Kelly Z and "the Lot"

Mr. Chairman reviews our new CD, 'Bittersweet'

On this first day of Christmas, I finally got to sit in the comfort of my easy chair and listen to this new CD by Kelly's Lot on my home stereo from start to finish. Not once but twice. Once wasn't enough. That is a privilege that only a handful have had and I am so honored to be included. Although I had previously played it in my car, that didn't prepare me for what I heard today. This isn't background music; it demands your full and undivided attention. The marvelous sonics can only be revealed on a good sound system. I wanted to hear every note and breath till they faded out to silence. Within these 14 tracks, there truly is something for everyone here and hearing them from start to finish, they are all worthy of your time. Some songs, like 'On Fire' and 'Rise Above', grab you with their 'in your face' swagger. Others, like Mr. Chairman and Happy, will have you smiling and singing along to yourself. And yet the ones that really tug away at the heartstrings are where this CD truly shines and those I relished the most: Come Home, Without A Song, Love Is Hard To Catch, Colours of December, to name a few. 

Mark your calendar for January 6; not only is it the 12th day of Christmas and Joan of Arc's birthday, it's also the day when you will have an opportunity to order your own copy from Coincidence? Probably not. Set aside your gadgets for 50min 34sec and be prepared to be transported on an emotional journey where you will soar with a heightened awareness of what it means to be human. It will be time well spent.

On the 2nd day of Christmas, Kelly Z gave to me: this video featuring track 2 from the Kelly's Lot Bittersweet CD, providing comfort and reassurance during the holidays when we miss those we've lost the most.     Come Home Video 

On the 3rd day of Christmas, Kelly Z gave to me: this video featuring track 3 from the Kelly's Lot Bittersweet CD and 99 photos of my chair. Makes me smile every time I hear it. Rumors abound there will be a Mr. Chairman line dance video in early 2017. Mr. Chairman Video

On this 4th day of Christmas, I wanted to take the opportunity to delve a bit into the 4th track on the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot. This song was inspired by a friend's submission of the word 'thorn' during a songwriting word challenge on Kelly Zirbes' FB page. It features the consummate singer-songwriter backed by her tight band - Perry Robertson on guitar, Matt McFadden on bass, Art Mendoza on drums - with the addition of Doug Pettibone on pedal steel guitar. You've probably heard Doug work his magic before as he has backed musical icons such as Mark Knopfler, Joan Baez, Tracy Chapman, Sting, Jewel, and Lucinda Williams. This track is a heart-wrenching stand-out, as Kelly Zirbes' lyrics and vocal delivery are perfectly matched by Doug's pedal steel chops. This song has 'hit single' written all over it. 

On the 5th day of Christmas, it's time to 'Rise Above' with track 5 on the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot. Ending a long-term relationship is never easy; one that ends in divorce can be the hardest. Kelly Zirbes' lyrics provide hope and encouragement that despite the stinging pain of heartbreak, you can make it through these hard times. For this song, we find Kelly's searing and heart-felt vocals riding on the strength of a 5-piece band, consisting of Perry Robertson and Rob Zucca on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on drums, and Bobby Orgel on Keyboards. Bobby and Donna Lee Orgel provide background vocals. The band is a well-honed and cohesive unit that really shines here, with the keyboards reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby. At 3min 25sec into the song, just as Kelly ends the lyrics by belting out 'oh, yeeeaaaaahh...', the band kicks into full-tilt mode with Rob's guitar leading the charge till the song fades out at 4m 36s. When you get your copy on January 6 from, you'll wanna crank up the volume and put the pedal-to-the-metal!

Welcome to the 6th day of Christmas and 'Sleep', the 6th track on the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot. Have you ever been haunted by your past? Did it ever keep you up at night? Have you ever suffered from insomnia for any reason? If you were able to nod your sleep-deprived head 'yes', then this song written by Kelly Zirbes and Scotty Lund is for you. It will make you feel right at home with its eerie and brooding lyrics that are equally reflected by Scotty's arrangement (he recorded, mixed and produced). Kelly's vocals reach down into the dark depths of despair, delivered slowly and purposely, giving us no sense of relief from her agony. Kelly is accompanied by Scotty on bass and drums, Ted Russell Kamp on guitar, and Elisabeth Carpenter on background vocals, working together to keep you under the gloom that has been cast. This track could easily be considered for inclusion by producers of scary flicks (this is a heads up). Once you get your own Bittersweet CD from (shipping starts 1/6), you'll wanna turn the lights down low but don't turn them off just in case there really are monsters under your bed! 

