Personnel: Willy Braun (vocals, Wurlitzer piano); David Abeyta (guitar, piano); Cody Braun (bouzouki, mandolin, fiddle, harmonica); Chris Schelske (bass guitar); Jay Nazz (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixers: David Abeyta; Kevin Szymanski.
Recording information: Cedar Creek Recordings, Austin, TX (04/2011-05/2011).
Editors: Shauna Dodds; Sarah Dodds.
Reckless Kelly may be a band, but it is also a showcase for singer/songwriter/guitarist Willy Braun, who deserves to be mentioned in the company of the top Texas songwriters of the last few decades. He and the group have made a series of albums reminiscent of the smart, roadhouse country rock of Joe Ely in the 1970s and Steve Earle in the `80s, along the way breaking into the country, and finally, the pop charts. Good Luck & True Love, the first collection of all-new Braun originals since 2008's Bulletproof, should continue that progression. He addresses the usual topics favored by country songwriters, including liquor, the road, heartbreak, and country music itself, but he is capable of putting a twist on them, as he does, for example, in the lead-off track, "Give It a Try," which finds him anticipating a love affair both he and the lady in question know in advance isn't going to work out. Albums don't usually come in the form of two-sided LPs anymore, but this disc is structured as if it did, with the first "side" containing the harder-rocking numbers, and the second more country-oriented ones, as multi-instrumentalist brother Cody Braun breaks out his fiddle. In between, Willy Braun has collaborated with idiosyncratic Texas songwriter Todd Snider on "I Never Liked St. Valentine." The lyric -- in fact, the whole song -- seems to belong to Snider, actually. It is typical of his dry humor, as Braun muses about various holidays and saints while finding himself alone on Valentine's Day. He accuses Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) of consorting with prostitutes, and he is perhaps reflecting on the impending canonization of Pope John Paul II when he wryly drawls, "You know, if you perform two miracles, you're just a regular guy. Perform one more, and you're a saint." Amusing as this is, it's a far cry from Reckless Kelly's usual fare. Braun makes it clear that he's ready to stake a claim to country popularity on "New Moon over Nashville," though, and Music Row may finally be ready for a Texas band that can rock out, write above-average country songs, and come up with a mean fiddle tune, too. ~ William Ruhlmann