Album of the Week – Paul Kelly Presents the Merri Soul Sessions
“I don’t know why it took me so long to make a record like this…. It’s just good to have another voice on the record. From now on, it’s not going to just be me.” – Paul Kelly
Legendary Australian music icon, Paul Kelly has done it again with his latest release ‘Paul Kelly Presents The Merri Soul Sessions’. This collaborative project features a cast of fellow Aussie artistry such as Dan Sultan, Vika Bull and Clairy Browne to name a few. Kelly takes a detour from his trademark rock/ folk stylings, introducing his listeners to a soundscape of soul, blues and R&B infused originals.
For those who might need to take this transition slowly, Kelly reinvents his 1989 single ‘Sweet Guy’ featuring Vika Bull. Bull inspired the album three years prior, coving the track, originally written from a female’s perspective and introduced Kelly to the idea of letting other artists reinterpret his compositions. In an interview with Rhythm magazine, Kelly said about Bull’s vocals on the track; “With Vika singing it, it hits you right between the eyes. It’s got more force and more directness.”
Sultan, multi-ARIA award winner including 2014 ‘Best Rock Album’, played a particularly instrumental role, co-writing the album’s first two tracks, ‘What You Want’ and ‘Smells Like Rain’, with Kelly and fellow songwriter Kev Carmody respectively. Sultan also offers his signature sultry vocals on the bluegrass track ‘Don’t Let A Good Thing Go’. Kelly highlighted Sultan’s compositional technique saying, “Melodically Dan will go different places to me. He’s a soul singer, which I’m not. He’s just got certain kinds of phrasing that I wouldn’t get to.”
Clairy Browne present’s listeners with two polarising performances, featured twice on the album with ‘Keep On Coming Back for More’ and ‘Where Were You When I Needed You’. In the first track, Browne channels blues legends Howlin Wolf and Nina Simone’s ‘I Put a Spell On You’ in what is Kelly’s funkiest and dirtiest blues moment on the album. When Browne returns Kelly weights the majority of the track with Browne’s bare vocals and his acoustic guitar. “That was the beautiful thing about working with Clairy, she could do this tough ‘lay-down-the-law’ type singing, but she could do this other soft, aching heart-breaking thing as well.”
“The batch of songs tap directly into rampant emotions in that finest soul tradition, dissecting relationship travails with an eye for the minutiae of the heart that makes the best such songs ring so true” – themusic
For newcomers to Kelly’s work, of for those who simply want to know more, be sure to check out ‘Paul Kelly – Stories of Me’, a feature length documentary celebrating the extensive career and man behind the music.
Paul Kelly will be bringing the Merri Soul Sessions to the West Coast Blues’N’Roots Festival at Fremantle Park (March 9) and Byron Bay’s annual Bluesfest (April 6). Sydneysiders will also be able to catch the group on the 10th of April at the Enmore Theatre. Head to his website, for upcoming show details and to purchase your tickets.