Paul Kelly Presents The Merri Soul Sessions

Paul Kelly

Cen Label 2014

Review by David Bowling


Paul Kelly Presents The Merri Soul Sessions has taken a long and circuitous route from Australia to the United States. Originally released in Australia as a series of four vinyl singles over a six month period, they will be released as a CD in the United States, January 27th, with addition of three extra tracks.

Paul Kelly is one of the noted singer/songwriters in Australian music history. Known for his personal and incisive lyrics, which explore not only his own feelings and psyche but  connect them to his home country. He tends to fuse country, rock, and folk elements into his music.

His last two projects were the creative Spring And Fall and Conversations With Ghosts, which were a series of song cycles. Now he has turned his creative juices in a new direction.

He has now assumed the role of a music director. He has gathered together a number of vocalists; Clairy Browne, Vika Bull, Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, and Kira Peru and combined them with his touring band. He wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks. Sometimes it is his voice out front and other times it is various members of his troupe, but the music always bears his imprint.

The music was recorded live in the studio. When taken as a whole it reminds me of an old Motown soul revue where different singers take turns fronting the same band. Linda and Vicki Bull bring new vocal textures to “Smells Like Rain” and “What You Want.” Kelly steps forward on “Righteous Woman,” and “Thank You.” Clairy Browne steps forward to interpret “Where Were You When I Needed You.” The album ends with their voices combining on “Hasn’t It Rained.”

The Merri Soul Sessions is a unique way for one of Australia’s best to present his music in the United States. It is music well-worth exploring.

Rating: ***1/2