GARDEN CITY (Nov 18th/Underpass Records)

















“Taking the gritty tales and presentations of John Moreland and Hayes Carll, mixed with sonic textures that paint sepia images; Kelly has burgeoned into a vital American storyteller.” -Glide Magazine (listen to exclusive premiere of “Living Signature” at Glide Magazine (HERE)

“Bern Kelly makes music that speaks volumes, even when the instrumentation is kept to a minimum and the accompaniment is limited to only an acoustic guitar….Garden City becomes Kelly’s most expressive effort to date, one that needs no more than craft and conviction to drive its message home.” – Goldmine Magazine (read Goldmine’s Indie Spotlight feature (HERE)

“Stripped-back acoustic music done well can be breathtaking…Nashville-based Bern Kelly adds himself to the mix of artists who are creating thoughtful captivating acoustic folk/rock…a masterful exhibition of a stripped-back sonic palette.” – The AU Review (Listen to exclusive premiere of “Open Tab” at The AU Review (HERE)

“In the grand tradition of Rodney Crowell, John Prime, Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zandt, Bern Kelly is a lyrical master with songs which hit you right in the heart….Quite simply, “Anniversary” is one of the best songs we’ve heard in 2022.” –Roughstock Country (Listen to exclusive premiere of “Anniversary” at Roughtstock  (HERE)

“Bern Kelly delivers an album of  introspective vocals and alluring acoustic guitars. Sit by the fire, or go for a walk with your collar turned up against the wind with this album as perfect company.” – Americana Highways

“What beautifully written songs sung with a warm voice. There is no question we can expect more from this artist in the near future”- Rootstime Belgium



Bern Kelly: Garden City (Nov 18th/Underpass Records)


Bern Kelly
Garden City

[Underpass Records]

Americana singer-songwriter Bern Kelly’s stripped-down new acoustic album Garden City is both a departure from his earlier work’s carefully arranged, densely layered indie folk and a distillation of his diverse musical influences. Kelly’s switch to exclusively using acoustic guitars on Garden City creates a sonic landscape with ample space, making room for his wistful, entrancing vocals and alternately wry and sincere lyrics.

Garden City finds longtime Nashville resident Kelly is embracing his hometown in ways he’d previously shied away from. “When I first moved here,” Kelly says, “I thought, ‘The last thing this town needs is another white guy with an acoustic guitar.’ But I figured if I was gonna jump into the Americana scene, I was at least gonna get a cool hat.”

Kelly eventually went for it, immersing himself in the Nashville scene, and as he did, he began to more fully appreciate the unadorned power of a singer-songwriter alone on stage with nothing but their voice, a guitar and a well-written song. But he wasn’t quite ready to hang up his electric just yet.

Garden City is Kelly’s response to the process of recording his lushly produced 2021 album, Fantastic Stories! “I got weird on that album,” Kelly says. “On each track, I kept adding, rearranging and layering.” The result was an intricate indie masterpiece—a tapestry of shimmering sonic textures intertwined with dynamic arrangements. But after diving headfirst into the minutiae of arranging and mixing Fantastic Stories!, Kelly found himself craving simplicity.

“I came across a recent acoustic record from Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief, songs, and it felt like a breath of fresh air,” Kelly says. “It was a freeing possibility compared to the complexities of navigating pre-production, figuring out who’s going to play what when, deciding on band arrangements and spending hours engineering and mixing.”

Garden City was born from this revelation. Rather than stacking guitars, harmonies & synths, Kelly went in with a clear mission: to scale back. “I decided to paint myself into a box,” he says, “to set clear limits and then get creative inside of those limits.” The result—created from the intentionally limited palette of acoustic guitar and vocals—is a masterstroke in imaginative minimalism. In Kelly’s deft hands, silence itself is transformed into an instrument.

The songs on Garden City—written, recorded and produced by Kelly at his home studio in Nashville—cover wide-ranging and often dark subject matter. The album’s title track meditates on the inhumane way society talks about and treats people who are homeless. “I liked our campsite but the city made us move / The man says we can’t have the rich folks seeing you on their way home,” Kelly whisper-sings, narrating the story of a homeless couple struggling to make ends meet in a world that has stripped them of their humanity.

“I’ll see these signs around town with messages like ‘Save Our Greenway,’” Kelly says. “They talk about saving a patch of grass, but they never talk about the human beings they’re supposedly saving it from, or what’s going on in their lives. Those are people. They’re our neighbors and they have lives and stories just like every other human being does, and they deserve better.”

“Inamorata” tackles similarly challenging subject matter. During a moment of silence at a funeral years ago, Kelly looked around the room and began to wonder what the other attendees were thinking about in that shared moment of quiet introspection. “How many people were thinking about the person that had died?” Kelly says. “How many people were thinking about how they didn’t want to be there because it was too heavy and too much? And how many people were thinking about themselves and what was going to happen when they die?” Spiraling acoustic riffs simmer as Kelly reconstructs the emotional core of this moment, distilling the way we experience grief and conceive of our own mortality with a tender frankness made all the more impactful by the simplicity of the musical backdrop.

“In a Way, That Was a Kiss Goodbye” explores feeling like a stranger in a city you once called home. Kelly has New York in mind here, where he lived for many years before moving to Nashville. “I always thought I might move back to NYC someday,” Kelly says, “but the last time I visited, it just wasn’t the same. But then you realize it’s not just the city that’s changed; you’ve changed, too. I think it’s easy to get nostalgic for places and memories from different chapters of your life, and sometimes you get lost in them. So this song is about tipping the cap and moving on down the road.”

Garden City’s simple instrumentation makes it easy to get straight to the heart of the songs. Kelly’s approach on the record is all about authenticity. He recalls seeing the late Justin Townes Earle plucking an acoustic guitar in an electrifying set at Nashville venue The Basement once—“I witnessed firsthand what you could do with nothing but an acoustic guitar,” Kelly says. “But for years I was still self-conscious about doing it myself. So I stuck to electric guitar, even at my solo shows, always trying to rock out. But when I heard Earle’s third album, Harlem River Blues, he’d moved from Nashville to New York and was singing about the MTA and living in Brooklyn, which is exactly what I’d been doing before I moved to Nashville. I realized I didn’t have to hide behind anything—that it’s about being genuine, and that a good songwriter can do anything and make it sound authentic.”

Garden City will be released to all major streaming platforms and CD on November 18th via Underpass Records.  Limited-edition white vinyl will also be ready by the first quarter of 2023. CD’s and white vinyl are available for pre-order at

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