There is something so very soothing about the delicate, beautiful harmonies Kelley McRae and her husband Matt Castelein are able to create. Six tracks of crisp, exquisite vocals and subtle guitar playing make up “Easy On My Mind,” the duo’s most recent EP.
The songs that comprise this EP are on par with, if not even better than the ones on her previous releases. The EP starts off strong with “Fair Weather,” a soothing song about a couple sticking together through thick and thin. McRae has been compared to Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch in the past, and those critics are right on point.
Castelein and McRae joined musical forces in 2011, hitting the road in their VW camper to play shows across the country. Ever since then, McRae’s music has turned into less of a solo project and more of a duo, and the result has been outstanding. While McRae’s vocals are impressive enough on their own, these tracks are taken to an entirely new level with Castelein’s help. The simple yet elegant juxtaposition of the duo’s vocals can be heard most vividly on “So Fine.”
Their last release, “Brighter than the Blues,” could have made even the toughest of listeners shed a tear, and this new EP is no different. Every song is a new revelation of emotion; McRae reaches into the depths of herself to create and share songs that are both poignant and entirely intimate.
Because the two share so much of their lives together, these are tracks that are very much oriented around the duo’s relationship. But more than that, these tracks are about their journey and the hardship and joys that have appeared along the way. For instance, the EP ends with “At the Feet of Love,” a powerfully candid track about burning bridges and doing yourself wrong. McRae sings, “My voice raised like a fist, my dreams held like a gun; I’m chopping like a knife each word from my tongue.”
You really couldn’t ask for much more with this EP. Their soft vocals complement each other more beautifully than almost any other duo out there right now. If you miss The Civil Wars and their intimate approach to songwriting, then you’ll likely be relieved to have discovered Kelley McRae.
With the EP clocking in at less than 22 minutes in length, the duo could have supplied much more without boring listeners. Nevertheless, “Easy On My Mind” is a great way to tide listeners over until the release of their next full-length album.
And although the duo is from Austin, TX, they always seem to make their way back to the south. In fact, this entire EP was written in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. The duo will be in Knoxville on Wednesday, Nov. 18 while on tour in support of the new EP. They’ll be playing at Boyd’s Jig & Reel, where they will be recording a WDVX Tennessee Shines radio show. Tickets are only $10 or $5 with a student ID.