Right out of the gates, with his brilliant debut album, Dying Star, it becomes quickly apparent that Ruston Kelly isn’t preaching to the mainstream country choir. He’s spreading the country gospel to an alternative congregation. Ruston isn’t interested in being just another country artist. He has a clear vision for his artistry and isn’t afraid to break or bend the rules. You can see this in all aspects of his album, from the arrangements, lyrics, and visual components.
I mean how many current male country artists would (or could) perform an amazing ice-skating routine for their music video?!? Well, Ruston did just that for his “Son of a Highway Daughter” video and in my opinion pulled off one of the best videos of the year.
With backing vocal harmonies from Natalie Hemby and ex-Civil Wars member Joy Williams, Ruston delivered one of the most powerful songs on the album for me in “Jericho”. This song helped me through some hard times last year when one of my close friends passed away in a river accident. The chorus lyric is incredibly poetic and cuts me to the bone every time I hear it. “Rivers weren’t made for drowning, Souls are never made to fail, I raised Jericho around me, But these walls were built to scale.”
Ruston is part of the next generation of country music. Through his music and style he pays respect to the renegades of the past like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, while also speaking of modern relevant themes in his own unique voice that appeals to both country and non-country music listeners.
It doesn’t hurt that he happens to be married to Kacey Musgraves who is also blazing new trails for country music and specifically serving as a living icon and role model for many new female artists. It’s exciting to see these artists not only get critical acclaim but also find commercial success.
In my opinion, Ruston knocked it out of the park with his debut album and has laid a solid cornerstone for a long career and a legacy that will last a lifetime. After having listened to Dying Star already a few dozen times, I’m excited to see what’s next for the Son of a Highway Daughter.
Dying Star release date: 09.07.18 | Label: Rounder / Concord