Kessler's new originals get to heart of country - 4 stars
from the Chicago Daily Herald's music critic, Mark Guarino on March 1, 2002:
Kelly Kessler, "The Salt Of Your Skin" (Melungeon Records)
Ever since since Kelly Kessler set down in Chicago, she's made it her mission to plumb her Appalachian musical roots. As one-half of the Texas Rubies and now leading the Wichita Shut-Ins, Kessler has been one of the city's most impassioned figures in breaking down country music's barriers as well as campaigning for its age-old nobility.
Her solo debut is proof the music can be dusted off to still resonate with modern ears. Kessler's new originals get to the heart of country's mission: to wring plaintive emotions out of everyday situations and make them breathe with dignity.
Backed by many Chicago country notables -Robbie Fulks, Jane Baxter Miller, Gerald Dowd, Lawrence Peters, John Rice and others- the 10 songs have the feel of a living room after dinner singalong, something the seven voices on the chilling gospel hymn "Back He Flew Away," defines.
Without going retro, layering on urban irony or cupping the music with a purist's hands, Kessler instead manages to connect with the warm, simple feel of the acoustic music's past. There is some roadhouse rowdiness on this album, but the songs that refuse to be ignored are the slower heartbreak ballads. "Meet Me Tonight At The Landfill" ( a duet with Peters) freeze-frames a conversation between a couple grappling with a "love so dead, there's nothing left to kill." And the title song conjures up nighttime mystery with lush, gypsy flair.
Small moments strike big here and the immediacy can be deadly. In a bluegrass duet with Fulks in league with the Stanley Brothers ("One True Way"), the two harmonize about wishing for "heavenly peace" and you swear they hit transcendence.
THIRD COAST MUSIC'S FREEFORM AMERICAN ROOTS CHART (REAL MUSIC PLAYED FOR REAL PEOPLE BY REAL DJs) Far And Away: Best of 2002:
Best Albums - #18 The Salt Of Your Skin
Best Debut Albums - #3 The Salt Of Your Skin
Best Female Vocalist - #5 Kelly Kessler (tied with Tift Merritt)
"I'd say Ms. Kessler's new disc [Salt of Your Skin] represents the future of alt.country, but that would be a lie. The skill necessary to synthesize the diverse strands of country on this record, not to mention the ability to blend the range of talents from Robbie Fulks to Kent Kessler, just aren't present in enough artists to constitute a movement. Instead, I'll call this a welcome release from a unique talent."
DJ Carl Zimring,
"Fear & Whiskey",
WRCT, Pittsburgh, PA