Album Review: Kelley Mickwee — You Used to Live Here

Juli Thanki | July 24th, 2014

kelleymickweeThough she’s resided in Austin for several years now, for her debut solo album, singer-songwriter Kelley Mickwee returned home to Memphis, not just physically (recording in a home studio set up in a midtown mansion that used to belong to the late historian Shelby Foote), but sonically as well. Mickwee quickly sets the scene on the soulful opening song “River Girl,” as she sings, “I come from the cotton, I come from the mud / And I know what this river can do when she floods.”

You Used to Live Here is quite different from Mickwee’s output with the currently on hiatus Americana band The Trishas: here she channels Dusty in Memphis and contemporary country-soul artists like Shelby Lynne on songs like the sultry “Hotel Jackson” and “Take Me Home,” which features gorgeous pedal steel from Eric Lewis.

As anyone who listened to The Trishas’ High, Wide and Handsome or the folky duo Jed and Kelley knows, Mickwee’s a fine singer, and she’s at her best on “Beautiful Accidents,” the highlight of the album. Co-written with Owen Temple, who also contributes vocals to the song, the duet sweetly celebrates the unpredictable paths love can take.

Mickwee also proves herself to be a stellar interpreter of other writers’ songs with two well-chosen covers: John Fullbright’s “Blameless” and “Dark Side of Town,” written by Eliza and Nancy Gilkyson. On the former, she flutters into an ethereal falsetto that’s a marked contrast to the earthy vocals found on Fullbright’s live recording of the song, while on the latter, she gleefully dives into the story song about a good boy gone bad, adding smoke and grit to her voice as she sings, “If the backbeat’s born in hell, then that’s the place I want to be.”

Clocking in at barely over 30 minutes long, You Used to Live Here is a tight collection of seven strong songs without a minute of filler. The Trishas’ future is currently up in the air, but with this album, Mickwee proves that she can shine as a solo act.

3.5 Stars

Preview or purchase You Used to Live Here

  1. Leeann
    July 24, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I’m glad you reviewed this album. I think your rating is what I’d give it too. It’s a good album, even if The Trishas is still my preference and I hope they’re not done for good. I absolutely agree that “Beautiful Accidents” is the highlight of the album. As I said on a different thread, I particularly love the piano riff of the song, but it’s a great song all around.

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