Ruston Kelly – Shape & Destroy

Ruston Kelly - Shape & Destroy



3.8/5 Pros

  • Amazing voice
  • Deep stories
  • Some really good tracks, especially "Radio Cloud" Cons

  • Sometimes a bit too dark and repetitive
  • By that, the album lacks some variety

Writing for Tim McGraw, being married with Kacey Musgraves – even though you might not have actively run into Ruston Kelly as an artist, he is definitely quite an established artist in the country music scene. On 28th August 2020, he is releasing his second album Shape & Destroy. 


Ruston Kelly – About The Artists

Ruston Samuel Kelly was born on 31st July 1988 in Georgetown, South Carolina. He however grew up in Ohio. He did music from his very early ages. His first success as a songwriter was in 2013, when he wrote the Tim McGraw song Nashville without you. He struggled with drug abuse. Overall, his biography is quite turbulent. In 2017, when he married Kacey Musgraves, he released his debut EP Halloween. One year later, Dying Star was Kelly’s debut album, which received quite reasonable reviews, but could not really place well in the charts. Just before Kelly released his second album Shape & Destroy, he and Musgraves filed for divorce.


Ruston Kelly – Shape & Destroy – Track by Track

The thirteen track album lasts 42 minutes.

1. In The Blue

The first track of the album starts comparably slow, a nice acoustic guitar track with a catching voice. A really nice starter.

2. Radio Cloud

In the German language, we have the nice possibility to combine two nouns to a new one. One of these combined ones is Ohrwurm, which literally means ear-worm and describes a song which you listen once and which creeps in your ears and head like a worm. So catchy that you cannot stop having it in your mind and singing it. Why am I telling you this in the middle of an album review? Radio Cloud was a perfect Ohrwurm to me. Though it is acoustic, it has a lot of power to me, especially the chorus is lovely. My favorite song of the album!

3. Alive

Looking at the flowers
Coming up from the ground
Through all of the rubble
Of everything that I tore down
Now I’m looking through a telescope
Not a cloud in the sky
What a beautiful moment
To be alive

This song feels so intimate, so direct. Alive grabs me and takes me into its story. Ruston Kelly does great songwriting and his voice is just adding this special characteristic. The music feels unique – and good.

4. Changes

After three quite emo-style songs, Changes is more rhythmic and thus feels quite energetic. The story tells a lot of about ups and downs, mental confusion. I love the melody of the track, the lyrics do not catch me that much:

I’m in the basement threatenin‘ to score
You’re teary-eyed and runnin‘ to the door
All my ups and downs
Have worn you out by now I’m sure
You’re teary-eyed and runnin‘ to the door
I’m sorry that I didn’t take your call
I’ve been busy starin‘ at the wall
The disappointment in your voice
Would hurt me most of all
I’m sorry that I didn’t take your call

5. Mid Morning Lament

The album is telling a lot of stories about Kelly’s fate, about the bad expeirences he made. Mid Morning Lament might be one of the deepest, most emotional – and thus also most touching tracks of the album. His voice just feels to fit perfectly to moments like this.

All I want is something
To believe in more than nothing
And I guess that’s all I’m asking
From anything at all
I don’t wanna be the kind
Who’s tangled up all the time in their dreamin’
Then what’s the point of being needed?

6. Brave

Never took more than I gave
And I didn’t give up to the darkness
I fought with all my might
And I never took for granted
All the love in my life
That’s how I hope I’m
Remembered when I die

The album gets even darker in Brave. I struggle with this track: on the one hand, I again feel his voice is so great for songs like that. On the other hand… It is just quite a lot of these deep and sad thoughts.

7. Clean

With Clean, at least the music is getting more rhythmic and happy again. It is some sort of thank-you song about his process getting away from drug abuse.

I don’t wanna be a preacher
I don’t wanna be a saint
I just came here with the word
That you can learn from all the pain
Whatever may be Heaven
However you believe
Something circled in and pulled me out
And I got clean

8. Rubber

Rubber, one of the pre-releases before the album, is very atmospheric. I like the wide background sound, even though it makes Kelly’s voice feel a bit softer and more gentle than in other tracks. Nice.

9. Jubilee

So tell me what it’s like to
Be everything you want to
Without having to filter through

If there is something like emo country, Ruston Kelly would likely be something like the guru of the genre’s fans. Even though some elements of the song feel to be positive at a very first sight, there is so much struggle and failure in this song (again). You more and more hope for a better life for Ruston Kelly – and a third album which spreads some more warmth and sunshine.

10. Closest Thing

Like a bird
Or a plane
Superman himself
You’re the closest thing to flyin’
That I have ever felt

Even in that lovely ballad, which partially reads like a beautiful love letter, there are these few sad elements again. Nevertheless, it is overall a nice track.

11. Pressure

I cannot argue for any really happy songs any more I guess – but I still have to say that songs like Pressure are the ones I enjoy most on the album. Nice track.

12. Under The Sun

If it hurts either way
What’s the point In dragging it out
Let it fade under the sun
Don’t let me catch you crying in the twilight
It’s almost over
Brighter days still will come
There are brighter days still to come

So good that there are some positive messages towards the end of the album. The song seems to be full of courage again – melodically, it is one of the most powerful songs of Shape & Destroy anyway.

13. Hallelujah Anyway

The final message of the album in the 92 second Hallelujah Anyway is someone a positive one: even if I am not surviving this one, I want to by thankful and say Hallelujah Anyway. The tracks feels a bit like a church song.


Ruston Kelly – Shape & Destroy – Spotify

Here is the Spotify widget to Shape & Destroy:


Ruston Kelly – Shape & Destroy – My View

Wow, this album is tough. Ruston Kelly takes us to so much bad experience, deep emotions. The album is touching. However, sometimes it feels a bit too deep, too repetitive, too sad. The more, I am happy that the thirteen track story finishes with a hopeful and somehow positive message. I would definitely love to hear more of Ruston Kelly – maybe after a better episode of his life. There is so much potential and talent in his music. With Shape & Destroy, he is not in the very high class rankings yet – but he is definitely leaving his message in the world of music. Good this time – better next time?


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