Kelcy Mae Reviews & Interviews

In the history of the world, there must be a billions of love songs and at least twice as many break-up songs. But we keep coming back for to hear somebody else's take on these seemingly universal experiences, thirsting for that one person who can create that combination of words and melody that perfectly capture our own experiences. Kelcy Mae's Half-Light captures that quest well. Mae's pop sensibilities make her songs seemingly accessible at first blush -- a combination of Liz Phair with the country and Americana sensibilities of Kasey Musgraves. These melodies, however, are camouflage for some truly unique and perceptive songwriting. [...] Half-Light is a strong collection of powerful songs that should be at the top of your musical shopping list.

One of the lovelier Christmas songs to be released this year, Kelcy Mae’s “Christmas With You (Merry Me)” is also a song with a point...

Since the middle of the 19th century, family has been central to our image of Christmas and shows up in everything from Norman Rockwell paintings to Hallmark specials to commercials and songs. The O’Jays sing, “Christmas just ain’t Christmas / without the one you love.” Singer/songwriter Kelcy Wilburn performs as Kelcy Mae, and being with the one you love is the problem she addressed with “Christmas with You (Merry Me)” — a song she wrote two years ago, recorded this fall and released Tuesday.
In October, we wrote about Kelcy Mae's efforts to crowdsource images of celebration from the LGBTQ community for the video for her new Christmas song, "Christmas with You (Merry Me)." The song she wrote two years ago dramatizes the pressure gay couples feel to spend the holidays apart with their respective families because conventional relationship markers--engaged, married--made it hard for families to respect them in quite the same way that they would accord straight couples...
Americana music is blossoming in New Orleans with Kelcy Mae at the forefront...In a town famous for jazz music and brass bands, Kelcy Mae is carving her own niche in New Orleans-style Americana. Her debut CD was The Times Compiled, released in 2007, and since then, the Shreveport-born musician has made two more full-length albums, including her 2014 double EP Half-Light...With a voice as delicate as Regina Spektor’s but accented with the occasional twang or growl, Kelcy shines on stage.

Recently, Kelcy Mae released Half-Light, an album that is half new material and half songs that appeared on last year's EP, The Fire. Like The Fire, songs on Half-Light are economical with space in the sound and lyrics that trust the listener to make necessary connections. This time, the stand-out element is her voice. She can do the familiar, breathlessly yearning voice, but Kelcy Wilburn's voice is becoming another musical choice as well. She hangs by an emotional thread in "Favor," but she takes a line like "Quit being stupid with my love" with a measured lightness, taking the edge off the thought without letting the person being stupid off the hook. 

“It doesn’t always take a deep groove to get your attention, but one heck of a hook will certainly do the trick. And New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Kelcy Mae shows off a handful of them on her latest EP, Half-Light. This isn’t your typical Big Easy record. [...] More Natalie Merchant than Hurray for the Riff Raff, more country than alternative. Half-Light is the kind of record that is best appreciated when it is given the spotlight, in a dimly lit room filled with artistic expression, in an atmosphere that fosters reflection. Mae sings about places that we have all been before—not physical places, but the deepest chambers of the heart that bleed when it breaks and race when all is perfect. ...this underground artist knows how to write a good lyric and is just waiting for the right person to hear it.”


"Close your eyes. See the story in your mind, not with open eyes" starts Bright Eyes, the opening track of Kelcy Mae’s Half-Light EP. It's a song that thrusts the singers beautiful voice to the front over a single guitar before gradually building to a musical crescendo. The track shows a deft hand in doing so and serves as an invitation to the listener to an album that pairs solid, straightforward songwriting with a wide ranging musical style with just enough twang at the heart of it all to appeal to any fan of modern Americana. Mae’s voice is one of the album’s best features: think a little bit Bonnie Raitt combined with Natalie Merchant and you’ll have some idea of what she sounds like. Tracks like King of Tennessee and Oh How the Whiskey put it’s southern drawl to good effect pairing it with a driving rhythm while quieter numbers like the album opener and Get Back Home allow the singer to demonstrate her emotional range.

“Singer/songwriter Kelcy Mae has also been published as a prose writer..., so it’s no surprise that the lyrics on her previous releases were the first thing that stood out. On this “double EP”—combining six new tracks with five from last year’s The Fire EP—her words remain remarkably well crafted, with key details revealed in a few vivid phrases. [...] The news here is that she’s also fleshed the songs out musically, with the new tracks sporting a higher level of production/arrangement than before. The stand-out track “Favor” is presented in two versions; one an unassuming folkish take, the other a full-fledged rocker on which her studio band do a good impression of peak-era Los Lobos. [...] Kelcy Mae proves here that you can be literary and still kick up your heels. She stands out from the trend of slow and downcast Americana, and hurray for that.”

“Kelcy Mae is folk meets pop at its best. Her voice is a beautiful blend of expertly displayed smoothness and boldness. In this, her fourth recording project, Mae presents a double EP of 12 tracks. Her music will grab you right in from the first song and you will be held captive throughout the entire album. [...] “Oh How the Whiskey” almost feels like a best of Kelcy Mae album in itself. It’s bluegrass, folk, blues, honkytonk and gospel all rolled into a 3:42 song. It’s very hard to say if Mae’s bigger talent is her voice or her songwriting ability, but it’s easy to take the journey with her.”


“Already a critics' favorite in her native New Orleans, Kelcy Mae may not stay quite so isolated much longer. Her EP from earlier this year, The Fire, was the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $10,000, already suggesting fan support isn't much of a problem for her. Blessed with a voice remarkably similar to Natalie Merchant's, Mae also brushes up against the sad blue-eyed soul of Shelby Lynne and kindles her inner torch singer a la Neko Case - all in the course of The Fire's five brief songs. We hope there's a lot more where that came from.”

“The new EP includes an impressive list of local players; among them lead guitarist Alex McMurray, the Revivalists’ drummer Andrew Campanelli and singers Alexis Marceaux and Alexandra Scott. All five tracks are strong, but “Oh How the Whiskey” was the one that really caught our attention. It has the lively feel of a good drinking song; yet the lyrics are deep with foreboding: “Oh how the whiskey means it’s winter/ Oh how the devil loves a sinner/ Oh how the whiskey burns in summer/Pouring like the sweat of a funeral drummer.” The arrangement pulls a neat trick toward the end, as the fiddle and banjo and overtaken by a gospel choir. Whether the singer gets saved or keeps sinning is up to you.”
“She sang with an easy confidence, ever so slightly raising the energy in the room...Mae and her band controlled the mood of the room, shifting from quiet reverie to a folksy wall of sound sometimes in a single song. Mae often gets labeled as alt-country or alt-folk. That seems to mean that her music is clearly American but can't be pegged to a single region. She writes sharp songs with lyrics that steer clear of cliches.”


"[Kelcy Mae is] a specialist in fresh-faced yet soulful alt-country reminiscent of Natalie Merchant."
- bestofneworleans.com (May 03, 2012)