Single Review: Kristen Kelly, "Ex-Old Man"

Does country radio still have room for a song about drinkin' and cheatin'?  How about one sung by a female artist?

Enter Arista newcomer Kristen Kelly, currently making waves at radio with her debut single “Ex-Old Man,” which she co-wrote along with nineties star Paul Overstreet.  The premise is simple.  Husband cheats on her with her best friend.  She calls it quits with her man, and hits the bar, assuring us in no uncertain terms that “There's a damn good reason for this drink in my hand.”  The lyric and performance are brash and bitter with an undercurrent of vulnerability as Kelly fumes over the double betrayal. (“I was cryin' on her shoulder, he was cheatin' on me… She never let on that it was her stealin' his love”)

In a country radio environment where there are far too many bells and whistles, it's a refreshing change of pace to hear a new artist taking a back-to-basics approach – revisiting a classic yet often ignored country music theme, with a simple drum and acoustic guitar-driven arrangement that actually makes the song feel like country music (Overstreet and Tony Brown take producer's credit).  At the same time, the jaunty acoustic chords and hand claps are subtly infectious, setting the toe tapping in short order.

It's encouraging to see that this single seems to be getting some attention at radio.  If Kelly's lyrical material remains strong, she along with fellow rising talent Jana Kramer could potentially act as an effective counterbalance toward the polished, hook-heavy country-pop of Swift and Underwood and company, imbuing some welcome variety into country radio's pool of female talent.

Grade:  B+

Listen:  Ex-Old Man



  1. Love the song, but does this song remind anyone else of Shania’s marriage struggles with her friend and her husband or is it just me who thinks that every time I heart it?

  2. I like her sound. Hope she has better luck than Sunny Sweeney has had.

    I read that she was part of a group, Kristen Kelly and the Modern Day Drifters. Guess they drifted apart.

  3. I’ve got to say that the women this year seem to be making some relatively interesting music this year, ranging from Kellie and Carrie making career highlights to Jana and now Kristen having some unique classic themed music. Hopefully, this means radio will begin accepting them and we can have another batch of women in the vein of the 90s develop. As for the song, I agree with the grade. It has a nice theme, production, vocal and overall groove; however, it lacks in it that something that pushes it over the edge. Kristen seems to be getting attention so I’m hopeful, especially since her website bio says she recorded a song by the amazing Matraca Berg for her album.

    @Jake: Yeah. It makes me think of Shania too. Maybe its doing that for programmers and that is why they’re hooking on? They think its kind of a homage to one of they’re former favorites?

  4. Songis okay – I think it’s a solid B wouldn’t go so far as to give it a B+.

    I’d like to hear this singer with a bit more challenging material – she sounds fine on this song, but this song requires very little range to sing it

  5. Yes, it would be interesting to hear Kelly push her vocal abilities a bit futher. I look forward to hearing what else she comes up with.

    I never picked up on the correlation to Shania Twain’s divorce, but I never paid a whole lot of attention to all that anyway. Whether the song was written with Twain in mind I can’t say.

  6. While I do love the production and and overall musicality my problem, and why I won’t buy it, is with it is the nondescript vocals. There is nothing in Kelly’s voice that elevates her over the noise of girl singers that are trying to pierce the swilamberwood glass ceiling at radio.

    The song is forgettable. She’s forgettable. It’s all a shame really because I’d love to see a new female on the landscape.

  7. Good review. I like the sound, but somehow this one just doesn’t come together for me. Maybe the arrangement seems too light and playful for such an emotionally heavy premise? Like it makes it hard for me to feel for her when that little descending guitar line is like “La la la! La la la!” And I agree with White Cleats about her voice – solid, but maybe not distinct enough. Makes me wish Ashton Shepherd would somehow come back with a better radio offer. I guess there’s still the impossible dream of Ashley Monroe…

  8. Oooh, Ashley Monroe… Dan, now you’re cooking. Unfortunately country radio seems to have a moratorium on the number of solo females in the top 40 at any given time. Like, 10%. And were it not for the aforementioned trio that number would drop to ~ 2%. Mizz Monroe doesn’t stand a fighting chance.

  9. Well, I won’t hold my breath, but Monroe may have a better shot next time around thanks to her association with Lambert and Pistol Annies (who don’t get played at radio, but are still very much on the mainstream radar). If nothing else, tastemakers will help keep her flame alive – with her voice, songwriting talent, traditional bent and Vince Gill producing, she’ll probably have no trouble earning some hosannas when the next album rolls out.

  10. Heck, all Ashley really needs is a penis and a shitty song about a truck and she’s in business.

    But yes, Dan, you’re right — the Pistol Annies association should help her. However, I’m not sure the Miranda Lambert association is helping the Pistol Annies. Perhaps I need to get out more but I use country radio as a barometer for what’s popular and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard them played. I know radio doesn’t effect industry recognition or awards but you’ve got to sell something or else she’ll get flushed from her label and those of us who love Ashley won’t get to hear her Vince Gill produced, well sung lyrics.

  11. My favorite song on Kristen Kelly’s new EP is “He Loves to Make Me Cry”. I read somewhere that it will be released as her next single after the 1st of the new year. There’s a video on you-tube.

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