At first glance, the title of Kelley Hunt's new CD, "Gravity Loves You," looks like it might be a tongue-in-cheek reference to the toll age takes on us all.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
"What I'm saying is, go for it, do it now, take a flying leap off the cliff," Hunt said. "You're going to be safe and not fly away because gravity loves you. Every song on the CD, whatever musical style it is, addresses it one way or another."
Hunt's show tonight at the Cotillion serves as the Wichita CD release party for "Gravity Loves You." She'll be performing with some of the musicians from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Nashville who helped her record the CD in Nashville last fall.
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"I've got my ace band coming," Hunt said. "We're ready to rock the place. We always have a good time at the Cotillion."
Hunt has been a favorite of Wichitans since she first appeared at the old Coyote Club fronting a power pop band called the Kinetics in the 1980s. Since then she's become better known for a bluesy style of singing and piano playing.
There's still plenty of both on her new CD, but Hunt says "Gravity" and its predecessor, the 2007 "Mercy," also mark a kind of new chapter for her. Making "Mercy," Hunt said, she finally felt free to "make whatever political statements I want to make, stretch out as a writer and piano player, make that happen with no holds barred. When I was of that mindset, that's when the record 'Mercy' came about, and it just continued with 'Gravity Loves You.' I don't think I'll ever do it any other way."
Hunt said she's proud of her previous three CDs, "but it's almost like that was one part of my career, and this is another."
Another change on "Gravity" is that Hunt co-wrote many of the tunes with Kansas' poet laureate, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Hunt said she's known her fellow Lawrence resident for years and first collaborated with her in 2005 for a breast cancer awareness event. It's not a partnership where Hunt supplied music for Mirriam-Goldberg's words, she notes.
"We both do both, actually, although I usually end up being the final arranger," Hunt said. "We come up with stuff that I wouldn't necessarily have come up with on my own, and that she wouldn't have come up with on her own, and that's what you want to happen."
"Gravity" starts with the good-time rocker "Too Much History," with its line about somebody dancing naked in the park, before going into the slower title cut, in which Hunt's soaring and dipping vocals seem to be toying with the concept itself. Hunt said one of the more moving songs, "Music Was The Tread," about a musician from an impoverished background, "is based on a compilation of people we know."
"I think the stuff that I write really covers a lot of ground," she said.
Although Hunt is sometimes called a well-kept secret, she's a regular at blues and roots music festivals around the country, and has appeared on NPR's "Prairie Home Companion" a half-dozen times.
Which brings up the question of whether the swing-for-the-fences theme of "Gravity" applies to her as well. After all, isn't she living the kind of life many dream of?
Hunt assures a questioner that it does.
"I think it's more of a universal theme," she said. "I'm saying that to myself and just encouraging others to do the same. I think there's more for all of us to do. The more of that I do for myself, the better work I do."
If you go
What: CD release party for the blueswoman's new "Gravity Loves You"
Where: Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg
When: 8 p.m. Friday
How much: Advance tickets $20, $23 day of show. Tickets available at Select-A-Seat outlets, the Cotillion, at 316-722-4201 or www.thecotillion.com.
For more information, go to kelleyhunt.com.