Snow White Memories
Irene Kelley is one truly gifted tunesmith who also happens to be blessed with a sweet, expressive voice. Her many compositions have been recorded by everyone from Rhonda Vincent, Clair Lynch and the Osborne Brothers to Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn and Trisha Yearwood.
Kelley’s latest outing is yet another treasure trove of stylistically varied originals that were cowritten with a cadre of her favorite fellow songwriters, including Ronnie Bowman, Donna Ulisse, Steve Cropper, Mark Irwin, Kelley’s daughter Justyna, and others.
This collection opens with “Wild Mountain Stream,” which is about finding emotional release and spiritual renewal in the solitude of a wilderness landscape. It’s not surprising that some of these songs were cowritten and fleshed out in a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains.
“Carolina Special” is a nostalgic travelogue about a long-gone short line that lives on in the hearts and memories of those whose lives and commerce it once linked together.
“Lonely” is an amazing song that features Ronnie Bowman on harmonies and Rob Ickes on Dobro. In it, this sad, stifling and sadly universal emotion takes on an almost physical presence, like a tattered and mildewed old blanket that once offered comfort, but has since become smothering as it blocks out the potential of romantic renewal. The harrowing “Six Feet Down” (cowritten with Donna Ulisse) likens the despair and abandonment of a breakup to a dark death.
“Snow White Memories”—inspired by the late Dan Fogelberg’s High Country Snows—evokes the bleakness and beauty of the harsh winters Kelley knew as a child in Western Pennsylvania coal country. The richly nostalgic and celebratory “4th of July In My Hometown” (harmonies by Trisha Yearwood) offers a delightful change of season and temperature. “Yellow Brick Highway” (featuring Brooke and Darin Aldridge on harmonies) uses imagery from The Wizard of Oz to evoke yearning, dreaminess and the fleeting quality of life and love.
Kelley also serves up a delightful curve ball with her inspired reprise of “I Can Tell You,” an oldie by the rock group Kansas, which was her all-time favorite band in her earlier rock n’ roll years back in Pennsylvania. With assists from Mike Bubb (bass), Billy Contreras (fiddle), Scott Vestal (banjo), Josh Williams (guitar), Josh Methany (Dobro) and daughters Justyna and Sara Jean (harmonies), she transforms it into a spirited bluegrass outing.