Tuesday, 24 November 2015

SAM KELLY

CD Review

Lost Boys

This is a superb album not just because of Sam Kelly's fantastic voice and ability to fill the songs he sings with life but also it reeks of folk, it drips tradition and is the antithesis of so many albums which are trying to make folk sound more commercial.

Sam Kelly
Kelly's debut album opens with Jolly Waggoners where he shows you all you need is an instrument, a good voice, enthusiasm for what you are singing and you can make a traditional song sound contemporary while still keeping its folk essence.
Banish Misfortune brings in the superb banjo picking of Jamie Francis, who wrote the track and whose style sounds very much like the precision playing of Gerry O'Connor.
Kelly's distinct voice which has that slight warble alongside Francis' picking gives the mountain sound of Six Miners some authenticity with the singer opening it up with a whole new freshness. With it's slightly ominous beat kept under the whirring picks of Francis this is without doubt one of the best tracks on the album. Following on comes the King's Shilling, we get the first pairing of Kelly with Kitty Macfarlane and their arrangement of the gentle traditional ballad. Once more Francis adds a wonderful strand of colour to Kelly's voice and Macfarlane's duet-ting. Kelly also adds in the solid thrumming of guitar strings when he wants to add depth to proceedings.
Kelly pulls the stops out for Little Sadie with a throbbing, stomping mountain cabin style sound. This time Evan Carson, who you will find with another superb band The Willows, is on percussion adding some grit to the track which builds up the whole picture then stops dead for it to restart again.
Kelly is at his best with The Golden Vanity which suits his dancing style of singing perfectly. Along with the skipping picking of Francis you can almost feel the fun they are having with this track coming through the speakers.
Kelly and the band
Almost in complete contrast, the emotion Kelly musters with Eyes of Man is almost on a par with I'll Give You My voice which he sang as part of The Changing Room. Kelly's style of singing adds another dimension to the lyrics and feel of the ballad and is what mesmerised the audience at his X Factor audition, but let's not dwell on that.
Francis comes in almost reverently with the banjo for Spokes, before Kelly's voice and playing comes in over the top to get things moving at a quicker pace.
Kelly's heavy and bluesy version of Wayfaring Stranger shows he has a raucous side to his voice. He gets a better chance to show the range he has with his singing, throughout the whole album, but especially on this track.
He and Macfarlane then go on to do an almost spiritual version of Down By The Salley Gardens. It's a simple fact Kelly has a great voice for ballads, it's strong but somehow manages to keep a lightness and vulnerability to whatever he sings.
The new album
The final track Dullahan goes out full on, almost like Kelly and co are getting rid of any excess energy they didn't spend on the previous tracks. Carson builds the tempo almost challenging the others to follow him. Kelly's singing more than keeps pace right until the sudden cut off at the end.
What has also made this album so enjoyable is the quality of talent Kelly has assembled to build the songs with him which, apart from those already mentioned, are Ciaran Algar, Graham Coe, Lukas Drinkwater and Josh Franklin.
Algar is of course best known as one half of a duo, the other being the equally talented Greg Russell while Drinkwater, who among other things, is working alongside Ange Hardy.
This album is like a break in the clouds where the sun streams through with a stairway of sunlight which makes everyone stop and admire it.

The Lost Boys is out now through Sam Kelly Music and via his website.