Death’s Dateless Night
Paul Kelly & Charlie Owens
Cooking Vinyl 2016
Review by David Bowling
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.