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.