Happy New Year's Eve, the 7th day of Christmas! 'On Fire', the 7th track of the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot is brimming with pyrotechnics. Cowritten by Kelly Zirbes and Perry Robertson and inspired by the horrific events of 9/11, it speaks in a more general sense of our collective tendency to jump to conclusions and overreact while disregarding other views and the rights of those that hold them. I first heard this song at a live Kelly's Lot Duo acoustic performance in Pasadena where it received an enthusiastic reception (check out this video by Casey Reagan's crew: On the CD version, Kelly and Perry are joined by Rob Zucca on guitar, Matt McFadden on bass, and Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on drums, with the song alternating between acoustic and electric backing for maximum effect. Imagine the video version on steroids, driven by the solid rhythm section of Matt and Sebastian with a full-on slashing guitar assault by Rob and Perry that'll melt your face off. This will be an earworm of epic proportions.

Welcoming the New Year and 8th day of Christmas with 'Bittersweet', the 8th and title track of the new CD by Kelly's Lot. Written by Kelly Zirbes, and to quote Kelly from the liner notes, "The title track was written for all the Vietnam Veterans that were not welcomed home properly."

Hearing Kelly's song is deeply personal as it brings back a lot of memories. My cousin, PFC Frederick Hugo Liminga, was killed in action in Vietnam in 1967 during the 'summer of love'. He was 19 years old, I was almost 12 at the time. As the war dragged on, I received my selective service notice and draft lottery number during my senior year of high school. Fortunately for me, the Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending the war before I could be drafted.

On this track, Kelly is backed by Perry on acoustic guitar, Chuck Maithonis on bass, Art Mendoza on percussion, and Frank 'Cisco' Hinojosa on harmonica. The song starts off with the unmistakable and exquisite whistling of Kelly (those familiar with the band know what I mean) over Perry softly strumming his acoustic guitar to the familiar notes of 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home'. The rest of the band joins in just before Kelly launches into delivering her poignant lyrics with a vengeance. Frank's harmonica alternates with Kelly's vocals during most of the song and is punctuated with a short yet tasteful solo in the middle. Art played drums on Mr. Chairman but is featured on congas here, adding a protest era vibe to the song (bongos were very popular at many protests). The song ends the way it started with Kelly whistling, Perry strumming, and a touch of Frank's harmonica. 

On this 9th day of Christmas, have you ever wondered why women fall for 'bad boys'? If so, you'll wanna check out 'Stay Away', the 9th track on the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot. It's a catchy, fast-paced number (2:35 start to finish) and like 'Mr. Chairman', it will have you smiling and singing along before you realize there is no answer to the question (and better yet, you no longer care!). Kelly is joined on this track by most of her band members, including Perry Robertson and Rob Zucca on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on drums and Bobby Orgel on keyboards, a multitalented group of musicians conveying their joy in making music together.

This 10th day of Christmas finds me spellbound and in total awe after having listened repeatedly to 'Love is Hard to Catch', the 10th track on the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot. It will make the hair on your arms and back of your neck stand on end; it's that powerful, hypnotic, haunting and seductive (remember the first time you heard 'Wicked Game' by Chris Isaak?). In this song, Kelly's lyrics and vocals have transformed her into a combination of siren and femme fatale like you've never heard before. Kelly implores those that have ended a relationship to never give up looking for, or settling for, anything less than love. After hearing the song, which happens to be the longest of the CD at 6:09, even the doubting Thomas's will be convinced.

Kelly is joined on this stellar track by by the superb musicianship of Perry Robertson and Rob Zucca on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, and Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on drums. This quartet contributes a stripped-down arrangement with a film noir vibe that accentuates Kelly's sultry vocals. Sebastian's drumming is phenomenal, with a relentless and incessant beat that will resonate in your soul long after the song is over. Throughout the song, but especially at 2:21 when Kelly sings "Your kisses are hard to find...When you've lost them along the way", you'll find yourself asking "is it me, or is it getting hot in here?" Then at 3:41, she stretches and holds "(get it) ri-------ght" for so long you wonder if she's ever going to take another breath. 

'Love is Hard to Catch' is a must-hear-to-believe track that will leave you breathless when played on a good sound system. It has become my favorite new 'go-to' demo for evaluating audio components, replacing Holly Cole's 'I Can See Clearly Now' (a popular demo CD when I was in the market to upgrade my system). I'm looking forward to carrying Kelly's Bittersweet CD with me to Anaheim later this year to share this sonic marvel with fellow audio enthusiasts in the best listening rooms the 2017 home entertainment show has to offer.

