Josh Kelley surprised a lot of fans in 2011 when he took a sharp turn from his singer-songwriter pop into country for his “Georgia Clay” album.
On his follow-up, “New Lane Road” (Sugar Hill), Kelley settles into a more comfortable middle ground that maintains his love of country but adds a more classic ’70s vibe to the mix. Holed up in the Utah home he shares with wife, Katherine Heigl, and their two kids, Kelley wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs and played most of the instruments.
The most successful bits of “New Lane Road” mainly come from his collaborations with his younger brother, Charles, who recently went solo from Lady Antebellum. “Call It What It Is” has an upbeat Jackson Browne feel, with Kelley even adopting some of Browne’s phrasing in the verses. On the laid-back, soulful “Take It on Back,” Kelley shows that he can easily fit on country radio next to Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. However, the powerful “Only God Can Stop Her Now” is the album’s showstopper, with Kelley going from whispers to a full, forceful voice to show the intensity of his feelings.