Celebrating 20 uncompromising years of independent Texas country, Reckless Kelly is set to release their ninth studio album, Sunset Motel, on September 23rd. Their first project in three years and the follow up to their Grammy-winning Long Night Moon (Best Recording Package), the project finds the Austin-based road warriors a little farther down the highway, but still following a wanderer's compass.
"We've never really tried to force the band in any one direction, we've kind of just let it evolve naturally," says front man and primary songwriter Willy Braun, calling in from the dusty, high-desert border town of Jackpot, Nevada. "We just let it happen and things kind of move one way or the other, whether it be to the country side or the rock side."
True enough. Recorded in downtown Austin, Sunset Motel finds the band in familiar musical territory — bounding fearlessly between the sounds of jangling heartland rock and scrappy, hardscrabble country, with stories that refuse to dumb themselves down for mass appeal. It features guest appearances from fellow do-it-yourselfers like The Mastersons, Bukka Allen, Rosie Flores and Keith Gattis, as well as younger brothers Micky and Gary Braun (of Micky and the Motorcars), and was tracked in the exact same building where the band recorded their first album nearly two decades earlier — the newly re-opened Arlyn Studios.
Premiering exclusively with Rolling Stone Country, longtime fans and new ones alike can get an early taste of the new tunes with "How Can You Love Him (You Don't Even Like Him)," the album's twang-rocking first single and lead track. According to Braun, just about everybody can relate to the song's attention grabbing title and storyline, the type of thing that makes even the closest of friends shake their heads in disbelief.
"I had that line rolling around in my head for a while, and the line is exactly what it sounds like — it's about people that are with the wrong person, and it seems like everybody knows except them," he says with a good-natured laugh. "I wanted to keep it really simple, and I actually had an extra verse to it that I ended up cutting because it was just too much. The line really speaks for itself — it didn't need a whole hell of a lot of other words in there."
After 20 years of writing songs and taking them across the country, Braun's certainly figured out when one is finished — and he's also learned that if you want to make a band last, it's all about having the right group of people, comparing the dynamic to "having four wives." With two decades and nine albums down, Braun says Reckless Kelly is still as tight as it gets, and for that reason he figures 20 more years isn't too much of a stretch.
"We've been of the opinion that we'll just make records and if it ever becomes a big hit, then great," he says. "But we're not going to chase current fads or whatever the big-hit thing to write about is, whether it's sail boats or trucks or whatever… I think the next 20 years will be more of the same -- we'll keep playing live and making records that we're proud of."
Sunset Motel comes out September 23rd, and the band currently has tour dates scheduled through the end of November.