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Elmore Magazine (review): Irene Kelley - "These Hills"After evolving from a somewhat archaic form of old-timey music of the back porch variety, today’s bluegrass has become a populist genre filled a crowded field of contenders. Irene Kelley, who made her entrance a few years ago, has, in the time since, emerged at the top of the pack. These Hills proves an apt title, given that these songs ring with the authenticity of genuine mountain music. As Kelley demonstrates, it’s not enough to simply replicate the style; here she invests her heart and soul into the rustic revelry espoused in such songs “Carolina Wind” and “Up In Those Blue Ridge Mountains.” Read More!

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Irene Kelley is one of those singer-songwriters who seems to drift in and out of my musical life. It was as a writer for Trisha Yearwood, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White, Rhonda Vincent, Alan Jackson and Claire Lynch that I first came across this unassuming lady. Shortly after, Irene released a couple of excellent singles on MCA, but it was another ten years before SIMPLE PATH, her debut album, reconnected me with this talented singer-songwriter. Since then she has released a further three albums, each one a rare and delicate musical treasure trove. This latest one is a natural progression for a singer-songwriter who has traversed life’s joys and troubles with fortitude and optimism and unfurls her tales of that life with gentle passion. Read More!

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BluegrassToday.com For years Irene Kelley has been one of the best kept secrets in Nashville, weaving her magic into song after song for artists like Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood, Loretta Lynn, Rhonda Vincent, Carl Jackson, Claire Lynch, Pure Prairie League, the Osborne Brothers and others. But last night it was her turn at Nashville’s world famous Station Inn. One look around the room spoke volumes about the friends, fans and colleagues she’s made over the years, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles to hear the voice and lyrics from one of Music City’s top talents. This was a capacity crowd; not an easy thing to pull off in a town awash in music and live performances. But then after all, this was Irene Kelley. Read More!

