by Al Kaufman
Austin's Reckless Kelly, named after Australian outlaw Ned "Reckless" Kelly, have never quite been able to live up to their image. While they try to convey themselves as renegade country-rockers, they often come across as Steve Earle with the rough edges rubbed clean.
While Bulletproof offers a glimpse into just how great they could be if chose to cut their albums on a dusty dirt road instead of a sterile studio, they still are ultimately unable to live up to their oh so great potential.
"Ragged as the Road" starts things off well. The song chugs along as it conjures up dusty roads, scorched earth, trains, and guns. The band also offers up a nice one-two punch in the middle, with "A Guy Like Me" and "American Blood." The former is full of swagger and bravado as the subject tries to convince the girl to fall in love with his bad self. The latter is an all too true assessment of our American soldiers. Songwriter and vocalist Willy Braun says the song is not pro- or anti-American, but simply "a tribute to the sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform." But since the soldier in Braun's story comes back missing his legs and "cries God bless America but God damn Uncle Sam," it is unlikely any McCain supporters will be singing it at any rallies.The band backs up their words by setting up collection bins for soldiers at their shows. Concert goers are encouraged to bring toiletries, canned food items, clothing, and postcards. They offer a complete list of desired items here.
"God Forsaken Town," co-written with Robert Earl Keen, demonstrates the anger and frustration of a Katrina survivor in New Orleans. The character in this story sits atop his roof with a sawed-off shotgun to keep looters at bay, but also pleads to "let the mighty Mississippi take this God forsaken town."
The rest of the CD is nice enough, but sounds mostly like Steve Earle outtakes. This is not a bad thing in itself, but all it takes is a couple of listens, or a chance to see them live, to realize that this band is capable of a whole lot more.