Spring and Fall
Where Paul Kelly hasn’t really ever released a bad album per se, it’s been a while since he released an essential one. Spring and Fall is both his best album in many years and the first essential Paul Kelly album in a longer time – depending on how cruel you want to (possibly) be you could say this is the first essential album since 1986, 1991, 1994 or 1998 (I loved Words & Music, I’ll always defend that). And her, with both words and music, Kelly tells a story across the album, a song-cycle that is gentle in the telling, deceptive; playing to Kelly’s strengths as performer and writer, his instincts as a storyteller.
There’s been an interesting set of occurrences since he arguably over-egged the omelette with a double-album in the early 2000s. There has been more music since then, and Stolen Apples was okay (he doesn’t do bad) but ever since Kelly went too far in the one direction he has been on a quest to strip back to what it’s about. There was the memoir, brilliant, and the shows that inspired it, the A-Z shows where Kelly with, mostly, an acoustic guitar works through 100 songs from the catalogue in alphabetical order. Then there was the recent documentary which did well to sum up his whole life, paying close attention to the newly refocused writer; all that had to come – after reinterpreting the works, creating new works in different mediums and a period of reflection and assessment was the actual new works. The new songs by Paul Kelly as Paul Kelly.
They’re perfect across Spring and Fall, that voice so lived in, warm and sure, gentle, relaxed – often there’s something tongue in check in the delivery but there’s never spite. There can be some bile but Kelly is always at his best when he’s out observing.
Spring and Fall is lovely and it sounds confident. It sounds correct.
I can’t wait to hear these songs played live. And I won’t have to wait too long now, as it happens.