Now in its fourth year, River Town brings the music of America’s heartland to Bristol. This year’s festival promises a vibrant programme of blues, bluegrass, country and gospel, performed by global icons and rising stars.
Featuring some of the best acts from both sides of the Atlantic, including Graham Nash, Rosanne Cash and The Barr Brothers, River Town hits the road with shows outside Colston Hall at Thekla, St George’s Bristol and The Wardrobe Theatre for over a fortnight of live music celebrating the rich sounds of the deep south.
Kelly Willis has returned with her seventh album, Back Being Blue. It’s been 11 years since her last solo release, 2007’s Translated from Love, but the Austin-based singer/songwriter has hardly been MIA in the intervening years, having recorded and toured as part of a duo with Bruce Robison.
Back in her late teens, fronting a celebrated but short-lived rockabilly band, Radio Ranch, famed singer/songwriter Nancy Griffith took a shine to her voice and recommended Willis to producer Tony Brown, one of the titans of Nashville country, who signed her to a deal with MCA. Her three major – label albums yielded plenty of critical acclaim, while her debut ‘What I Deserve’ was released on Rykodisc in 1999. Easy (2002) and Translated from Love (2007) generated equal love from fans, the press, and fellow musicians. Meanwhile, motherhood competed for her attention, and as challenging as work/family balance became, it led to a pleasing mid-career wrinkle when she backed into a side career with Robison, who conveniently happened to be not just her spouse but her creative and popular equal in the Americana world.
That Willis still feels like that scrappy young comer, six albums and four kids later, is good news for anyone about to take a shine to the only slightly broken-hearted-feeling spunk of the new album. Blue definitely continues to be her color, but more than anything, she’s back feeling new.