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Kelley McRae, an artist living in Brooklyn, made her CD debut in 2006 with the album Never Be. The album received rave reviews, including four stars in Paste magazine and her performance on WNYC's 'Soundcheck' was named one of the year's best. The album also led her to reunite with an old friend, director Lear Debessonet, who called on her to write and perform the music for Brecht's "Saint Joan of the Stockyards" at legendary NYC theater, PS 122. The show received a glowing review in the NY Times. These successes, along with the stand-out track "Johnny Cash," put her on the map— at least the New York City music and theater map. With her newest release, Highrises in Brooklyn, produced by Brian Deck (Iron and Wine, Modest Mouse, Josh Ritter, Counting Crows), she deserves more longitude: at least three more time zones.
This is an album that should be all over the map. Not because Kelley arrived in Brooklyn by way of Baltimore, Dallas, and Starkville, Mississippi, but because she, like everyone, makes a daily commute through joy, despair, gratitude, doubt, hope, fear, shame, and the rest. Big cities like New York have a way of uprooting us existentially and daring us to call them home. In many ways, Highrises in Brooklyn is Kelley's answer to that call. She chides Brooklyn's highrises in the album's title track, confesses co-dependence on late-night bars and diners in "Last Call Town" and "Long Walk Home," both rues and needs the BQE—the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in the pop number "BQE."
Another reason she's all over the map is that she lists as influences James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Mary Gauthier, Lucinda Williams, Anne Lamott, Johnny Cash, Cormac McCarthy, Otis Redding, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Patty Griffin, Marilynne Robinson, and Joni Mitchell. "None of them," she says, "are afraid of the darkness that's here." For her, these are people who "just dare you not to believe them." Kelley believes them and, in turn, dares herself.
The resulting songs have inspired and moved other artists, directors and musicians. Her music has been featured in numerous television shows and independent films, including the Sundance film 'Children of Invention' and the hit TV show 'Army Wives.' In an interview in the San Francisco Chronicle, acclaimed German filmmaker Wim Wenders was asked about life, film and music. When asked when he was last moved to tears by a work of art (music, film, painting, etc.), Wim replied "The last songs that made me cry were by a young New York singer, Kelley McRae. One was called "Time," and the other one "Break Us."
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