Kelly Brightwell
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Kelly Brightwell

Portland, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Americana Adult Contemporary


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Kelly Brightwell, "Hearts and Home""

Portland-based folk-pop singer-songwriter Kelly Brightwell is set to officially release her new album, Hearts And Home, on October 13th, after a soft release during the late summer. After releasing her greatly-received debut EP titled, Wait For Your Spring in 2004, Kelly was forced to quit playing guitar soon after due to stress injuries caused by playing guitar. Of course, life got in the way as she got married, started a new job and had her first child. After a nearly ten-year hiatus and as her child began to grow, so did her urge to write music again and she soon found herself with her new collection of songs, Hearts And Home. Lyrically, she touches on more personal themes on the album, such as motherhood and the ensuing maturity that it brings, along with other universal themes involving love and life. Musically, the album was produced by fellow Portland musician, Rob Stroup whose own band, the Blame are to blame for the rich and rootsy, classic country & western and folk ornamentation that adds texture and support to Kelly’s beautiful and moving songs.

“Birds And Stones” opens the album with a lively country shuffle that propels the song along with its wispy pedal steel that blends well with Kelly’s lilting vocals that are clear and strong with world-weary character and a great sense of melody. The breezy and introspective “Walden” follows with soft, wire-brush drumming, gentle acoustic strumming and more aching pedal steel, which is expertly played by guest, Paul Brainard and is featured prominently throughout the album to great effect. Standout track “Treeline” recalls mid-70’s Laurel Canyon-era folk and early Fleetwood Mac with its close-knit harmonies, insistent acoustic guitar and infectious melodies. Next, “Lightning’s Goodbye” is a slow-burning and emotionally-charged ballad with atmospheric slide guitar and a bittersweet sentiment.

The aptly-titled “The Rain And The Radio” is highlighted by a timeless quality that would belong in any era - in either Carole King’s 70’s or Sarah McLachlan’s 90’s - with its shimmering guitars and catchy, radio-ready and rain-soaked refrain that offers a message of hope in a hopeless situation. Another standout, “Prairie Fairy Tale” comes complete with swells of room-filling vintage organ and a slow waltzing rhythm along with some of Kelly’s most imaginative and poignant lyrics. The upbeat “Between Us” features guest background vocals from fellow Portland singer-songwriter Naomi Hooley, whose sweet, velvety voice complements Kelly’s well. As a nice change of pace, Brightwell adopts the husky and smooth sensuality of a seasoned jazz singer on the gorgeous “Murmur” that flows with glimmering keys and a laid-back vibe. Continuing along those lines is “Clouds In The Water”, with its warm, 70’s-esque folk-pop melodies that combine with her reflective lyrics that long for a fresh start, with clever lines like, “I wanna live at the beginning of something”.

By the time the next track, “Somewhere New” begins, the listener may indeed be hoping for “something new” as much of the album continues to stay put in its slower paced stasis. Now, I honestly don’t mean this to sound as negative as it does, I just feel that some type of cathartic release, a soaring chorus or something to shake off the sleepiness is needed to grab my attention from the otherwise great brand of classic-sounding contemporary folk-pop that Kelly creates. Lastly, the eleven-song album closes out with the earnest, swaying melodies of the piano-led “Already Home” along with more beautifully braided vocal harmonies and twinkling guitars for yet another standout moment.

With her new album, Hearts And Home, Kelly Brightwell has marked a wonderful return to music making and has established her gorgeous voice and stellar songwriting as a true talent in the over-crowded folk and Americana scene.

Artist: Kelly Brightwell?
Album: Hearts And Home?
Review by: Justin Kreitzer?
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
- Justin Kreitzer, Dayton City Paper and ReviewYou

"Kelly Brightwell, 'Hearts and Home'"

Talented Americana singer-songwriter from America’s Northwest makes her return to the music scene, with a sensitive, wistful and lyrically excellent set of material.


'Hearts And Home' is Kelly Brightwell's first album in ten years. Presently living in Portland, Oregon the former Minneapolis, Minnesota native won praise back in 2004 with her debut EP, 'Wait For Your Spring'. It wasn’t till now she felt there was a way of combining marriage, being a mother with her beloved music.

Combining folk, 1970s Laurel Canyon-era and a little country Brightwell builds up emotional impetus on such pleading songs as ”The Rain And The Radio“ with the loose, pop hinted ”Prairie Fairy Tale“ and languid ”Clouds In The Water“. This as she speaks of how the city takes her as she walks down by the river and sees the reflections of clouds in the water. While her song, the introspective ”Walden“ oozes a rare quality as her beautiful vocals alongside sympathetic playing of guitar, percussion and keyboards (Jean Pierre Garau) it seems to gain strength and a powerful momentum lesser acts struggle to access, never mind develop.

Displaying similar attributes to Shawn Colvin on her best tracks (as in the poetic ”The Rain And The Radio“; hints of Colvin's Fat City days?), as shows of great pluck and determination take hold. And as like spring flowers the songs blossom beautifully. It helps a little to hear some tracks a time or two before the depth of her mature songwriting is appreciated fully. Tracks of significant impact include the pedal steel, travel-like song ”Treeline“, this as she gives, considerable room for Paul Brainard (he also plays slide) to establish his sound, lead guitarist, Bob Dunham likewise is given the opportunity to shine on the record.

