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Nature

Paul Kelly

Cooking Vinyl 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Paul Kelly is a national treasure in his home country of Australia but his inability to achieve large commercial success in the United States remains a mystery. His brand of cerebral and catchy music have enthralled his fan base for decades. He has now issued his latest album Nature.

His new release is loosely connected to 2017’s Life Is Fine but here the music centers around the theme of nature. The creative and unique aspect of the release is his use of poems by Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Phillip Larkin, which he sets to music.

Kelly’s music always has an earthy nature to it. While he is not an American, there are influences there. If there is an Australian equivalent to America, this is it as his sound settles in comfortably somewhere between country, folk, and pop.

His regular backing band is made up of drummer Peter Luscombe, bassist Bill McDonald, guitarists Ash Naylor and Dan Kelly, and keyboardist Cameron Bruce. They can rock when needed and can fade into the background when necessary. Here they provide a precise and smooth backing for Kelly’s creative process.

The opening track sets the tone of the album. Dylan Thomas’ classic poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” has always appealed to the mind and soul. Put to music with a full band, the words take on new textures and depths. Walt Whitman’s “With Animals” is a center piece around which Kelly’s original compositions, “Little Wolf,” “With The One I Love,” “Seagulls Of Seattle,” and “Morning Storm” revolve.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit Priest and Victorian Irish poet. His “God’s Grandeur” should have been the last track, rather than the 11th of 12, as it sums up Kelly’s creative intent.

Nature is another unified concept from Paul Kelly’s mind. It is a thoughtful release, whose individual chapters add up to a satisfying conclusion.

Rating: ****

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