About a month ago I started to hear rumors swirl about the breakup of Lady Antebellum. It came as a surprise to many, as this group has been a mainstay in mainstream country for several years. At the same time it wasn’t that surprising to hear considering it has felt like Lady Antebellum has been passed by in mainstream country music for younger, male artists. It feels like ages since their mega-hit “Need You Now.” The good news for Lady Antebellum fans is that they aren’t breaking up, but the group is taking an “open-ended hiatus.” I think this is a smart move, as it will allow them to recharge their batteries and allow them to get back to the drawing board so to speak. In the meantime though one member of Lady A isn’t taking a break. Surprisingly, one-third of the group, Charles Kelley, is embarking on his own solo career (by the way, those vague ads by Capitol Records in Country Aircheck were indeed Kelley’s). Along with Hillary Scott, Kelley has been the lead vocalist for the group. His first single is here too, with “The Driver.”
And I have to say this song is a real pleasant surprise. In fact after my first listen I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “The Driver” is pretty good and has real sincerity about it. This starts with the acoustic guitar that opens the song and maintains a presence throughout the album. An electric guitar also joins it and gives the song an earthy, singer-songwriter vibe about it. It feels and sounds like something that belongs on country radio. The song itself (written by Kelley, Eric Paslay and Abe Stoklasa) is a feel good sing-a-long about traveling around on the road and making music. So it’s only appropriate that Kelley is also joined on the song by Eric Paslay and Dierks Bentley. They harmonize in the chorus and it’s just fantastic. This is why I want more collaborations between the best artists in country music. Bentley’s solo in the bridge is really good and sets up nicely for Kelley hitting the high note shortly after.
Kelley choosing Bentley and Paslay to join him on the song is a brilliant move, as their voices mesh together well. It also brings in more ears to the song, as fans of all three will certainly want to give this song a listen. All in all I’m impressed by this first single from Charles Kelley. “The Driver” is the kind of song we desperately need in mainstream country music. Kelley has a great voice, which is something we’ve all known hearing him in Lady Antebellum all these years. But hearing him solo he sounds even better for some reason. Kelley is set to release his debut solo album in 2016, as he was said to impress industry insiders at a private show earlier this week. Whatever happens next, don’t worry about it and just savor this great song.