This is the fourth full-length bluegrass album from Irene, which includes guest appearances by luminaries like Trisha Yearwood, The Kruger Brothers, Ronnie Bowman and was co-produced by Kelley and her daughter Justyna Kelley.
Snow White Memories has already garnered three songs that topped the Bluegrass Today Charts at #1. Her rendition of the classic rock band Kansas’ tune, “Can I Tell You,” will surely surprise and delight fans. The Washington Post – “Great Warmth and Clarity.”
New Full-Length Bluegrass
Album out Now on All Platforms
Song by Song:
1. WILD MOUNTAIN STREAM
Irene Kelley / Billy Droze / Terry Herd
During the pandemic I turned to nature to relieve my cabin fever.I made trips to East Tennessee and the Smokey Mountains on occasion was one thing that was doable and kept me sane. The mountains and the beauty there has always been a huge
inspiration to me, most notably the running waters, raging rivers, and cool clear streams. I brought the title and idea to Billy Droze and Terry Herd during one of our Zoom writing sessions. It was only after maybe an hour later that we had the song completed. The musicians and Justyna & Ronnie's background vocals brought the song to a whole new level of beauty.
2. CAROLINA SPECIAL
Irene Kelley / Terry Herd / Ronnie Bowman
Train songs are always a favorite in bluegrass and for me to record. Terry Herd has a good track record for writing them and
had this idea. The Carolina Special was an actual line that operated from 1911 to 1968. It was the last passenger train to use
the route of one of the oldest railroads in the USA, the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad, which began operation in December 1830 as the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. Surely, she misses the track, surely she's haunted. Terry, Ronnie, and I wrote this song one afternoon during the pandemic. I knew right away that I had to include it on my next record.
3. COME SOME WINTER MORNING
Irene Kelley / Ronnie Bowman / Terry Herd
I got this song started one morning while at my cabin in Gatlinburg. The fire was going and the first verse and melody kinda rolled out. A few months later, I finished it up with Ronnie and Terry also while at my cabin and its great inspiration. Terry
remarked that it reminded him of something that the Kruger brothers might record and offered to reach out to them and ask if they would be interested in playing the track. Terry, Ronnie and myself are all HUGE Kruger Brothers fans. Jens responded right away and said, “yes for sure”. So this is the result of their fine playing. My friend and long-time band member, Wayne Southards adds a beautiful harmony part.
Irene Kelley / Mark Irwin
Lonely’ came with the title and melody line during the pandemic. I was feeling alone and isolated and picked up the guitar and starting singing the word over the descending line. My longtime friend and cowriter Mark Irwin came by to write on the back porch soon after, and I showed it to him. He immediately said, 'let's keep what you've got and lean into it even. Mark and I have a pretty good track record after writing, ‘A Little Bluer Than That’ and having Alan Jackson record a few years back. So I trusted his direction and the process. Ronnie Bowman was the perfect voice for the harmony parts, and I love it when he steps out on a few lines. Just magic. Rob Ickes Dobro was certainly the icing on the cake.
5. YELLOW BRICK HIGHWAY
Irene Kelley / Steve Leslie
Really thought about covering the song, “Snowbird” by Anne Murray as this has been a long time favorite. I got with another
longtime friend and co-writer Steve Leslie from EMI publishing days. Steve had a great hook line, “Yellow Brick Highway” and I of course have a love of the movie Wizard of Oz. This gives a nod to the yellow brick road and opens us up for many great
metaphors and imagery. Between the inspiration of Snowbird, the Wizard of Oz and Steve’s great line, we had our song in a very short time. This is one of my favorites.
6. 4th OF JULY IN MY HOMETOWN
Irene Kelley / Justyna Kelley / Steve Cropper
The idea for “4th of July in My Hometown” has been rolling around in my head for a few years. Being from the small town of Latrobe, PA where we celebrated our nation’s birthday with great enthusiasm, I have some vivid happy memories. I also have proud veterans in my family who were always a central part of these celebrations. Anyone who comes from a small town in America can likely relate. Writing this with my daughter, Justyna, and the legendary Steve Cropper was a real joy. When we came upon the line, 'silently we wave' that gives a nod to our armed forces, we all teared up with emotion and patriotism. It is a very special moment and song for the three of us. The absolute icing on the cake is my good friend Trisha Yearwood’s gorgeous harmony and descant parts. I hope that everyone can find a happy memory from their own hometown and that the song lifts their spirits and puts a smile on their face.
7. SATAN GET BEHIND ME
Irene Kelley / Bill Whyte
Words have power and I have a lifelong love for them. The bible scriptures are rich with good words that bring great comfort. “Get behind thee, Satan” Mark 8:33 says a lot and sure feels powerful saying as much! Bill was 100% in for this idea to co-write. A rollicking tempo with Scott Vestals banjo taking center stage was the best way to present this song I believe! Some days are a challenge but not today, Satan! Brooke & Darin Aldridge sing like angels so there’s that too.
8. SIX FEET DOWN
Irene Kelley / Donna Ulisse
Donna and I had a great time writing that day as I recall very clearly. We mused how the title could make the listener think that they are in for a murder/suicide ballad. No so! Just a metaphor for lost love and a minor key to take the emotion that much further. The hot band for sure ‘killed’ this one.
9. SNOW WHITE MEMORIES
Irene Kelley / Justyna Kelley
Once again, the dang pandemic gets some undeserved credit. Justyna and I had been perusing an antique store when I found the vinyl. “High Country Snows” by Dan Fogleberg among them so I snatched it up quick to replace my long-lost copy. Holed up at home, I had this record on repeat. It was that first spin and the cover art that I knew my next album was going to have a winter themed title. I floated the title “snow white memories” to Jus and she immediately said “hard to look, harder to look away” a standout line in the song. I used the word “souvenir” in the 2nd verse as a nod to Dan Fogelberg’s “Souvenirs” album. This track is very special with both Kelley Daughter/divas on gorgeous harmony vocals! In short, “Snow White Memories” is about my story and my early days in a small town in Western Pennsylvania where the winters were long ... but so are the memories.
10. CAN I TELL YOU
Phillip Ehart / David Hope / Steve Walsh / Richard John Williams
The 70’s and early 80’s found me in a rock and roll band and all of my records were from that genre. First time to hear the band “Kansas” and I was hooked. Obsessed to be honest. My school chums had Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy posters lining their bedroom walls. I had a huge Kansas poster and mostly because of the violin player, Robbie Steinhardt whom I had a giant crush on. This song was their very first single and the lyrics seem to have no expiration date. Just absolutely brilliant and also what we all need to hear at this very moment in time. I wish I could say it was my idea to record this song but credit goes to my very talented and gutsy daughter, Sara Jean who said, “Mom, you just gotta”. To which I replied, “Ok, but you’re both singing with me!” How extra special to have my 2 amazing girls singing with me on this great song. Another high-five to session leader, Scott Vestal for saying, “sure, we can cut that bluegrass!”
11. SAFE TRAVELS, MY FRIEND
Irene Kelley / Ronnie Bowman / Terry Herd
Uncertainty is a silent reality that runs through our days as we say hello and goodbye to friends and family not knowing if and when we should see each other again. I found myself saying and typing ‘safe travels’ many times over these last few years esp. It occurred to me that this was how this next album needed to close even before that song had been completed. A prayer of sorts. Wherever you are or where ever you are headed, I am sincerely wishing you safe travels!