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Irene Kelley lives up to her reputation as a stellar artist and songwriter with her latest, the rootsy, grassy Pennsylvania Coal. Quality should be no surprise, since Kelley has been in demand on Music Row for decades for her sweet, pure sound and sought-after writing skills, with cuts by artists including Carl Jackson, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson and Trisha Yearwood). With this album, Kelley aims for the heart with friendly vocals and relevant material. She, along with her cowriters — the likes of Thomm Jutz, David Olney, Peter Cooper and Jon Weisberger, among others – exhibit a knack for approaching a common hook from a refreshing angle in songs such as “Feels Like Home” and “You Don’t Run Across My Mind.” ~ Engine 145 – CASEY L. PENN Read More!
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Drawing on her love of bluegrass and classic country music, Irene Kelley is stepping back into the spotlight with Pennsylvania Coal, her first album in more than 10 years. A Nashville resident since 1984, she’s landed memorable songwriting cuts with Alan Jackson (“A Little Bluer Than That”) and Trisha Yearwood (“O Mexico”), singers who aren’t shy about selecting sad material. The melancholy beauty in those songs is evident throughout Kelley’s new project, especially on the lead track, “You Don’t Run Across My Mind.”
~ CMT Edge – Craig Shelburne Read More!
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In 1983, Irene Kelley made her first trip to Nashville and found what seemed like a bluegrass paradise. “We came here on our honeymoon,” she tells the Scene. “We went to The Station Inn and met somebody and ended up at this party in a field in Madison. It was the very first International Bluegrass Music Association gathering. Emmylou Harris and Marty Stuart were there. It was like I’d died and went to heaven.” ~ Nashville Scene – Randy Fox Read More!
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The title track of Irene Kelley’s handsome new album, “Pennsylvania Coal,” pays tribute to her grandparents’ struggles in a mining town outside Pittsburgh. The veteran country songwriter has since relocated to Nashville, where she’s penned songs for Trisha Yearwood and Alan Jackson, but on this bluegrass-tinged album, she’s telling her own stories with great clarity and warmth. ~ The Washington Post – Chris Richards Read More!
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Nashville-based Irene Kelley, who hails from Latrobe, Pa., has had her songs recorded by Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn, and other country stars. Pennsylvania Coal (Patio ***1/2), her first album in 11 years, is a wonderful reminder of just how good she is when she’s performing her compositions herself. It’s an exquisite mix of bluegrass, country, and folk, and it showcases the grace and depth of both her singing and her writing. ~ Nick Cristiano Read More!
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Homespun and spun with genuine sentiment, Pennsylvania Coal is an affecting piece of work from an artist clearly on the verge of a big breakthrough. With a stylistic kinship to Dolly and Emmylou, Kelley’s sweet vocals glide gently over the lilt and pluck of banjos, fiddles and mandolins, taking her bluegrass trappings into folkier terrain. Every song’s a gem, making it hard to pick out highlights. Nevertheless, the quiet caress of “Angels Around Her,” the genuinely good natured “You Don’t Run Across My Mind” and the trad sounding “You Are Mine” effortlessly strike a sentimental chord the first time out. ~ The Bluegrass Situation – Lee Zimmerman Read More!
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I wasn’t prepared for what happened the first time I hit play on Irene Kelley’s new CD, Pennsylvania Coal. I’ve known and admired her work as a songwriter and I knew from reading the liner notes that the picking would be terrific. That’s a given when the credits include Adam Steffey on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Bryan Sutton on guitar. What I wasn’t ready for was Kelley’s voice. From the opening lines of You Don’t Run Across My Mind to the final strains of You Are Mine, it mesmerized me. Think of a comfortable place between Claire Lynch and Nanci Griffith, the kind of voice you can listen to all day. Bluegrass Today – David Morris Read More!
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When Stuart Duncan’s fiddle leaps off the first song, “You Don’t Run Across My Mind,” on veteran songwriter Irene Kelley’s new album, Pennsylvania Coal, we can’t help but be transported out of this moment and carried by Kelley’s sparkling voice-backed on this song by Darren Vincent-into a world that celebrates hope, love, and joy as much as it mourns loss.” ~ No Depression Henry carrigan Read More!
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Irene Kelley manages to talk family history like she is going through a photo album and pinpoint how family, and resolve, could turn hardship into strength, and how the drive of our ancestors has changed over a few generations from ‘work for it’ to ‘gimme’– the mark of a good story teller, seamlessly turning the pages on the decades. ~ The Alternate Root Read More!
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The work of Merle Travis, Loretta Lynn and many others over the decades has highlighted the close connection between music and the coal industry in Kentucky and West Virginia, but Kelley’s title song recalls that men have been going underground to make a living in Pennsylvania longer than anywhere else in the country. It’s a powerful song that would likely have Travis himself nodding approval.
~ Country Standard Tme – John Lupton Read More!
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“Pennsylvania Coal” is a refreshing gathering of music and musicians alike. It has been 10 years since veteran Nashville songwriter and small town Pennsylvania native Irene Kelley released a collection of original songs. As a tribute to her coal mining grandfather, there are 12 new original songs on “Pennsylvania Coal”, all of which were either written or co-written by Kelley. ~ Prescription Bluegrass Read More!
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This should be a very good week for Nashville singer-songwriter Irene Kelley. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, she’ll drop by to perform at Grimey’s record store in Nashville, followed by a full show on Friday at the legendary Station Inn. Best of all, this is also the week the world will get to hear her remarkable new album Pennsylvania Coal, which just entered the Americana Music Association airplay chart. From the back cover depicting her coal-mining grandfather to “You Are Mine,” the closing track written and performed with her daughters, Pennsylvania Coal is fueled by family. ~ Sun209: Americana Music News – Ken Paulson Read More!
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Singer/songwriter Irene Kelley travels through her past on a musical journey with Pennsylvania Coal. The stage is set visually with a photo on the back of the CD of her coal-mining grandfather (to whom she pays tribute) and other miners at the mouth of the Crabtree, Pa., coal mine. Characters spring to life in the title track as Kelley sings about the rugged life of her first generation ancestors: My grandpa worked the mine, and then he worked the farm/Eight hours in the dark, six hours in the sun. The story weaves forward through successive generations with the remaining 11 tracks including “My Flower,” “Rattlesnake Rattler,” “Better With Time,” and “Sister’s Heart.” ~ Bluegrass Unlimited Read More!
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COALMINING COUNTRY SINGER-SONGWRITER IRENE KELLEY DEBUTS HER NEW BLUEGRASS ALBUM AT THE RED DRAGON

“Nashville singer-songwriter Irene Kelley has developed a reputation for penning intimate, personal songs that reflect her own experiences, as well as her roots in country and bluegrass music. “That’s what I know the best,” Kelley says, referencing the belief that you should write what you know. “A song’s got to mean something to me if I’m going to go out there and play it every night.” On Friday, Aug. 2, Kelley will perform her personal songs in the intimacy of Red Dragon Listening Room, celebrating the release of her new bluegrass album, Pennsylvania Coal. ~ Dig Baton Rouge BY J.W. LONG Read More!

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“From the first soaring notes of the leading track on her debut album, it is obvious that this woman was meant to sing. Simple Path, originally released on Kelley’s own label and now distributed by Madacy Entertainment’s Relentless Nashville, makes good use of her voice, pairing it with simple, clean arrangements and Kelley’s heart and soul lyrics to produce a winning package.” ~ Stacia Proefrock Allmusic.com Read more!

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Another of Alan Jackson’s faves is his version of singer/songwriter Irene Kelley’s gorgeously melancholy “A Little Bluer Than That.” “I love that thing,” exclaims Alan. “I was driving home from the airport one Saturday night and turned on the Grand Ole Opry, and she was on. I’d never heard of her before, but she sang that song and I said, ‘Dang, that’s good.’ I made a little note of it.” Alan remembered the song when it was time to record Drive, and even invited Irene to sing harmony with him on the track. ~ Country Weekly

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“Sunshine bright vocals and organic, mostly acoustic production highlight what’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite records of the year. It gives me the same aid and comfort I recall from first discovering Nanci Griffith or Suzy Boggus.” ~ Craig Havighurst – The Tennessean

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