by Lee Zimmerman
As its name implies, Reckless Kelly has never been averse to taking a risk or tying credence to creativity. Fortunately, in the case of these twin offerings, American Jackpot and American Girls, the band walks away with both.
Together with a lengthy list of hired hands, Reckless Kelly set about recording a single album that quickly expanded to two. The intent was to write an America-themed record, but not a series of super-patriotic anthems, or for that matter, anything that could be taken for political pontification.
“We hit the jackpot, you and me, we were born in North America in the 20th century,” Reckless Kelly proclaims on opener “North America Jackpot.” It’s a heady boast and one that might find tongue planted at least partially in cheek. The tracks that follow offer homages of their own, from the teeming regret and remorse of “Tom Was a Friend of Mine” and the stunning ode to an everyday American hero, “Grandpa Was a Jack of All Trades,” to the resilience and affirmation summoned forth in “Put On Your Brave Face Mary” and the final farewell given, “Goodbye Colorado.”
Not surprisingly, the sonic sweep that encompasses American Jackpot frequently finds a common connection with the second song cycle, American Girls. Both tip a hat to the notion that heartland romance is frequently both an amorous and arduous affair. “Mona,” “Company of Kings,” “Miss Marissa,” “Lost Inside the Groove,” “American Girls,” “Don’t Give Up On Love,” and “I Only Can See You With My Eyes Closed” — the latter a dynamo of a duet with Suzzy Bogguss — provide the continuity, each a robust, ramshackle rocker in keeping with Reckless Kelly’s signature sound.
Taken in tandem — as was obviously intended —American Jackpot and American Girls provide a stirring sense of lust and longing, an epic glance at life with all its triumphs and tumult. If Reckless Kelly qualifies as an overachiever, there’s also no denying the success that’s resulted in doing just that.