Reckless Kelly’s music has always landed at a point of convergence between rock and country, but the band’s seventh studio album, driven by drummer Jay Nazz’s prominent percussing, is an evocatively rhythmic collection that takes a step away from any significant country sensibility.
Lyrically, Bulletproof simmers with a directness that borders on aggressive. These are songs that cut straight to the heart of the matter, like the left-leaning “American Blood,” where lead singer Willy Braun proclaims, “God bless America, but God damn Uncle Sam,” and the stunning post-Katrina narrative, “God Forsaken Town,” (co-written by Robert Earl Keen), which makes no apologies as it’s narrator, a New Orleans native who refused to evacuate the storm, warns looters that they better come heavy because he’s got a “sawed off and a red hot .44,” waiting for them.
There are moments on Bulletproof in which Braun and Co. embrace more typically country subjects–love lost or love longed for, both of which are recurring themes–but the presence of the occasional steel guitar (contributed by the legendary Llyod Maines) or fiddle, no matter how tastefully placed in the mix, cannot overpower the consistent utilization of the quintessentially rock techniques (a steady stream of aggressive electric guitar solos, dominating power chords, isolation intros) that pervade nearly every orifice of the record.
Still, make no mistake–although it certainly isn’t country music, Bulletproof is exceptionally pleasing. Reckless Kelly has delivered a detail-oriented sonic masterpiece with tracks perfectly constructed so as to give each instrumental nugget enough space to glow, without causing the whole to sound overly sparse. In fact, the arrangements themselves are often so well executed, and so interestingly conceived, that Braun’s vocals sometimes get in the way.
Braun’s lack of dexterity is ultimately the album’s greatest shortcoming. He is significantly limited in his delivery, and after fourteen songs it all starts to feel a bit repetitive as his ragged voice begins to ebb and flow between organic and wearing.