Way the Wind Blows," this gorgeous duet with singer-songwriter Kevin Welch appeared on Willis' 1993 self-titled album.
"What I Deserve"
The title track from Willis' 1999 album is an acknowledgment of past mistakes and a search for solace in the present. The tune was written by Willis and Gary Louris.
This post was originally published on October 22, 2018.