I know, I know. Did we need another dude covering a Taylor Swift song? Ryan Adams put out a whole album of 1989 covers, “legitimizing” the songs and gaining coverage in some major music publications that didn’t even cover Swift’s original. Swift’s songs are so tied to her personal experience and so dear to her young fans that a dude with a beard covering it can seem sacrilegious.
Enter Ruston Kelly. The Nashville singer-songwriter put out one of the best albums of 2018, the empathetic and searching Dying Star. Kelly looks inward and outward, writing about wrecked relationships and things he’s afraid are too precious to break. He’s married to Kacey Musgraves. He’s a damn fine songwriter, and he seems like a nice dude.
Kelly dared to cover Swift’s “All Too Well” for Amazon Music’s covers series, and his rendition is a beautiful tribute to the raw emotionality of the original. He makes the song his own with atmospheric instrumentals, replacing Swift’s driving percussion with drums that sound more soft and searching.
You can hear Kelly’s respect for the song in the careful way he sings. Unlike Adams’ smug rewriting of Swift’s history, Kelly sees “All Too Well” for what it is — a damn great country song that “f*cks you up.”
“‘All Too Well’ is one of those special songs that never leaves you,” Kelly told Billboard. “It follows you and haunts you and sticks to you because it reminds you of what you thought you’d finally forgotten. It teleports you to old magic feelings, the little perfect moments in a relationship way ahead of its doom. It shows you how happiness with someone can feel so infinite and true. But it calls to the end of things and it shows the color of the flame. It f*cks you up. A large testament to Taylor and Liz [Rose]’s craftsmanship no doubt.”
Listen to Ruston Kelly’s cover of “All Too Well” below.