3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19104
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
The full-length debut from singer/songwriter Ruston Kelly, Dying Star is a document of self-destruction and salvation. With a storytelling sensibility that constantly shifts from candid to poetic, the Nashville-based artist details his experience with addiction, which included time in rehab and an overdose in early 2016. Rooted in a delicately sculpted sound that shows every nuance of his vocal delivery, Dying Star captures all the chaos and heartbreak on the way to finding redemption.
Born in South Carolina, Kelly started playing guitar under the guidance of his dad, Tim “TK” Kelly, a pedal-steel guitarist who now performs in his band. Since his father worked for a paper mill and often changed job locations, Kelly grew up moving nearly every two years, living everywhere from Alabama to Belgium. At 17, he took off for Nashville to live with his sister, and in 2013 landed a publishing deal with BMG Nashville. Along with penning songs for artists like Tim McGraw and Josh Abbott Band, he continued working on his own material, releasing his debut EP Halloween in 2017 and earning praise from Rolling Stone (who described Kelly as a “scruffier-voiced Ryan Adams obsessed with both Merle and the Misfits”).
Kelly co-produced Dying Star with Jarrad K (Kate Nash, Weezer), enlisting local musicians like singer/songwriter Natalie Hemby, Joy Williams (formerly of the Civil Wars), Kacey Musgraves (Kelly’s wife), and Abby Sevigny (Kelly’s sister) to bring the album’s gracefully melodic, guitar-driven arrangements to life. With each song centered on lucid self-examination, Kelly shapes his narrative with equal parts singer/songwriter confessionalism and punk-rock irreverence. “A lot of my music is focused on suffering, or trying to understand the human condition through the lens of suffering,” he says. “Which probably sounds totally depressing, but it’s actually the flipside of that. 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.”
Donovan Woods was curious: What if he re-recorded Both Ways, his acclaimed 2018 record that won him a Juno Award for contemporary roots album, and distilled its 12 songs to their bare essence? An “acoustic reimagining,” if you will.
“We started from scratch,” he says, from the instrumentation to his vocals to a fresh understanding of the heartache and regret that underpinned those songs. “There are no recording elements carried over from that album. It’s all brand-new.”
Woods ended up with The Other Way, his new album that brims with inspired interpretations of Both Ways that are intimate yet startling in their urgency.
Set for release on May 3 on Meant Well, his latest release is a reminder of why the Canadian artist has become such a sought-after songwriter whose work has been recorded by Tim McGraw (“Portland, Maine”) and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley (“Leaving Nashville”), with Spotify streams approaching nearly 90 million. You’ve always been able to hear and connect with Woods’ words.
But an odd sensation washes over you when the varnish is wiped off of Woods’ songs. Somehow the lyrics burrow with even greater resonance and then linger like little smoke rings. For a producer, Woods enlisted ace guitarist Todd Lombardo, who produced Woods’ song “Portland, Maine” in 2015 and wrote and played most of the guitar parts on Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy-winning Golden Hour.
Woods gave Lombardo artistic license not only to change the chords and song structures but to overhaul the arrangements with acoustic instruments and Lombardo’s luminous guitar work as the centerpiece.
“I think this album draws out the pain and the darkness of these songs,” Lombardo says. “The record is about loss and failure and feeling like you fucked it up, and there’s no mistaking that. You hear every single word – and feel it, too.”
Coming on the heels of “Go to Her,” Woods’ first song of 2019, The Other Way is so revelatory that it makes you wonder why he didn’t try this approach sooner.
“It’s always been an interesting idea to me, especially when you’re an artist like me who inherently disappoints some people anytime your sound gets bigger,” Woods says. “But a really good song is a good song in any arrangement. It’s like a beautiful hardwood floor. You can put any furniture in there, and it’s going to look good.”
$17 ADV / $20 DOS + Fees