If Ruston Kelly’s life were made into a movie, it would be smack dab in the middle of the third act at this point. Kelly, who grew up in South Carolina, got his start in Nashville as a songwriter. His life was derailed by drugs culminating with an overdose in 2015. Fortunately for Ruston he did not end up another statistic in this country’s drug crisis and instead used his story to write some of his most personal songs to date. The songs began to resonate with people including country superstar Kacey Musgraves, who he would eventually marry. In 2018, Kelly released his debut album Dying Star to critical and fanfare.
While touring in support of his Dying Star, Kelly has released an EP titled Dirt Emo Vol 1. leaving many to wonder what exactly is dirt emo. Kelly explains that “I don’t play country, this stuff is dirt emo. It’s like crying in a barn or angsting in your room with a banjo.” The album features Kelly covering many classic Emo songs from artists like Dashboard Confessional, Saves the Day, and Wheetus. For this post we look at the Dirt portion of the album with Kelly’s cover of the Carter Family classic “Weeping Willow.” Considered by many to be the first family of country music, “Weeping Willow” was first recorded in 1927 by Sara and Maybelle Carter.
Ruston turns this country classic into a haunting track backed by a synthesizer and his father on steel guitar. Kelly distorts his vocals in many parts of the song which adds to the emotion. The song tells the story of a woman who has lost the one she loves to another man. Lost love is a staple of music whether it’s Emo or Country and this track shows how similar the feelings they evoke from a listener.
“Oh, bury me under the Weeping Willow tree
So he may know where I am sleeping
Perhaps he will weep over me
And perhaps he will weep over me”
Ruston has just finished up touring in support of his debut album and will soon begin work on his follow-up. If you have yet to listen to either Dying Star or Dirt Emo Vol. 1 then dig into those projects as soon as possible. In the meantime take a listen to “Weeping Willow” down below or all the Songs That I Like on my Spotify playlist then let me know what you think in the comments!