Big Dreams is like a lighthouse, beaming bright bluegrass one moment and then fading into hushed folk tunes the next. The sophomore album from Montana-raised singer/songwriter Jessica Kilroy is keenly cohesive in tempo even while the subject matter jumps from Old West storytelling to family portraiture to love gone bad.
The more intense songs gallop and buck, riddled with the plunk of upright bass and chiseled by the rich humming of fiddle. Others are fragile and ruminative. “Stand Tall” and “Keep Searching” may be a little self-help-ish, mired in generic fortune cookie advisement, but you can’t beat Kilroy’s silky, country-marinated vocals. In songs like “West Side of Jordan,” when she boldly belts out, “Storms don’t break for horses in the rain, and heaven don’t wait for nobody no way,” she’s about as commanding as Alison Krauss. And when she sugars her endnotes with confident restraint, she might as well be channeling Dolly Parton. But Kilroy is her own. The strength of Big Dreams—besides vibrant vocals—is in the storytelling of “Jesse James” and the saltier ballad “January Chances.” It’s not quite a power ballad, but it is immensely satisfying in that day-of-reckoning, reborn sort of way. (Erika Fredrickson)
Jessica Kilroy opens for Trampled by Turtles Friday, April 18, at 9 PM, at The Other Side. $12/$10 in advance.