Death’s Dateless Night By Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen

July 10, 2017

Paul Kelly has been a superstar in his native Australia for several decades. He has produces numerous albums of reflective and cerebral pop/rock. He is also known for his creative approaches to presenting his music. A little over a decade ago he embarked on a series of concerts where he sang his original song catalogue in alphabetical order. He followed it with an eight disc CD set containing the songs in the same order. Early last hear he created an album of music using the love sonnets of Shakespeare as the lyrics.

Charlie Owens has been an Australian instrumental mainstay. His work with several bands and as an in-demand session musician has kept him in the public eye. Now he has joined Kelly in the creation of an album with a very unique theme.

There are concept albums and then there are concept albums. Death’s Dateless Night is an album of songs that they have performed at funerals.

The music is basic and for the most part acoustic. It is usually Owns on piano, dobro, or pedal steel and Kelly on guitar and vocals. The song-selection is more philosophical than depressing. Well known tunes such as Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire,” Lennon/McCartney’s “Let It Be,” and Townes Van Zandt’s “”To Live Is To Fly” are given simple renditions.

It is the less-known songs that make the biggest impact. The traditional and century old “Pallet On The Floor” and the near acapella Irish song “The Parting Glass” are stunning despite their simplicity. “Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air” is one of two original compositions that uses the 23rd Psalm as a jumping off place. The album concludes with Hank Williams’ “Angel of Death.”

Paul Kelly and Charlie Owens have managed to make the concept of death both interesting and listenable. Death’s Dateless Night is another interesting career stop for Paul Kelly. Funerals have never been so interesting or entertaining.


Goin’ Your Way By Neil Finn & Paul Kelly

January 30, 2016

Light Flight Pentangle

Superstars in their native New Zealand and Australia, Neil Finn ad Paul Kelly toured together during 2013. When they performed together at the Sydney Opera House the tape was rolling, which resulted in a double live album released in their own countries. Now Goin’ Your Way has been released in the United States and internationally for the first time.

Rather than present their material as solo artists with backing musicians, they formed a band, which resulted in each of them adapting to the others material and style. It also resulted in their songs acquiring new textures and tones.

The concert’s 29 tracks are built around Kelly’s solo hits “To Her Door” and “Before Too Long” and those of Finn, “She Will Have Her Way” and “Sinner.” Finn also brought material from his time with Split Enz and Crowded House. “One Step Ahead,” “Message To My Girl,” and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” are re-imagined and taken in new directions.

Excellent sound, scintillating guitar work, passionate vocals, and good packaging all add up to a memorable concert experience.

For anyone not familiar with Kelly and Finn’s work, Goin’ Your Way is an excellent introduction to their material and careers.

Spring And Fall by Paul Kelly

December 25, 2012

Paul Kelly has been a star in his home country of Australia for over three decades. He first came to the public’s attention as a member of the Dots, 1978-82, and then as a part of the Coloured Girls (who changed their name to the Messengers), 1985-1991. It has been his work as a solo artist that elevated him to the upper echelon of Australian musicians.

The music buying public’s awareness of his music has been growing in the United States. During 2010 he released an eight-disc box set, which presented live versions of 105 of his songs and followed that in 2011 with the career-spanning 40 song compilation Songs From The South (Volumes 1 & 2). Late last year he issued the book How To Make Gravy: A To Z, A Mongrel Memoir, in which he used his music as a jumping off place for his personal recollections. He has now returned with his first studio album since 2007’s Stolen Apples.

Spring and Fall is that rare combination of ambitious and simple. The music is stripped down to basics, but the album is a song cycle that presents a love story from different points of view. The songs are linked to one another as each one has a connecter to the one that follows. It is music that is not meant to be listened to as a track here and a track there, but needs to be appreciated as a whole.

Vocalist and acoustic guitar player Kelly is supported by producer and stand-up bassist/dobroist/violinist J. Walker and guitarist (and nephew) Dan Kelly. He also adds in a judicious use of percussion, piano, and drums in places to accentuate the music and mood.

Dave Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine called Kelly “one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard.” He lives up to that praise with his passionate and emotional lyrics set to simple melodies. “New Found Year” and “When a Woman Loves a Man” begin the story with the initial attraction and passion of a new relationship. By the time he reaches “None of Your Business Now” and “Little Aches and Pains,” he has progressed from happiness to contentment, and then to loss followed by regret. It is an interesting and poignant ride in the fertile mind of Paul Kelly as he spins his tales.

Spring And Fall is a creative return for Paul Kelly. It is a late addition to my best 10 albums of the year sweepstakes and is worth a listen for old and new fans alike.

Article first published as Music Review: Paul Kelly – Spring and Fall on Blogcritics.

Greatest Hits: Songs From The South by Paul Kelly

August 31, 2011

Paul Kelly may not be a household name in the United States but in his native Australia, he is a popular and revered singer/songwriter.

He was born in Adelaide, South Australia during 1955, but by the mid-1970s had settled in Melbourne and become active in the music scene. His first group, The Dots, established him as a recording artist. He moved to Sydney during 1985 and formed Paul Kelley and The Colored Girls before changing the name to The Messengers. By the end of the decade he had begun his solo career which continues to the present day.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s David Fricke has called Kelly “one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise.” This is an apt description of his talent. While his music is well-structured and melodic and his voice may be a distinctive but somewhat acquired taste, it is as a lyricist that has enabled him to become the virtual poet laureate of Australia.

His songs are capsules that capture situations and moments in time. They present his life experiences and memories and expand outward into an Australian roots style that deals with death, love, aborigines, struggles, and just getting by. The messages and pictures he paints are not just confined to his home country but are eternal odes to life that can be adopted by many countries and situations.

Kelly’s music is now being re-introduced in the United States. His Greatest Hits – Songs From The South Volumes 1 & 2 was originally issued in Australia in two parts, the first in 1997 and the second during 2008. They have now been combined into a two-CD set and will be released in digital form, September 6, and in a physical version, October 25.

The 40 songs span his career and are an excellent overview of his music. The material contained here represents his best known and popular songs, many of which have never been available in North America.

His style can best be described as folk/rock, although he branches out into country, bluegrass, and even a reggae sound once in a while. It all adds up to a somewhat disjointed affair musically but when the tracks are taken individually, they shine brightly.

In spanning his entire recording career, Greatest Hits – Songs From The South Volumes 1 & 2 demonstrates that he is an adventurous and compelling musician. His songs are fresh, inspired, and addictive. This album and his music are well worth exploring.

Article first published as Music Review: Paul Kelly – Paul Kelly’s Greatest Hits – Songs From The South Volumes 1 & 2 on Blogcritics.