Veteran Oklahoma musician Kelly Raines seems remarkably optimistic considering the long trajectory of his career and his near complete lack of fame or fortune. “I’ve been performing since I got to sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ as a preschooler in church. I think I recall then feeling the same way I do now when I perform. All the adrenalin gets and neurochemicals start flowing, space and time blur, something starts to happen that’s transcendent. Also, I got ice cream so there’s that Pavlovian aspect as well…”

Raines may not have a string of hits or other marquee achievements to fill out his bio but he’s not without credits. Instead of the typical embellishment and resume padding press kits seem to demand, Kelly is more inclined to talk about what’s happening now. “I’ve been singing and playing for so long I’m happy to tell tales of the past but what I care about is now. At some point, success is surviving to load up the van and get to the next gig. That’s where I am now. Let’s go, there’s a show to play.”

Raines’ career has taken him a lot of splashy places but plenty of dives, honkytonks, and roadhouses. As member of band Jimmy Swat, as a solo artist, and 30 years with honkytonk legends, Ringos of Soul, Raines has gigs to make and isn’t looking to tread familiar roads. “I like to think my best song is the one I’ve just written. That’s as good a measure as any I can find and it keeps me working and work is good if you like it and I do, when it’s music.”

After almost 40 years of performing, Raines has succeeded in not merely surviving, but continuing to produce exciting music regardless of the size of his audience. “I release a record every once in a while. Some get wider releases than others, but regardless of how much I might intend to promote a particular record, I still need to release them periodically just to declare a project finished. I’m perfectly capable of beating my songs to death and given too much time, that’s what seems to happen.”

Raines’ “every once in a while,” seems average about five years. The Ringos released several small run cassette releases before their “influential” 1991 record “Under the Double Eagle.” The follow up got shelved so Raines released his demos as his first solo record, “Junior Barnard’s Blues” in ’95. Smaller releases came after the turn of the century including 2010’s “Impedimenta, Etcetera,” a compilation of previously unreleased Ringos of Soul tracks and his 2015 collaboration with Crucial Ed Cotton, “Full Gospel Happy Hour.”

Currently, Raines is putting the finishing touches on “Tall Grass or Smokestacks” set for summer release and the Ringos are finishing their first new record in ten years. “The Ringos work at their own pace. We’re dedicated to this effort but I’ve learned that sometimes the sheep lead the shepherd and sometimes its root hog or die. Whatever it becomes, that’s what it will be.”

Until then, catch keep track of Kelly at and Ringos of Soul at and

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