Two weeks ago, Nashville troubadour Ruston Kelly announced that his debut album, Dying Star, would officially be released on September 7 via Rounder Records. With the initial announcement, he shared lead track "Jericho," a bare-bones folk ballad that was shaded with dark and lonesome pedal steel. Now, he's sharing Dying Star's second single, the hopeless romantic "Mockingbird."
Accompanying the digital release of "Mockingbird" is a music video directed by Stephen Kinigopoulos and Alexa King. It follows a former Homecoming Queen turned stripper who falls on hard times as she's looking to support herself and young son. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, we see her continually make difficult choices. Her run of bad luck seems to tail off in the end as she fortunately runs into her former boyfriend (and Homecoming King). We see them seemingly rekindling the flame for a happy ending.
"Mockingbird" slowly builds with a minute-long introduction that feels like a Ryan Adams Heartbreaker-era love song. Kelly's harmonica playing even wails and weeps very much like a nod to Adams or Bob Dylan's freewheeling days. Still, much of "Mockingbird," and Dying Star as a whole, finds Kelly in a dark country territory similar to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, albeit The Boss was never this melodic or graceful on the 1982 classic.
"It wasn't much, just everything. You could have sat right there and got high with me," sings Kelly with a gritty warmth. It perfectly showcases his candid vulnerability with its exposed heart on its sleeve attitude. And while much of Dying Star sees Kelly venturing into the darkened shadows of the human condition, "Mockingbird" catches a ray of light that's pure joy despite the gloom. There's a delicate balance that Kelly carries on the standout singalong single.
Dying Star finds Kelly examining some of his darkest and most rough moments and when his life was still in disarray. "I'd been making a lot of poor choices, using substances to alleviate the sense of something being wrong with me upstairs," says Kelly in a press release. "I decided I was going to quit doing all that and the moment I made that decision I had this epiphany: I was going to make a record called Dying Star and the last song would be called 'Brightly Burst into the Air.'"
Dying Star follows 2017's Halloween, Kelly's debut EP that found the singer-songwriter delivering one of the year's hidden gems. Jarrad K (Kate Nash, Weezer) joined Kelly as co-producer for Dying Star. They recorded the album at the celebrated recording studio Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, a small border community near El Paso.
Part of Dying Star's magic is the lush dark tones and textures Kelly and Jarrad K were able to generate while on the border. There's a lonesome desert atmosphere that simply meshes well with Kelly's vulnerable and intimate confessionals. They bring out the best in one another. Dying Star sees contributions by the likes of Ian Fitchuk, Eli Beaird, Kyle Ryan and the aforementioned Jarrad K and Kelly. In addition, warm vocal harmonies are provided by Kelly's wife, Kacey Musgraves, Kelly's sister Abby Sevigny, as well as Jon Green, Kate York, Natalie Hemby and Joy Williams. The new album also features co-write contributions by Joe Leathers, Brendan Benson, Lucie Silvas, Ricky Brantley, Kyle Jacobs, Jarrad K, Hemby and Williams.
For much of the fall, Kelly will be embarking on his first headlining tour. Nashville-based singer/songwriter Katie Pruitt join him on the two-month run.
Ruston Kelly Tour Dates:
Aug. 11 -- Hutto, TX -- KOKEFEST
Oct. 13 -- Austin, TX -- Austin City Limits Music Festival
Oct. 23 -- New York, NY -- Mercury Lounge
Oct. 25 -- Allston, MA -- Great Scott
Oct. 26 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Boot & Saddle
Oct. 27 -- Vienna, VA -- Jammin Java
Oct. 28 -- Richmond, VA -- The Camel
Oct. 30 -- Atlanta, GA -- Vinyl
Nov. 2 -- Louisville, KY -- Zanzabar
Nov. 3 -- Chicago, IL -- Schubas Tavern
Nov. 7 -- Los Angeles, CA -- Hotel Café
Nov. 8 -- San Francisco, CA -- Hotel Utah Saloon
Nov. 10 -- Portland, OR -- Bunk Bar
Nov. 11 -- Seattle, WA -- Sunset Tavern
Nov. 14 -- Denver, CO -- Globe Hall