Drawing on her love of bluegrass and classic country music, Irene Kelley is stepping back into the spotlight with Pennsylvania Coal, her first album in more than 10 years.
A Nashville resident since 1984, she’s landed memorable songwriting cuts with Alan Jackson (“A Little Bluer Than That”) and Trisha Yearwood (“O Mexico”), singers who aren’t shy about selecting sad material. The melancholy beauty in those songs is evident throughout Kelley’s new project, especially on the lead track, “You Don’t Run Across My Mind.”
Kelley wrote the well-crafted heartbreaker with Peter Cooper, a journalist and musician with a shared respect for the twists of traditional country songwriting.
“I had this sort of metaphor rolling around about how, to someone that is no longer in your life, you may be a ‘breeze going by’ or ‘a passing thought,’ but to you, that person’s memory is as strong as a storm and ever present,” Kelley tells CMT Edge. “We just had a discussion, and the song took off from there. The rolling banjo really sets the stage for the emotion.”
Kelley praises her “dream band” for putting a special touch on the collection. Bluegrass bassist Mark Fain produced Pennsylvania Coal with a boost from session players like Stuart Duncan, Adam Steffey and Bryan Sutton. In addition, Dailey & Vincent’s Darren Vincent supplies subtle harmony on “You Don’t Run Across My Mind.”
Although several of the new tunes are tinged with that high, lonesome feeling, Kelley will celebrate the album release with a special Valentine’s Day show at Nashville’s Station Inn.
Listen to Irene Kelley’s “You Don’t Run Across My Mind.”