Kelley revs up with “The Driver”


Elena Gillis, Staff Writer

It is safe to say that newly solo artist Charles Kelley is best known for his continuing contribution to the band Lady Antebellum, which also consists of singer Hillary Scott and guitarist Dave Haywood.


However, Kelley recently branched out to create his own music. His first solo album, The Driver, was released Feb. 5.


When I began listening to the album, I was constantly searching for sounds that echoed that of Lady Antebellum. I found little – the structure of each party’s songs were similar, which only went on to say that they wrote their own works. Kelley’s album lacks the hard country sound that Lady Antebellum has.


The only true country sound throughout The Driver was Kelley’s voice – the music that is accompanied carried varying sounds that provided each song with a different tone. Kelley’s voice is used as a constant, tying the whole album together.


The Driver features many collaborating artists such as fellow country stars Dierks Bentley, Eric Paslay and Miranda Lambert, as well as Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame. The tracks featuring these artists clearly show their influences, and the collage of voices creates a depth that is lacked in most songs.


The Driver was a hit everywhere, reaching the No. 2 spot on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and No. 35 in the Billboard 200. Kelley’s album was something different, and I found myself liking nearly every song. The five songs reviewed below, however, are my personal favorites from the album.


“Your Love”

As the first track of Kelley’s album, “Your Love” needs to give Kelley’s individual sound a reputation, and it does just that. It highlights Kelley’s voice, reminding you that this is his album – not Lady Antebellum’s. The song is very upbeat and does not carry the usual country ideals. Kelley sings of dreams and the good times to come, which gives off a certain vibe for the remainder of the album.


“Lonely Girl

Just as in many of Lady Antebellum’s hits, “Lonely Girl” tells a story wrapped within a collage of great sounds. The chorus and verses carry a contrast – the chorus was more upbeat, as it confessed to the subject of the song – the artist’s true feelings. The verses before and after the song, however, comfort the subject, a message reinforced with a softer sound.


“Round In Circles”

“Round In Circles” has a faster tempo than the previous songs on the album. It too tells more of a story, from a glance across the room till foretelling how their relationship will end. Kelley’s lyric choice shines through in the song – the repetition of the lyric “round in circles” give the listener more of a feel for the message of the song. His unique voice is highlighted in this song. “Round In Circles” has less of a country feel than the rest of the album, which is what makes it stand out.


“I Wish You Were Here” feat. Miranda Lambert

The influence that Miranda Lambert has on Kelley’s music is clear in “I Wish You Were Here.” The song is easily one of the most country sounding songs on the album. Lambert’s voice is layered atop Kelley’s to create a more dimensional song. It is the song that is the most reminiscent of Lady Antebellum’s style, though Lambert seems to be taking the place of Scott in the way that the song’s purpose is to tell a story supported by who sings what.


“Leaving Nashville”

To me, “Leaving Nashville” comes across as the most emotional track on the album. The song is filled with raw sentiment, and though many cannot relate directly to the lyrics, the general message of broken dreams is clear. It is much more simple than the other songs on the album. The song’s main focus is on Kelley’s voice, which only makes the piece that much more emotional. It carries the vague country feel, as many on the album do, by showcasing Kelley’s range and scratchy country voice.


As a fan of Lady Antebellum, I was excited to hear that Kelley was releasing a solo album. The fact is, however,  it is unfair to compare his work to that of the group. Yes, it is similar, but The Driver is so purely individualistic, that it is not the same thing. His album is for those with a secret love of country music – not as intense as some, but just barely country enough to keep you thinking.