On this 11th day of Christmas, I've been listening to "Without A Song", the 11th track on the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot, written by Kelly for the Linda Palmer-Cardone film "Last Call at Murray's". This song has got me thinking about New Year's resolutions, particularly about 'living in the moment' (some refer to it as 'being fully present'), one that many of us make but rarely keep. Fortunately, Kelly's here to help this year, her lyrics and passionate delivery urging us to follow her lead; 'to sing every day we're alive', 'to love like we've never loved before', and to 'fly through every open door'. This is such a beautiful and romantic song, you'll wanna share it with that special someone late at night in a candle lit room, after eliminating all potential distractions. After all, life's too short to be spending all your time facedown in your phone, tablet, computer or other device.

On this cold and rainy 12th day of Christmas, my Jolida tube amp has been warming up the music room as I prepare to write a review of "Happy", the 12th track on the new Bittersweet CD by Kelly's Lot. I'm also preparing to do the unthinkable: an A-B comparison with a song of the same title from 'Exile On Main Street', my all-time favorite album by the Rolling Stones. I'm a relative newcomer to the music of Kelly's Lot, even though they're into their 21st year as a band, but I've been a life-long fan of the Stones starting with Satisfaction. I'm no mind reader but you're probably already thinking "Mr. Chairman, you've gone too far this time!" But wait, please hear me out before you jump to conclusions and hastily sentence me to being stoned to death.

Let's start with the Stones version of "Happy", following the old adage 'age before beauty'. It originated from a guitar riff Keith Richards was messing with in his basement in France at a time when the Stones had serious drug abuse problems. As Keith worked out the lyrics, they hinted at his money management problems as well ('It always burned a hole in my pants.'). In his 2010 book "Life", Keith had this to say about the lyrics, "I need a love to keep me happy because I've spent the f--king money and I have none left, and it's nighttime and I'm looking to have a good time, but I ain't got s--t." In other words, it was always about Keith, looking for and expecting someone else to solve his problems; a lover to save his broke-ass from another lonely night. The basic tracks were recorded in Keith's basement, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, with Keith on guitar, bass, and vocals, producer Jimmy Miller on drums, and Bobby Keys on maracas. Dubbed in later were Nicky Hopkins on piano, Jim Price on trumpet, Bobby Keys on saxophone, Mick Taylor on guitar and Mick Jagger on backing vocals.

Switching now to beauty; the Kelly's Lot version of "Happy". Like a couple of other tracks on the Bittersweet CD, it originated from Kelly Zirbes posting a word challenge on her Facebook page and her selecting one (happy) from amongst the numerous submissions by her friends. Instead of the lyrics being all about her, Kelly chose to write them for the listener, to help them see they deserved to be happy, to find love and rise above whatever problems they may be facing. In short, turning audience participation into something that everyone can relate to and enjoy. The tracks were recorded in the home studio of Kelly Zirbes and Perry Robertson, featuring Kelly on vocals, Rob Zucca and Perry on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, and Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on drums. It was produced by Perry, Kelly and Sebastian.

Both Keith's and Kelly's versions have a running time of around 3 minutes and are perhaps the most fun and lighthearted tracks from their respective albums. Each is guaranteed to provide a mood-elevating boost, compelling the listener to get up and dance or at least sing along during the chorus. Keith's is guitar-driven bliss while Kelly's vocals and Matt's thumping bass line provide the one-two signature punch on Kelly's version. Sorry, Keith but you're no match for Kelly's vocals or Matt's bass. For sound quality and production, Kelly's version also gets the nod. I could go on but I'll let you draw your own conclusions when you receive your own copy of Bittersweet on CD (orders are shipping starting today from

Last but not least, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the last two tracks (13 & 14) on the Bittersweet CD: "Proud" and "Colours of December". There are excellent videos available on youtube for both. "Proud", a short acapella number, was recorded by Casey Reagan's crew during the 2016 Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival.
"Colours of December" was written by Kelly as a heartfelt tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their families. Kelly is backed by Perry Robertson and Rob Zucca on guitars, Matt McFadden on bass, Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on drums, Bobby Orgel on keyboards, and another special guest appearance by Doug Pettibone, this time on dobro.

The CD drops today in a limited release for friends and and fans that were paying attention. Full CD release is scheduled for January 27th.