Singer-songwriter/guitarist Kelly Fitzgerald has never sounded better. Her new disc, Be, is her best yet. What makes this release unique is Fitzgerald’s open acknowledgement that she is often at her best when playing off of other songwriters.
The recent release contains 13 tracks on which Fitzgerald leads the way with her acoustic guitar, percussion and vocals. She is backed by an assortment of additional artists including: Michelle Mangione (drums), Trent Stroh (bass and upright bass), co-producer and songwriting partner Brian Pothier (electric and slide guitar, dobro, keys and strings), and Bob Malone (piano, whirly and organ).
The album opener is the titular track “Be”. It’s an effective enough introduction that was apparently an almost Amazonian effort as Fitzgerald wrote this positive piece with Becky Hobbs, Jane Bach and Yvonne Perea who also provide background vocals. Nola Shepard and Bill Cinque also add their voices to the mix.
“ I’ll Know It When I Get There” and “ Everything Under The Sun”
The second selection is “I’ll Know It When I Get There”. This is a hopeful tune co-written with Jeff Silbar and makes those of us whose lives are journeys not worry too much about the immediacy of the destination. Chris Chatham adds his voice to the backing vocals here.
“Everything Under The Sun”, co-written with Beau Fuller, features Fitzgerald’s percussionist pal and past collaborator Adam Nicol Roach on drums, background vocals by Tim Foust and the piano stylings of Henry O’Neill. This one is about a positive personal outcome.
“How’s That Workin’ Out For Ya?”
The next number is “How’s That Workin’ Out For Ya?” This comment on the human desire to look for “the easy way” was co-composed with Randy Sharp who also sings background vocals. John Thomas—who has previously played guitar solos for Fitzgerald—returns to fill out this decidedly commercial cut.
“Worst In Me”
While the previous piece has “single” written all over it, “Critic’s Choice” must go to “Worst In Me”. Co-written with John Diggins, this is an all-too often true tale about relationships today. (Your crusty chronicler really must stop indulging in adult beverages though because he simply has no recollection of actually being with Fitzgerald even though it’s painfully apparent the song is about your rascally writer.)
“To Know Your Love Again” and “Reclamation Road”
The sixth selection is the song “To Know Your Love Again”. This is the second example of what the Fitzgerald-Sharp team is capable of in terms of songwriting in a song of second chances. It’s followed by “Reclamation Road” which somehow has an old school feel to it despite the fact that it’s an original co-penned with Mare Wakefield who also provides background vocals.
“You’re On To Me” and “Safe Place To Be”
“You’re On To Me” is a nice number that Fitzgerald performs so sincerely you’d swear she was sharing something personal. Co-written with Mangione, who also provides percussion and background vocals, it definitely has a strong female perspective. But lest we forget, Fitzgerald is an effective writer all by her lonesome. Hence, the noteworthy addition of the memorable song “Safe Place To Be”. It’s a slow, sincere serenade that would win over anyone.
“Between Nowhere And Goodbye”
“Between Nowhere And Goodbye” picks things up again. This was written with Lily Wilson and features Jorgen Ingmar on drums. This is a great example of contemporary songwriting in terms of telling a sad story with upbeat instrumentation. This leaves listeners in “between nowhere and goodbye” in more ways than one.
Another powerful, potential hit here is the commercial cut “Late Bloomer”. Here Fitzgerald somehow manages to leave many of the co-written cuts in the dust with a solo effort that—if not truly biographical—surely sounds honest enough to be. Everything works here in a tune that touts that we may all still succeed in life.
Also included here is “Sweetest Eyes”. This was the result of a collaboration between Robert Alsterberg, Ted Hillary and Fitzgerald. It is an emotional song about returning home in more ways than one. It has a subtle spirituality underneath and may also serve as s tribute to the past and parents who have passed.
The album’s end-note is “Real Deal”. This provides the project with a happy ending. It’s the result of a tuneful team-up with Julie Dougherty. It’s a final example of how Fitzgerald works well with others.
Her solo material does sometimes seem somewhat similar to that of Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow. Still, it’s important to note that her material is honest, original and fluid enough to fluctuate between raw and gritty and smooth and silky. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Kelly Fitzgerald’s Be certainly demonstrates that she’s no poser and just might be the “Real Deal”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.