by Mark Engelson
For 25 years, Americana band Reckless Kelly has kept it in the family. Founded by brothers Willy and Cody Braun (and drummer Jay Nazz, who remains with the band, and rounded out by bassist Joe Miller), Reckless has put out a series of classic albums that authentically mix rock and country, all with the flavor of their native west. Their new double album, American Girls/American Jackpot, brings together extended family and prestigious guests for an album as expansive as its subject.
The Brauns have a musical legacy going back to their grandfather, who played in casinos before gambling was outlawed in Idaho in the early 1950s. As children, they played with their father in Muzzie Braun & The Little Braun Brothers; Muzzie lends singing talents to the album, and their uncle Gary plays chromatic harmonica.
The outside talent on this double LP is phenomenal. Haunting, ethereal strings were arranged by Eleanor Masterson (Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Mastersons). Charlie Sexton contributes his ample guitar talents to “I Only See You With My Eyes Closed,” and singer-songwriter Suzy Boggus lends her vocal stylings to “Any Place That’s Wild.” Shawn Sahm, son of Texas legend Doug Sahm (The Sir Douglas Quintet, The Texas Tornados) also appears.
None of that talent would be of any use without Willy’s finely crafted songs. In “Thinking ‘Bout You All Night,” he captures the majestic of the American West. In a call-out to the great Jackie Robinson, he celebrates America’s favorite pastime in “42.” With “Tom Was A Friend of Mine,” he’s written a fitting tune to a great American musician.