Amidst the tightly woven, tapestry of sound Brightwell reaches out in impressive style on the melancholy, steel etched ”Lightning’s Goodbye“; and on pulling into the station at the end of the journey Brightwell and her band, Blame perform ”Already Home“. A wistful affair it has her focus, strongly on carving out an inimitable vocal style; arguably her finest attribute. For she leans into a lyric, and not only sings it or drift along with the music but meticulously nurture the product. Why not, she wrote them. - in Americana UK, by Maurice Hope

"Tucson Folk Fest Songwriting Contest - 2014"

for tracks "Lightning's Goodbye" and "Birds and Stones" - SECOND PLACE

"IAMA/Susanne Millsaps Songwriting Contest - 2014"

for tracks "The Rain and the Radio" and "Already Home" - FINALIST

"Rocky Mountain Folk Fest Songwriting Contest - 2014"

for tracks "The Rain and the Radio" and "Birds and Stones" - HONORABLE MENTION


“Your album was in my rental car almost the whole time I was in Vermont -- a musical accompaniment to the incredible and dramatic skies, mountains and lakes. The weather was spectacular and your music was the perfect complement!”

- Lisa Lepine, PROmotion Queen, Portland OR


“The music on this album is a living reflection of the warmth, intellect, intensity and light that pours from within her.”
- Tom D'Antoni, Oregon Music News


"Kelly writes songs that are evolved. With themes that are literary, meditative, and explore parallels between our lives and nature. She sings with the smoothness of Sarah Mclachlan, but with a bit more americana grit and charm. This is a good record. Buy it :) " - Rob Stroup, 8 Ball Studios, Portland OR


Still working on that hot first release.



NOTE:  Complete performance archives from 2008 - present are available at these links:


Welcome home, Kelly Brightwell!

It’s been ten years since her last album, and three years since she put a promising solo career on hold to raise her daughter Carissa.  Hearts and Home, her newest offering, is the product of the intervening years of soul-searching and personal growth.


Her debut EP, Wait for Your Spring was released in 2004.  At that time, her aspiration to be a nationally touring artist seemed to be well on its way to becoming reality.  Her songs received airplay on community and college radio stations across the Midwest, Colorado and California.  NPR featured her  tune “Rockets” on their All Songs Considered website.  Satirical cultural observer The Onion picked up her rising star and featured her album in their national outlets.  And her songs “Knee Deep” and “Daffodils” garnered her an honorable mention at that year’s Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Contest.


A repetitive stress injury at the end of her 2005 touring schedule put Kelly on the sidelines for the next several years.  She took a hiatus from performing, and a couple of years later, got married and moved from Minneapolis, MN to Portland OR.  She took a position with online music distributor CD Baby and left that job after 3 years to stay home with her own brand new baby.  


During that time, the idea for an album began to take shape.  “The material for this record was taken from everything I’d written since my first CD came out.”  She explains, “So it’s really a map of changes -- life changes as well as artistic changes.  These songs have been touchstones for me, and I hope they can be signposts for others: songs about living your truth, claiming your heart and finding your home.”


She chose Rob Stroup at 8 Ball Studio to record and produce Hearts and Home.  "Kelly writes songs that are evolved” he says, “with themes that are literary, meditative, and explore parallels between our lives and nature.  She sings with the smoothness of Sarah McLachlan, but with a bit more Americana grit and charm.”  Members of his band, The Blame, provide a rootsy, classic country & western backdrop that adds texture and brings Kelly’s songs to life. 


“‘Birds and Stones’ opens the album with a lively country shuffle, followed by the breezy and introspective ‘Walden’, featuring pedal steel.  ‘Treeline’ recalls mid-70’s Laurel Canyon-era folk and early Fleetwood Mac while ‘Lightning’s Goodbye’ is an emotionally-charged ballad with slide guitar and a bittersweet sentiment.  The aptly-titled ‘The Rain And The Radio’ has a timeless quality that would be at home in any era, with shimmering guitars and catchy, radio-ready, rain-soaked refrain.” (Justin Kreitzer, Dayton City Paper)


Since the album’s release, a group of seasoned players have joined Kelly to support her live performances.  Jeff Koch (Beautiful Train Wrecks, The Noted) creates a moody atmosphere with his electric guitar wizardry.  Bassist Michael Henchman (solo singer/songwriter) provides a deep groove and back-up vocals.  Casey McBride (James Faretheewell, Christie Josef) brings driving rhythms and nuanced textures.


In 2014, Kelly’s finely crafted songs have won her numerous accolades:  second place in the Tucson Folk Festival Songwriting Competition, finalist in the IAMA Susanne Millsaps Songwriter Showcase, and another honorable mention in the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Songwriting Contest.  With a new band on board, and a standout sophomore album, Kelly has returned to music-making with all the wisdom of her past, and hope for a bright future.

Band Members