Ruston Kelly: Weakness

Crescent Ballroom (Phoenix, AZ)

Alternative country singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly cut a unique framework in the Nashville music scene in the 2010s. Kelly earned his career after penning Tim Mcgraw’s popular song, “Nashville Without You,” in 2013. Musically and sonically, Kelly took to calling his blend of old fashioned rock n’ roll, alternative type country, and mood American vibe to “dirt-emo.” Showing impressions of the alt-twang over the span of his three studio albums, three E.P.s, and six singles.

Kelly has always been candid when it comes to lyrics. 2018’s Dying Star detailed the singer’s drug addiction and recovery. 2020’s Shape & Destroy was a relationship album with songs written during Kelly’s marriage to Kacey Musgraves. Following a very public divorce that found Kelly in the tabloids, the singer got to work on songs that document self-examination in a time of change and the process of healing. On Kelly’s most recent album, The Weakness, he’s gone head first on the genre he now calls home. The raw, deeply emotional songs are reminiscent of the early days Dashboard Confessional mixed with a hint of alt-country classic John Doe, vulnerable musings about addiction to the heartache of divorce. An album that has truly transcended personal vulnerability and has curated a heart tugging release.

Kelly lacks no luster when it comes to the presence of a stage. He poured his heart and soul into every note, the authentic connection he controlled with the audience was a wholesome moment to be a part of. Packed together in downtown Phoenix, the room of Crescent Ballroom was filled with a crowd hungry for a good time, and Kelly and his band delivered just that. There was a relational ambiance to the night, a constant conversation that was being interwoven between the music, and each song left the crowd in a gaze. There was no short of movement both on stage and in the crowd. Ruston is most certainly one to gain the attention of an audience and Phoenix was living for every second of it.

photos & story by Sarai Kelley