ToC Critic’s Pick: Charles Kelley, ‘The Driver’ [Listen]
There’s no country equivalent to Charles Kelley’s debut solo single, “The Driver.” The collaboration with Eric Paslay and Dierks Bentley is a big slice-of-life ballad that recalls Jackson Browne’s “The Load-Out” from 1977.
Kelley effortlessly separates his solo style from the more tightly-produced, polished sound he helped build with Lady Antebellum. “The Driver” feels personal to each of these three men. Kelley’s performance may be most surprising, as he’s playing a role he’s not known for.
“I’m the driver / Bringing this circus to town / First one in and the last rolling out / Shutting down / The up-all-nighter / All the stars and sunrises I’ve seen / Every corn field and town in between / West to east,” he sings to begin “The Driver.” Next is Paslay, playing the role of a fan in the front row. Bentley’s verse is last — a fine coda after two swelling choruses.
“I’m the singer / Pouring out all that I have / Every love song and heartbreak gone bad / And looking back / When I was younger / Sitting right there where you are / Sending a prayer to the highest star / And here we are,” Bentley sings.
Radio airplay is certainly important for Kelley as he embarks on this new chapter of his career, but “The Driver” doesn’t seem specifically tailored for the airwaves. For this reason, it could become a big hit. The piano-heavy arrangement stands out and tugs at a memory so many fans can embrace. We’re all playing a role in “The Driver.”
Key Lyrics: "Oh, easy come, easy go / We rock then we roll out of town / But for now / While the moment is here / Shine a light, drink a beer let’s get loud / All the drivers and dreamers / Believers and singers / Oh, won’t you sing with me now."
Did You Know?: "The Driver" is the first song from a six-song EP expected in early 2016.
Listen to Charles Kelley, "The Driver"
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