Paul Kelly has been a star in his home country of Australia for over three decades. He first came to the public’s attention as a member of the Dots, 1978-82, and then as a part of the Coloured Girls (who changed their name to the Messengers), 1985-1991. It has been his work as a solo artist that elevated him to the upper echelon of Australian musicians.
The music buying public’s awareness of his music has been growing in the United States. During 2010 he released an eight-disc box set, which presented live versions of 105 of his songs and followed that in 2011 with the career-spanning 40 song compilation Songs From The South (Volumes 1 & 2). Late last year he issued the book How To Make Gravy: A To Z, A Mongrel Memoir, in which he used his music as a jumping off place for his personal recollections. He has now returned with his first studio album since 2007’s Stolen Apples.
Spring and Fall is that rare combination of ambitious and simple. The music is stripped down to basics, but the album is a song cycle that presents a love story from different points of view. The songs are linked to one another as each one has a connecter to the one that follows. It is music that is not meant to be listened to as a track here and a track there, but needs to be appreciated as a whole.
Vocalist and acoustic guitar player Kelly is supported by producer and stand-up bassist/dobroist/violinist J. Walker and guitarist (and nephew) Dan Kelly. He also adds in a judicious use of percussion, piano, and drums in places to accentuate the music and mood.
Dave Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine called Kelly “one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard.” He lives up to that praise with his passionate and emotional lyrics set to simple melodies. “New Found Year” and “When a Woman Loves a Man” begin the story with the initial attraction and passion of a new relationship. By the time he reaches “None of Your Business Now” and “Little Aches and Pains,” he has progressed from happiness to contentment, and then to loss followed by regret. It is an interesting and poignant ride in the fertile mind of Paul Kelly as he spins his tales.
Spring And Fall is a creative return for Paul Kelly. It is a late addition to my best 10 albums of the year sweepstakes and is worth a listen for old and new fans alike.