Josh Kelley spent the first ten years of his career writing soulful, bluesy pop songs. Georgia Clay finds him switching gears and embracing country music instead. Kelley is a Georgia native and University of Mississippi graduate, both of which contribute to his country pedigree, but it’s still tempting to attribute his twangy makeover to the success of younger brother Charles Kelley, one of Lady Antebellum’s three members. Country has often been mistreated as a last refuge for artists looking to resurrect their careers, and Kelley -- armed with a batch of songs about trucks and whiskey -- doesn’t sound entirely convincing as a Nashville star. To his credit, he doesn’t blindly swing for the fences, either. Plenty of songwriters are credited on Georgia Clay, but Kelley co-writes every tune. He also works with a strong group of session musicians, including Keith Urban’s percussionist, Chris McHugh, and steel guitarist Gary Morse, both of whom give the songs some lean country muscle. But he also leans a bit too heavily on co-producer Clint Lagerberg, who wrote Rascal Flatts’ chart-topping “Here Comes Goodbye” but fails to bring similar hitmaking hooks to Kelley’s table, and his vocals sound forced, with a deep baritone twang replacing the breathy croon he used on earlier albums.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey