This article first appeared in Regional Music Journal on June 30, 2019.
Named after the legendary Australian bandit, Ned Kelly famous for his “courage, resolution, and independence”, Reckless Kelly has been creating music and performing to sold-out crowds for more than two decades with the same dedication and unyielding courage.
Reckless Kelly’s music is easily recognizable by their gritty songwriting, powerful lyrics and rock-n-roll beat, mixed with Texas country musicality. With the right combination of determined outlaw and Boy-Scout charm, Reckless Kelly brought rock-n-roll into country music well before it became a recognized musical genre.
Reckless Kelly is more than the stereotypical honky-tonk, beer-drinking band. Their music has substance, which has enabled them to remain a quality music group as they enter into their 21st year of making music and churning out hit records. They entered the Austin, Texas music scene, self-proclaimed music capital of the world, in 1996 led by brothers Willy and Cody Braun, and drummer Jay Nazz. Although raised in Oregon, the trio relocated to Austin and eventually landed lead guitarist David Abeyta and bassist Joe Miller.
The transition to Austin was natural and seamless as their rough brand of country and rock created their unique sound, which was only encouraged in a city where ‘Keep Austin Weird’ is its proud declaration.
Playing to a sold-out Austin crowd at Antone’s Nightclub this past December, Reckless Kelly is a familiar face to the legendary, iconic establishment, which has been considered the ‘Home of the Blues’ for over 40 years. The jammin’ cowboys that are Reckless Kelly looked at home on Antone’s stage in front of a couple of hundred of its biggest fans.
The dueling guitars created an energy that surged throughout the venue. With eruptive, bluesy vocals, a heavy electric guitar, deep, cool tones of the bass guitar, and a rock-n-roll drum tempo, Reckless Kelly gave Antone’s crowd a fiery alternative country-rock performance.
Cody Braun adds his multi-dimensional, multi-instrumental touch to Reckless’s country-style music. According to the band’s website, when addressing Reckless Kelly’s beginnings, Braun said, “our goal was to make music that had a country vibe but a solid rock edge”. From their melodic, slow-tempo songs to the crowd-pleasing upbeat, boot-scooting tunes, Reckless Kelly is dedicated to writing songs that tell a story with substance.
The fans were lined wall-to-wall at Antone’s where it was virtually standing room only. The audience becomes part of the performance during a Reckless Kelly live show. They are as much a member of Reckless Kelly as the five guys playing on the stage. There isn’t one song they didn’t know the words to as Reckless played their older hits mixed with more recent tunes.
Reckless learned early in their lives what it takes to win a crowd over and the Braun brothers are no strangers to performing to an audience. Their father, Muzzie Braun, played country and western swing, enabling the brothers to share the stage with country music legends such as Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, and Merle Haggard.
The band draws its inspiration by listening and observing regular performers of the outlaw country scene such as Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, and Robert Earl Keen. Keen happened to take special notice of the talent that comprised Reckless Kelly and subsequently, became their first manager. Austin was the right place for Reckless Kelly to create their style of music.
Beginning with their 2011 album Good Luck And True Love, Reckless Kelly has been releasing albums on its own label, No Big Deal. After previous lengthy negotiations with record labels, they like the freedom of having their own private label they own and can control.
In 2016, Reckless Kelly released their latest album, Sunset Motel, which is their ninth studio album and one of their most upbeat with songs like “Radio,” “Moment in the Sun,” “How Can You Love Him (If You Don’t Even Like Him),” and “Who’s Going to Be Your Baby Now?”
From cowboy hats to baseball caps, the music of Reckless Kelly attracts a diverse audience with their honky-tonk vibe mixed with hard country rock tunes. Austin happily welcomed back this Texas country band from Ohio as the people standing at the front of the stage were singing almost as loud as the fans crowded in at the front door of Antone’s.
The five-piece country-rock band, Reckless Kelly, has been good to and for the Austin music community and the Austin community loves them right back. To understand Reckless Kelly, their music must only be listened to and the poignant and meaningful songs appreciated, but in order to experience Reckless Kelly, attend just one of their explosive live shows on their current U.S. tour. You are guaranteed to not only have an incredible time, but witness a committed group of musicians that helped pave the way for the musical genre that has become country rock-n-roll.