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Kelly Willis Offers Diverse Song Collection on 'Translated From Love'

Singer and songwriter Kelly Willis has four children under the age of seven. That explains why it's been five years between albums for the Austin, Texas-based performer. Was it worth the wait? VOA's Katherine Cole answers that question in this report about Kelly, and her new CD, "Translated From Love."

Translated From Love is by far the most diverse collection of songs Kelly Willis has ever recorded. It opens with the very clever Damon Bramblett song, Nobody Wants To Go To The Moon Anymore.

Kelly Willis was first heard in the 1980s, singing in a rockabilly band in Washington, D.C. The Nashville music executives tried to turn her into a commercial country star in the 1990s. But it's the albums she's recorded since leaving Nashville that have brought her the most praise.

Translated From Love is an interesting album on many levels, one of which is her choice of cover songs. The most unexpected is the David Bowie-Iggy Pop song Success, first heard on Iggy's 1977 album Lust for Life. Of course, it sounded a bit different when Iggy sang it.

Kelly Willis' take on Iggy Pop's Success harkens back to Doug Sahm, Alejandro Escovedo and other Austin trailblazers, all mixed up with a good shot of the old song "96 Tears." That's not to say Kelly Willis isn't making the song her own on Translated From Love, because she is. There are just a few touches and flourishes that bring the other artists to mind.

Translated From Love is a departure for Kelly in that the album contains a whole range of sounds. The collection is very adventurous, exciting, and wonderful. Kelly Willis sounds like she's having a lot of fun in the studio as do the musicians, who include The Gourds and Michael Ramos, both heard on that Iggy Pop song, Jules Shear, and Kelly's husband Bruce Robison. Bruce appears on two songs, one of which is Too Much To Lose, co-written by Kelly and co-producer Chuck Prophet.

Although fans are calling Translated From Love Kelly Willis' "coolest record yet," it's more than that. This collection showcases an artist who's "grown into her own skin," and is confident about her job. She says she felt like she "had something to prove" when recording Translated With Love. The resulting reviews show she did just that, staying true to her roots and proving she's one of the most versatile artists making records today.