Review – Josh Kelley’s “Mandolin Rain”

There’s nothing I love more than finding a song that nobody is talking about and bringing it to people’s attention. I doubt any of you reading this even know the name Josh Kelley. He hasn’t been in country very long and has spent most of his career in the indie rock genre. He made his country debut three years ago with the album Georgia Clay, which peaked #17 on the U.S. Country chart. He had one minor hit from the album, which was the title track, with the single also peaking at #17. After listening to “Georgia Clay” I recognized his voice and you might too. Since then we haven’t heard anything from him. This is despite the fact that he’s the brother of Charles Kelley, who is 1/3 of Lady Antebellum. He’s also married to movie star Katherine Heigl, who has starred in numerous movies and television shows. Okay maybe it’s not surprising we haven’t heard much from him with so much star talent around him.

Kelly makes his return to country music by covering the 80s hit, “Mandolin Rain,” the first single from his upcoming album. This song was made popular by the multi-genre group Bruce Hornsby & the Range and peaked at #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1987. It reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and it also peaked at #38 on the U.S. Hot Country Singles chart. This is despite the fact that I wouldn’t consider it country at all. Take a listen for yourself.

Kelley’s cover of “Mandolin Rain” is actually quite good. In fact he makes the song sound country, while also giving it a modern taste. The song appropriately starts off with the playing of a mandolin and sets a good tone to start the song off. Kelley’s singing and the backdrop of the mandolin playing throughout the song mesh well together. The song itself is about a man reflecting on a past relationship and recalling the good times he misses. The man realizes it’s over and no matter how much he thinks about it he knows she isn’t coming back. This is how you maturely deal with a breakup instead of going “redneck crazy” and throwing beer cans at your ex’s house. Take note of this Tyler Farr.

The song has very little pop influence and is mostly country through and through with folk elements mixed in also. A good comparison for Kelley and this song is Josh Turner and his catalogue of songs. Kelley and Turner’s voices made be too pure for some traditional country fans, but should be just fine with most country fans. I know Kelley and this song is good with this reviewer.

This song was a pleasant surprise that I found on the country music page on iTunes and I’m glad I gave it a listen. This song contains no bro country clichés or any annoying EDM and electronic influences. It’s an actual country, heartbreak song with a modern sound. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is when I hear songs like this after listening to Brad Paisley’s “River Bank” and Lady Antebellum’s “Bartender.” This song probably won’t chart well nor get a lot of radio play because of what I stated above. You have to whore yourself out to the popular flavor in order to get attention in mainstream country music.

If you’re looking for a song with actual substance and an actual country sound, I highly recommend checking this song out.

Grade: 7/10

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