Kelly Ravin plays gritty rock and roll. Equally at home in backcountry bars & big city clubs, his skills as an instrumentalist are outshadowed only by his gifts as a songwriter. Raised in rural Maine and residing in Vermont, Ravin rose to prominence as a driving force behind Waylon Speed, an “underground outlaw dirt rock” band the Washington Post called “a cross between Metallica and the Lumineers, with an unnecessary dash of Prince showmanship.” Glide Magazine and Seven Days provided probably-better touchstones, comparing the band to My Morning Jacket, Waylon Jennings, and Motörhead. The band hit the road hard, sharing the stage with acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, My Morning Jacket, Junior Brown & Futurebirds.
As members of Waylon Speed shifted focus to other endeavors, Ravin focused on his solo work. His music finds itself squarely in the rock and roll tradition, with early influence from acts like The Drive By Truckers and Steve Earle; and modern resonance with the alt-country resurgence led by Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and others.
Ravin’s 2015 release County Tracks, Seven Days called “a muscular work whose arrangements gleam like polished chrome.” The music was recorded in two long days at Burlington’s Future Fields Studios. Ravin played each and every instrument, bringing his arrangements and vision to life in a raw, scarily efficient fashion. “From subtle shifts in tempo in and out of transitions to perfectly placed, ornamental guitar licks to the dynamic deployment of those golden pipes, every thoughtful twist and turn of Ravin's latest is immaculately executed,” wrote Dan Bolles. “It's doubly impressive given that he plays and sings every note on the record.” This combination of beautiful songwriting and tasteful arrangement puts Ravin in select company.
As quickly as County Tracks was released, he began work on his follow-up. Recorded in similar fashion, Ravin’s 2016 LP Bonneville had him on every instrument. Joined by luminary guitarist Mark Spencer (Blood Oranges, Son Volt) on pedal steel, the record picked up where County Tracks left off, pushing the envelope on both song-craft and multi-instrumental execution.
Next Engine dropped in 2017, an album that Seven Days hailed as his “most cohesive work yet, mercurial and nakedly confessional, and a record firmly of its own time.” Jer Coons from Burlington's “psych pop juggernault” Madaila adds some keys, and Ravin's friend and frequent duo partner Lowell Thompson collaborates on guitar. The result is a mix of “hard-charging rockers that allow Ravin to gnash his teeth, both vocally and with whip-tight riffs” balanced with softer, alt-country tracks that creates a progression from “lonely contemplation to a full-throated testimonial.”
Kelly Ravin now tours with The Welterweights, a collaboration with Lowell Thompson and a mashup of Vermont musicians. When not on the road, you can find The Welterweights at Hatch 31 on Tuesdays in Bristol, Vermont. For details on other gigs, follow Kelly Ravin on Facebook.