In some ways Roots R&B/Americana singer/songwriter/piano player/guitarist Kelley Hunt is a rarity and a challenge to the music industry's penchant for easy artist definitions -- a woman who has muscled her way onto the scene on her own terms with an identity steeped in blues/roots/gospel traditions and a refreshing originality. She makes music with it's righteous roots intact that also crosses boundaries, has an open-minded, exploratory attitude and takes on social and political issues. Together with a commanding, passionate stage presence and superior vocal, keyboard and songwriting skills she has earned the respect of critics and fans across North America and Europe.
Born in Kansas City, Hunt’s love for her craft was ignited listening to early blues, R&B, roots rock, jazz and Gospel influences -- artists like Ruth Brown, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Ann Peebles, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Charles Brown, Wanda Jackson and a crossection of the New Orleans/St. Louis/KC piano traditions of Professor Longhair, Toots Washington, Johnnie Johnson and Kansas City masters Jay McShann and Mary Lou Williams among others. Before that came the sound of her mother singing jazz and blues - her first musical memories - and the influence of her New Orleans Gospel singer grandmother. Reminders of these very traditional influences are evident in Kelley’s live performances and recordings but the lyrics, soul and passion are all her own. Her career path so far has been a story of fierce independence, incredible will, unassailable cred as a blistering live performer and hard-won accomplishment. That narrative includes 1500+ performances with appearances on a long list of premier North American and International festival stages, six times on American Public Media's 'A Prairie Home Companion', nearly 150,000 indie units sold on her own label and critical praise reflecting her conviction from the outset to make her path in the roots music world not just as a performer, but as a forward-thinking songwriter as well.
Hunt's world has not been short on substantive, impressive critical praise, including a fresh swell of kudos for the new generation of music first unveiled on her 2008 88 RECORDS release MERCY (EER0804, her 4th commercial release): "Kelley Hunt resides among those bluesy, soulful piano players who write great songs." "...the main attraction here is Hunt, whose rich, soulful voice is an instrument in and of itself, with a toughness that shines on cuts like "You Got To Be The Vessel." "Her piano playing and songwriting also function at the highest levels." "Emerald City" is a brilliant political statement…” -VINTAGE GUITAR. “… Her fourth release "MERCY" shifts the focus to her songwriting skills and immense voice." "...a superb live performer, immediately drawing you to the power of her music and her voice... " -ELMORE. "Surprises don't often crop up on the well-trodden blues circuit. So welcome Kelley Hunt. This Kansan is a full-blown phenomenon: Powerhouse singer, hardboogieing pianist, polished songwriter…” -MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE. “…the freshest slant on classic R&B you're likely to hear these days. She's a tough woman who makes a hip and burly sound." - WESTWORD Denver.
That praise continued for her most recent release GRAVITY LOVES YOU (2011, EER1105): "Hunt's latest CD (GRAVITY LOVES YOU) sounds like her best yet - which is high praise considering the quality of her 2009 release, MERCY. Hunt's songwriting shines on powerful, moving compositions like 'Deep Old Love', 'This Fall', 'In the End' and the title cut. And she proves she can shine on the keyboard as well - with dynamic inspired playing throughout" -ST. LOUIS BEACON. "Kelley Hunt delivers the goods with a voice that grafts passionate blues to scorching soul - instantly endearing her to all within earshot, as her band surrounds her in a greasy funk that completes the package and brings you back for more. 'GRAVITY LOVES YOU' continues this tasty tradition and ups the ante once again" -Eric Thom BLUES REVUE, SING OUT!, MAVERICK, PENGUIN EGGS, ROOTS MUSIC CANADA. "...Hunt delivers her socially charged lyrics with a voice that's part powerful gospel yearning and part bawdy soul shouter..." -THE ONION Denver, CO. "Kansas City roots singer Kelley Hunt is equally impressive as a soulful, throaty vocalist and an aggressive, gospelly pianist. She showcases her songwriting prowess on the nicely nuanced 'GRAVITY LOVES YOU', due Feb. 15. 'Deep Old Love' finds her in a bluesy medium-tempo Bonnie Raitt groove. 'I'm Ready' is a tent-revival piano boogie. 'In The End' is a gorgeous gospel benediction" -THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE. "Blues, R&B singer-songwriter and show-stopping boogie piano player" -OMAHA READER.
"GRAVITY" is a collection of 12 new songs loosely bound by the idea: "whatever you need to do, whatever change you need to make to find the life that's true to you - do it now. Take the leap - let the 'Gravity' that pulls you toward your true self work for you." The new disc builds on traditional influences with contemporary overlays and covers a broad stylistic range musically, from the highly charged, gospel-influenced ballad style Hunt is known for to references conjuring old-school funk, Philly soul and burning boogie piano with the album's overarching message examined from many perspectives. There are works from Hunt's solo pen and writing collaborations with Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirram-Goldberg and songwriters Dwight Liles and Sarah Hart. 'GRAVITY' is also Hunt's third project as co-producer and, as has been the case throughout her career, was recorded and mixed analog.
"It's really hard for me to work away from the warmth of 2" tape. And I think it has become a kind of signature of my recordings now. It presents its own set of challenges but we were really lucky on the 'GRAVITY' sessions. Things were so easy and fluid we actually tracked 20 sides. Of course there isn't anything groundbreaking about tracking and mixing analog. It's kind of amusing that it gets this new kind of novelty. Not that long ago everything was done analog. But it takes a certain breed of cat to get the analog thing to happen as envisioned. And these days that breed is in some ways an endangered species. Its the beauty of live performance in the studio - on both sides of the glass. We've been fortunate - the engineering and performing talent we've had the privilege of working with in the studio really knows that vibe inside and out. They're all really accomplished - huge musical vocabularies, great chops and in many cases resumes that would blow your mind. And they all helped me bring a spirit to this project that really defined it. It was a total pleasure making this record," Kelley said.
In 2013 another product of the "GRAVITY" sessions was released for digital and physical distribution internationally - the Americana ballad single "HEARTLAND" featuring Kelley on acoustic piano and vocal, Grammy mandolin master Sam Bush and eminent acoustic bassist Byron House.
Kelley is now hard at work on her 6th release tenatively scheduled to street internationally Q2 of 2014. She will maintain an aggressive international tour schedule in support of the new project.