Album Review: Kimberly Kelly - “I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen”

One of the best albums of 2022 comes from the talented, hard-working Texas native.

Good things come to those that work the hardest. Kimberly Kelly has worked at her craft for years in both Texas and Nashville and all that work (all while earning a Master’s Degree AND working full-time) has, with the release of I'll Tell You What's Gonna Happen, turned out one of the finest, clearest and most-delightful country music albums of 2022.

I'll Tell You What's Gonna Happen, released by Toby Keith’s Show Dog Nashville label (in partnership with Thirty Tigers), has a dozen of stellar country songs with the kind of songwriter list that proliferated the best records of my childhood (and whole life, indeed). Writers like Bob DiPiero, Karyn Rochelle, Kent Blazy, Steve Wariner, Lori McKenna, Byron Hill, Wynn Varble and Billy Joe Shaver. These are the kind of songs that are unabashedly country with bouncy, jovial melodies, story songs about real life and situations.

“I Remember That Woman,” From writers Kent Blazy, Cindy Blazy and Karyn Rochelle, tells a story of a woman who tries in vain to be the woman her man wants to be even though it truly wasn’t ever her, it was the man and Kimberly Kelly, as the narrator, remembers the woman because she used to be the woman left behind. “Some Things Have a Name,” uses a plot device in its lyrics that has been missing in many a country song this century to go along with classic shuffle melody. This melody suits the lyrics and it’s a song that easily stands out amongst an album chock full of great songs.

Steve Wariner joins Kimberly for “Blue Jean Country Queen," one of the two songs she co-wrote on the record (this one with album producer, songwriter Brett Tyler, along with Mr. Wariner himself). Warner brings some fantastic twangy guitars to the song backing a lyric about a “Honky Tonk Heart Attack” who is out on the prowl, “looking for a king tonight.” It’s a simple, classic-sounding, jovial honky tonkin’ song that is just pure fun (not to mention that we ALL know a girl like the one described in the lyrics). The other song on the record to be co-written by Kimberly is “Person That You Marry.” This is a song about a real situation that happens too much in life where “you fall in love with the person you marry but not the one you divorce.” It’s a heartbreaking song with fiddle fills. Lori McKenna and Brett Tyler are the song’s co-writers.

The album’s opener, “Honky Tonk Town,” might be the most ‘mainstream’ song on the record with the foot-stompin’, jumpy melody where Kimberly Kelly proclaims that she’s going to turn a city into a honky tonk town and no doubt that she and her band will be doing just that when this song inevitably opens up her live shows. “Don’t Blame It On Me” uses meeting at a sawdust-filled honky tonk bar as the plot device for how a couple overcome their own walls to become one where “it feels so right.” It’s another example of why this record is what has always made country music great. Familiar stories told in unique ways.

“No Thanks (I Just Had One)” is a steel guitar drenched song about something women at bars often have to get over, the cheesy pick up lines of desperate guys where she has the fortitude to tell him to get lost because she’s already had what he’s offering. “Forget The Alamo” follows a traditional country story of a man leaving his woman behind in Texas for greener pastures and bright lights of Hollywood. While it feels like a quaint story these days given how small and close everything feels, the song hits home still with classic country torch balladry with a steady, assured vocal from Kimberly herself.

“Summers Like That” is a song with a music video so it’s clearly a featured track on I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen and that’s for good measure. It’s a mid-tempo song with brilliant lyrical imagery blending lines and titles of great 90s country songs within a story of a first love as a teenager. Like “Honky Tonk Town,” this one should find audiences via playlists and hopefully radio airplay. It’s just a brilliantly-written song from Karyn Rochelle and Bobby Tomberlin with an emotive, twangy vocal from Kimberly Kelly herself.

There’s so much to love about I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen and the first thing is that this is a record you can drop a needle to (the vinyl) and just enjoy. There really isn’t a bad song on the record and it also serves proof as to what can happen when a talented singer and song stylist like Kimberly Kelly interprets the best songs she can find from the deep catalogs of great songs in Nashville. It used to be that even if an artist can write a great song (like Kimberly showcases she can do on two occasions here), that their own great songs had to measure up to and with the best of Music Row with ego removed so that the albums could stand up as a great body of work.

I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen is, quite simply, one of 2022’s best albums and it’s one every true country music fan should want to own.