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Josh Kelley releases a gem of a debute

Rebecca Saunders | Tuesday, October 28, 2003

For many musicians, success comes from being at the right place at the right time and meeting the right person. For Josh Kelley, the story is not quite that typical. Currently popular for his single “Amazing,” Kelley graduated from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and originally hails from Augusta, Georgia. An art major and golf star in college, Kelley, 22, came up with the title of his first album, For the Ride Home, while in his college dorm. Kelley explains, “There would be some break coming up and everybody would be burning CDs – random mixes of things. They’d all say, ‘I’m burning something for the ride home.’ With this CD – the way I’ve written it and all is different moods – I really want it to be their music for the ride home.” It seems normal enough, but Kelley’s story takes a different path when he explains how he gained his popularity. Unlike most musical acts, Kelley did not move up the ranks of popularity through touring, but instead used the Internet to promote his songs. He would record his own songs and then download them onto Napster. Under categories such as, “if you like Dave Matthews Band then you will love Josh Kelley,” using bands that he sounded like, Josh Kelley carved his own destiny. The downloads eventually made it to Hollywood Records and the rest is For the Ride Home.The sound of Kelley overall is light, acoustic and highly melodic. Comparisons are drawn to the earlier works of John Mayer, but some tracks are much softer and more sincere, creating an almost male Norah Jones sound. Overall the album is a great compilation of all different moods of music, the amount of upbeat songs only slightly outnumbering the slower and more reflective songs. The single “Amazing” is simply a great song, one that will be stuck in your head for days. With Kelley crooning, “I say baby, you’re amazing / And I want to let you see / You are everything and more to me / And I will let you be,” any listener believes every word his melodic voice sings. The following tracks, “Everybody Wants You” and “Travelin'” have similar styles to “Amazing,” as well as the similar female theme. Singing along can’t be helped, as the folksy lyrics imprint themselves on the listeners’ lips. Another strong point of the album is the slower and soulful “Home to Me.” The song serves as almost a plea to the girl who feels neglected and dismissed. Kelley admits his devotion in the chorus, ” ‘Cause it’s you that I’m runnin’ to baby / Its you that I’m feelin’ for lately and / it’s like a pain that never goes away / And it always starts today / ‘Cause you are home to me.” The song is a highlight of the album and reveals a deeper and musically complex side of Kelley.There is also a touch of Southern flavor that surfaces on the album, especially in “Follow You” and “Perfect 10.” The guitar is a bit more plucked and the vocals a bit more textured.For the Ride Home comes full circle and completes the entire picture. The album is perfect for the ride home with Kelley’s distinct mix of fun, slow and, at all times, meaningful songs. Kelley does not look like a rock star and has definitely carved his own path in the music industry, and he is, thankfully for the listener, all the better for it.

Contact Rebecca Saunders at rsaunder@nd.edu