Every now and then, we encounter the music of a new (or recently established) artist, and naturally want to share their music with a wider audience. Glancing back at our last two “Find a new Favorite” articles, we featured The East Pointers (live concert) and Adam Baldwin (influx of radio airplay); both were discovered for the most part by chance. If we like your music, and you are not yet fully established in your own identity (Adam Baldwin, after all, has ties to Matt Mays’ band), you become a potential candidate for this series of features.
In the closing months of 2017, we were introduced to The Kelly Song Collective, who reversed the role and became actively engaged with us through our Twitter account and GDW email. And as the weeks passed by, we kept seeing this artist on Facebook, on Twitter, and everywhere else we looked. The Toronto based brothers (John and Joe Kelly) proved ‘politely persistent’ with their social media interaction, and having etched themselves into my psyche, subliminally prompted me to seek out their debut “Unless and Until” album.
As the music blogger, the phrase “the hunter becoming the hunted” summarizes my role with this particular artist. The Kelly Song Collective were the ones making the discovery here, lining us up in their crosshairs and pulling the trigger that is their great music. Once I had determined that I wanted to write a feature on this artist, I even toyed with the idea of altering the title to “Found by a New Favorite!” The bottom line here though, is that their ‘polite persistence’ was absolutely worth the effort, based on my reaction to the fourteen amazing original songs that make up “Unless and Until.”
Offering a modern and progressive take on a very traditional folk sound, feel free to attach the ‘alt-folk’ tag to The Kelly Song Collective. Their music may draw similarities to the likes of Ian Foster and Matthew Byrne, but delve a little deeper and you’ll discover influences ranging from The Beatles to Crosby, Stills and Nash. Indeed, go ahead and start with the opening track “Long Day,” and enjoy the peaceful acoustic guitar and strings that lead into this slow, melodic number. But take note at the 1:51 mark, when that CSN influence shines through with the lines, “There’s a pain that kills my love / There’s a dryness in the rain / There’s a pain that kills my love / There’s a love, kills my pain.” It may just be the way in which these lines are delivered, but it definitely grabbed my attention, and held it for the duration of the album.
If your listening pleasures lean a little more towards the traditional, there are plenty of tracks here that will satisfy your cravings. Start with “The Cliffs Around Conche” and “Scar,” before advancing to both “Hey Jane” (complete with hints of Simon and Garfunkel) and “Scatter My Ashes” (where mandolins, banjos and a wonderful upright bass tantalize the senses). Those earlier comparisons to Ian Foster and Matthew Byrne are found in tracks such as “Kate” and “Four Colours,” where I certainly experienced the sensation of being whisked away to the Eastern Provinces with these two in particular.
Folk fans that like a little older generation of country music, you will find plenty here too. Go ahead and start with “Train,” where that timeless country tempo combines with great vocals and some wonderful fiddle. Skip to “First Day of the Year” and you will be rewarded with a very traditionally paced number where experiences of “corn fields in Iowa” and “lost highways…in the south” are perfectly narrated through the vocal delivery. And then we have “Petawawa Blues;” which, for me personally, draws instant comparisons to the likes of The Highwaymen with the dominant bass-centered beat and heavy twang-laden guitar solo.
Of course, there are a couple of tracks amongst the fourteen on offer that truly stand out to me. Closing out the album, “Don’t Lay Me Down” captured my attention immediately with its military march pace, gentle accordion, and vocals articulated in a similar fashion to the likes of Shane MacGowan from The Pogues. But it has to be “Circus,” a stripped down folk-pop ballad that utilizes only vocals, acoustic guitar and violin to deliver what I consider the best song out of this collection. With a deliberate slow pace to set a definitive mood, the lines “Searching for a painted face / Tonight I’ll turn this funny place upside down / I’m combing my city for a clown,” perfectly reflect the message from this song.
In closing, Team GDW are very appreciative that The Kelly Song Collective reached out to us and shared their impressive debut album. Enjoying the fourteen tracks on offer here, the artists perfectly describe their songs as “epitaphs and elegies, narratives and no nonsense unearthing of the epic and the everyday.” I whole-heartedly agree! And then some! I encourage any fans of traditional folk music to give this one a spin and enjoy too.