Each week, That Nashville Sound showcases a new artist on the verge of hitting a national scene. Reckless Kelly is much further along than most of the artists we feature. Their new CD, Bulletproof, has already ranked among the top ten 2008 releases from several country music critics including Country Universe.
Reckless Kelly began making waves in Texas shortly after moving to Austin from Bend, Ore., where the band formed more than 11 years ago. They’ve built a fiercely loyal fan base in the Lone Star state and western territories, including the brothers’ native Idaho, but they’re captivating new audiences in Chicago, New York, the Southeast (including the Chapel Hill, N.C. home of their new label, Yep Roc), and even industry-hardened Nashville.
That’s hardly a surprise when one considers how long the Braun brothers have been stepping on stages; they’ve been harmonizing together since they were kids performing in their dad’s western swing band, Muzzie Braun & the Boys, with brothers Micky and Gary (who now have their own band, Micky & the Motorcars). The Boys played “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” when they were preteens — and did so well, they were invited back.Growing up in rural Idaho without TV, they weren’t even aware of who Johnny was — and didn’t know enough to be nervous that first time. Now, the brothers say, the only kind of performance that generates butterflies is when they sing the national anthem in one of their beloved ballparks; both Cody and Willy are baseball nuts. “It’s kind of a hard song to sing,” Willy explains, “and if you screw up, everybody knows it.” Still, they were particularly proud to serenade a Mother’s Day audience at Wrigley Field that was broadcast live on Chicago’s WGN-TV.Not that audience members would ever detect any jitters.
Consummate professionalism is one reason the band has fans like Steve Earle, with whom Reckless Kelly recorded tracks for Warren Zevon and Alejandro Escovedo tribute albums, and Joe Ely, who took the band on the road with him in 2007 after they recorded a song together for a Randy Newman tribute. Ely describes Reckless Kelly as “my kind of band: hell-raising, hard-playing, kick-ass songwriting, feet firmly in the present, but with an amazing knowledge of where it has all come from.” Discussions are in the works for another tour together; it’ll give them the opportunity to dig out those “Joe Ely & Reckless Kelly Show” (JERKS) T-shirts again.
Levity, of course, is one of the secrets to enduring road life and getting along together. You’ve gotta keep it fun, and for this band, that includes such activities as creating elaborate mini-movies and irreverent TV-show take-offs that look every bit as professional as any film school grad’s. (View their handiwork on RKTV at www.recklesskelly.com.) They’re also a gang of incorrigible (if not outlaw) pranksters who love a good party — especially if their fans are invited. They wouldn’t miss their annual foray to Steamboat Springs, Colo., for MusicFest, a skiing- and spirits-filled mountain sojourn, or a chance to join Cross Canadian Ragweed on the Big Music Cruise that floats from Texas to the Caribbean, or Willy and Cody’s favorite weekend of the year, when they go back home to Challis, Idaho, for the Braun Brothers Reunion, which attracted 5,000 friends and fans in 2007.
“That’s something my dad’s been doing with his brothers and his dad since we were little kids and even before we were born,” says Willy. “Every year, it’s gotten a little bit bigger, and in the last three or four years, we started bringing out friends of ours from Texas, like Cross Canadian Ragweed and Robert Earl Keen and Randy Rogers.”
Promoter John Dickson, the man behind MusicFest and the cruise, says they connect so well with fans because their music is genuine, and so are they. “You do get to know ’em through their music,” says Dickson. And it becomes a personal relationship. They’re approachable, he says, and they enjoy interacting with fans. “It’s like the Braun reunion — that family spirit and energy and closeness and friends.”
Yeah, getting to make music and have fun with family and friends on a regular basis. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Which is why the guys in Reckless Kelly intend to stick together for a long, long time to come.
That Nashville Sound had a brief chance to do an interview with Cody Braun (vocals/fiddle/mandolin/ harmonica). You’ll see their trademark humor shine through...
TNS- What brought you to Nashville?
CB- A bus
TNS- Looking over your career thus far, what do you rank as a couple of the highlights?
CB- Singing the National Anthem at Wrigley Field, Making a living playing the music we want to play for over 10 years.
TNS- What might people be surprised to find out about you?
CB- All of our parents are still married.
TNS- What kind of music are you listening to? What's in your iPod?
CB- "Undone" a tribute to Robert Earl Keen, Hayes Carll "Trouble In Mind", Ray LaMontagne " Gossip in the Grain"TNS- If you had a crystal ball and looked forward ten years, what do you see for yourself?
CB- Living in a van down by the river.
You can check out their video for Ragged As The Road here: