New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Paul Kelly, Australia's preeminent songwriter, will spend the month of May performing intimate shows across America
and Canada — his first concerts on this continent since 2013. This tour is in support of Kelly's 2016 release, the uniquely conceived Death's Dateless Night, although he will also be playing songs from his award-winning career that has earned him induction into Australian Recording Industry
Association's Hall of Fame and, just earlier this year, being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to the performing arts.
Death's Dateless Night, a collaboration with the highly regarded Australian multi-instrumentalist Charlie Owen, contains songs that they have played at various funerals. Featuring a mix of covers, traditional tunes and a few Kelly
originals, the album's vibe is actually far from funereal. The spare, stirring set has been hailed as a "powerful meditation on life, death and the mess we make in-between."
Owen, a veteran of several Australian bands including the Divinyls, will be accompanying Kelly
on this tour, which starts May 6 in Chicago
and concludes May 31 in Portland. Joining Kelly
too are his daughters, Madeleine and Memphis
Kelly. The two, who have their own music careers, both appeared on Death's Dateless Night as well.
Critical acclaim for Death's Dateless Night includes PopMatters, which asserts, "The power of their renditions … does not necessarily come from the sadness or melancholia of the tracks selected … Death's Dateless Night is a funeral album which does not just mourn, but celebrates, hopes, and reminisces"; and No Depression, which notes that "Together, Kelly
and Owen find the beauty in the end of life by thoughtfully choosing music for celebrating a life well lived."
Dateless Night is just the latest in Paul Kelly's recent run of fascinatingly eclectic projects. 2016 also saw Kelly
releasing the seven-song mini-album Seven
Sonnets & A Song, in which he re-worked William Shakespeare's love sonnets into songs. For The Merri Soul Sessions (2015) he enlisted a variety of vocalists to reinterpret his tunes with a R&B revue feel. In 2013, Kelly
teamed up with Neil Finn
of Crowded House
fame for a highly successful Australian tour that resulted in the live album Goin' Your Way, which came out as a two-CD set and a DVD. Kelly's most ambitious musical endeavor, however, has been his "A-Z" project. It began as a series of concerts where he would perform his set of songs in alphabetical order, and he wound up creating an eight-CD, 105-song live box set, which came out in the U.S. in 2012.
The A-Z Recordings, in the words of Paste's Darren Wang, projected "a transparency into the craft of songwriting that is unsurpassed in pop music today," while Thom Jurek in All Music
Guide lauded Kelly
as "a songwriter whose peers are few; they include Townes Van Zandt, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello
and Ronnie Lane."
Critically accolades have followed Paul Kelly
throughout his career. His 1985 breakout album Post was chosen Rolling Stone Australia's Album of the Year. American music journalists started singing their praises when A&M Records put out Paul Kelly
and the Messengers' first three U.S. releases — Gossip
(1987), Under the Sun (1988) and So Much Water So Close To Home (1989) — and continued on with Kelly's solo outings. Trouser Press' Dave Schulps called Kelly
"an extraordinary songwriter, with an especially keen eye for lyrical detail" and Mike Boehm, in the Los Angeles Times, observed that Kelly
"writes some of the most accomplished erotic love songs in pop." Rolling Stone senior writer David
Fricke may have described Paul Kelly
most succinctly when he declared him "one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise."
Kelly, however, has a special relationship with his home country, much like Bruce Springsteen
has with America. Rock journalist Jasper Bruce recently wrote that in Australia, Kelly
is "a member of the family. He's someone who crystallizes the spirit of a nation with the stroke of a guitar and the purr of a harmonica. He's someone who, tactfully and effortlessly, can inhabit the skin of any Australian."
His work is having an impact on a younger generation of musicians. When critic's-darling Australian artist Courtney Barnett
was 16, her English teacher had the students analyze and dissect Kelly's song "To Her Door," going through each lyric and word. The young musician had "a bit of a moment" with the assignment; as she would tell NPR, "When I heard this song, it probably opened up seeing stories in a different way and how they can develop. Such a simple little story can have so much impact when it's drawn out. That song always sticks out for me because of that moment that I had with it that started a bit of a snowball of change."
These shows offer a rare opportunity to hear this eloquent wordsmith in an intimate setting so, whether you are a longtime fan or a recent convert, you can become "a member of the family" too.
Sat., May 6 CHICAGO, IL Szold Hall
Mon., May 8 TORONTO, ON The Drake
Wed., May 10 NORTHAMPTON, MA Iron Horse Music
Thurs., May 11 CAMBRIDGE, MA Club Passim
Fri., May 12 FAIRFIELD, CT Stageone
Sat., May 13 VIENNA, VA Jammin Java
Mon., May 15 PHILADELPHIA, PA World Café Life - Upstairs
Tue., May 16 NEW YORK, NY Le Poisson Rouge
Fri., May 19 LOS ANGELES, CA The Hotel Café
Sun., May 21 SAN FRANCISCO, CA Swedish American Hall
Tues., May 23 VANCOUVER, BC Biltmore
Fri., May 26 CALGARY, AB Commonwealth Bar
Sat., May 27 EDMONTON, AB Mercury Room