I admit I had never heard of Gabriel Kelley before I was asked to review It Don’t Come Easy but I expect to be hearing about him for a long time to come.
This is the 27-year-old Kelley’s first CD, and he raised the money for it through a Kickstarter campaign. Some of the best original music is coming through the so-called DIY movement these days, where people do not just sit around waiting for some record company to discover them but find a way to do it on their own. It Don’t Come Easy is a perfect example of the thoroughly enjoyable music that can result from that kind of initiative.
Kelley has packed a lot of experience into his 27 years. He grew up poor in Georgia, then spent his adolescence in Sweden before returning to Georgia, finishing high school and a couple of months of college before hitting the road singing and playing. Eventually, he got a job in Nashville writing country music for a publisher.
Some people would be content with that, but Kelley left it to return to performing. He spent a lot of time writing songs based on all that experience, and the result are the nine original songs and one written by the man who taught him to play guitar, Pat Shields, who also plays on the record.
This music is very much in the singer-songwriter mode. On his website, Kelley is quoted as saying that he grew up listening to John Prine, Neil Young, Cat Stevens and Leon Russell, and the music certainly reflects those influences as well as the Nashville years. It is mellow and heartfelt, with no tricks or unnecessary flourishes.
I particularly like the songs on which Bekka Bramlett, the daughter of the legendary Delaney and Bonnie sings background. She adds a great, soulful feel to “Faith,” which has a sort of Van Morrison feel, the slightly heavier “Only Thing to Do,” the evocative “In Your Loving Arms,” and “See You Comin’,” which is Georgia to its core.
I also love “Goodbye, Jesse” and “These Old Green Hills.” In fact, I really like every song on this CD. You can hear the sincerity and emotion in Kelley’s voice as well as in the words he is singing.
It Don’t Come Easy is an excellent introduction to a talented singer-songwriter who deserves to become part of your collection and to get the attention of every discerning listener who enjoys the singer-songwriter style.