It Don’t Come Easy
Gabriel Kelley is a former Music Row songwriter that turned from his life of sin and created It Don’t Come Easy, his debut album. After raising most of the funds via Kickstarter campaign the Country-tinged traveler enlisted engineer/producer Neil Cappellino (Alison Kraus, Joan Osbourne, Del McCoury, and so on) and a host of wonderful musicians to help him bring his creation to life. And with one of the most interesting biographies I have read in awhile, it’s no wonder that It Don’t Come Easy has that early Country flare that makes you think about simpler things like logging, wood fires, kerosene lamps, moonshine, flannel shirts with suspenders, respect, and, above all else, family.
The album begins its journey with the forward leaning “How Come” that goes all out with a soaring vocal, mild string work, and a pretty excellent backing piano that comes in at every right place. It’s a great way to kick off the album and when coupled with the Southern Gospel feel of “Faith” you get a sense that this might be what the Black Crowes could have done without the interference of a major label in their early on in their career. “In Your Loving Arms” has a bit of that Southern Gospel feel to it as well, especially in the chorus. “These Old Green Hills” is the highlight here in my opinion though. It just paints a gorgeous picture of a bad situation that sheds light on the ushering in of a new way of life. For the most part there are a good bit of instruments here but you don’t really notice them because each player stays in their spot, shining when it’s their turn and working together as a backdrop when it’s not.
What it takes to pull off an album like this is a voice. Not any voice but one that can command the listener’s attention even when it’s the instruments turn to make a run at glory and Kelley has one of those voices. Like Jerome Wincek, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Chris Robinson, Peter Gabriel, Jen Chapin, Gabriel Wilson, and a handful of others, when Kelley sings you want to listen because it feels important. That makes all the difference here. It’s what takes It Don’t Come Easy from “good” to “great.” If you like any of the artists mentioned here or like a mild-Country flavor to your singer/songwriter suave then you’ll love this. If you primarily enjoy Death Metal then you probably won’t enjoy this.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher