Kelley Hunt - The Beautiful Bones

A uplifting celebration of strength and resilience
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Judging by The Beautiful Bones, Kelley Hunt's sixth recording to date, she's a pretty irrepressible individual with an endlessly optimistic take on life's journey. The disc is full of positive and inspirational messages and proudly defiant proclamations of strength and independence.

Hunt, who plays a mean piano, gets superb support from a fine band, with stellar guitar work in particular from John Jackson. The music itself feels spacious and free, blending blues, gospel, country and soul into an uplifting heartland gumbo. In addition to Jackson's versatile fretwork, alternately shimmering and slashing, the band is top-notch - drummer Bryan Ownings , bassist Tim Marks, along with Mark Jordan's Hammond B3, provide moody and atmospheric accompaniment throughout, with a few nice sax breaks from Mitch Reilly and The McCrary Sisters adding their gospel-infused background vocals to a pair.

Hunt definitely knows how to craft a hook and build a chorus to a stirring and inspirational conclusion. Every song is strong, crafted with care and exquisitely produced. There's the slinky funk of "This Time," a brassy celebration of selfhood, followed by "Golden Hour," Hunt's exultant declaration of her 'glory days,' and "Let It Rain," a moody meditation on the power of self-reliance and love ... and then there's the 'secular gospel' of "Release and Be Free," with its message to "lay it down, and rise up," and "Simplify," a similar paean to 'letting go,' and the rousing, rollicking "I've Got A Good Feeling," with its sunny optimism, and "Miracle," a tender rumination on the everyday wonder of life. And there's "The Sweet Goodbye," an ode to self-reliance and the courage to move on.

Individually, every composition is a gem, shimmering with hope and admirably indomitable strength, musically rich and packing a powerful message.  Hunt writes well - the title track, another ode to the fragile and elusive yet undeniable beauty of life itself, is a stately anthem packed with vivid imagery.

The accumulated effect, though, starts to seem a bit too much, Hunt's message a little too obvious over the arc of the collection.  To be fair, "When Love Is At The Wheel" can be taken as flat out rock 'n' roll, while "I Want You There" is really just a love song.  After a while, though, Hunt's recurring themes, however poetic and uplifting taken a tune at a time, start to feel like stock clichés.  (Before the bash-the-reviewer letter campaign begins, yes, I know the world can use more positive, optimistic Kelley Hunt's than curmudgeonly old farts like me).

The Beautiful Bones is full of great songs and strong performances, and Hunt delivers each with conviction.  If gritty's your thing, steer clear. But if an affirmative and uplifting collection suits your taste, this is a fine outing indeed.