Kelly McFarling “Deep The Habit”

Independent, 2021

Fine vocals combine with Allman-esque melodic guitar to good effect.

‘Deep The Habit’ is Atlanta born but Bay Area based Kelly McFarlings’ follow up to her 2017 release, ‘Water Dog’. A change of style from that albums’ acoustic vibe, ‘Deep the Habit’ takes her into full band arrangements, with more than a nod to the guitar-led sound of Dire Straits, as on opening track ‘Delicate’ or, on several tracks, notably stand out track ‘Century’, ‘Jessica‘ era Allman Brothers, where the slow tempo chilled vibe gives way to a soaring extended instrumental section, as layers of guitars build towards a climax.

Melodic motifs on electric, wah wah, and steel guitars feature prominently, alongside McFarlings’ vocals, with a clever mirrored riff on guitar and vocals on the opening track. Her voice is warm but with power when called upon, reminiscent of Stevie Nicks on ‘Follow Me Down’, again with a nice interplay between vocals and guitar. Backing vocals are used to good effect throughout, contributing to a full sound driven by strong melodies.

McFarlings is backed by her touring band, featuring Tim Marcus on pedal steel, Oscar Westesson on bass, Nick Cobbett on drums, Andrew Brennan on guitar, and Brittany Powers on background vocals, with Brennan also credited as co-writer and collaborator.

On up-tempo ‘Birds’ she sings “I am a late morning sleeper/when I leave my mind alone/that dream you haven’t finished/ can become a longer one”, her vocals taking on an ethereal tone well suited to her theme while ‘North Decatur’, with its lengthy and lyrical acoustic guitar introduction, has hints of Nick Drake, and a more organic feel, the sound of fingers moving on the guitar fretboard giving a flavour of sitting in on the recording with the band.

On ‘Now We Know’ there are leanings towards JJ Cale, with a typically loping Cale-esque vibe, and an unexpected introduction of some sax lines, perhaps a nod to a Muscle Shoals sound, McFarling singing “I can’t change the feeling/that this ship is sinking/casual as a curse/lower and lower”.

Closing tracks ‘Relevant’ and ‘Easy as I’ feature a more relaxed feel, which perhaps lack the energy of the rest of the album.

An enjoyable listen, especially for the combination of fine vocals and lyrical guitar voicings.


About David Jarman 109 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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