When Irene Kelley left her native Pennsylvania to move to Nashville in 1984, she brought along her guitar, a handful of original material and a love for traditional and bluegrass music.
She was signed to MCA Nashville’s country division and was adamant about having Carl Jackson, Sam Bush, Mark O'Connor and other bluegrass musicians join her on her first recording project. As she puts it, “The record was country, but the heart and soul was bluegrass.” This was at a time when bluegrass instrumentation had fallen out of favor along Nashville’s Music Row, so Irene concentrated on the songwriting that exposed her music to millions through hits like “A Little Bluer Than That,” for Alan Jackson, as well as songs performed and recorded by Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White, Loretta Lynn and Trisha Yearwood. More than three decades later, Irene has assumed her place in a long line of great American songwriters. Of her musical influences, she says: “Jean Ritchie’s songwriting to me was so amazing, especially for someone just learning to write. Some of my other early favorites were Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, Rodney Crowell, Pete Goble, Greg Allman and, of course, always Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn.” Her latest project "BENNY'S TV REPAIR" is a return to her beginnings. “Bluegrass is the last frontier of country music,” Irene says, and it’s true that country stars like Keith Whitley, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart and cut their teeth on Bill Monroe’s genre of music.