Though he's the most beloved and prolific of Australia's singer-songwriters -- 19 albums over the course of a 30-plus-year career -- Kelly remains nearly unknown in the States. He's won the respect of fellow songwriters and musicians, and a passionate cult following -- sizable enough to justify the marketing of a recent box set featuring over a 100 live songs -- but his music, with its earthy wisdom and wiry voice, has never followed fashion, and fashion has never followed his music.
I wish I could say "Spring and Fall" will finally bring Kelly the wider audience he deserves, but the album, a cycle of spare and tender and detailed love songs, isn't the stuff of buzz and blogs, let alone hits. Beginning with a toast to a new year, Kelly sings, "My America, I'm your new man," as if he believes anything is possible. And maybe it is.
When a woman loves a man, it's stronger than the sun
So unfold the hidden plan, it won't stop once begun
Recorded in a country hall in the hinterlands of Victoria, Australia, these love songs form a cycle, from warm possibilities and rebirth to cold climes and pains, carried along by rich harmonies, sparkling acoustic guitars and mandolins, brushed drums, drifting strings and woodwinds. To get through these seasons, Kelly most often invokes the power of companionship; it's a romantic vision, to be sure, but it rings true in the clarity and freshness of his melodies and his language.
Darling, you're one for the ages, long may you live in my rhyme
The years may cut us down, but they won't keep us down
Out of the grave we'll climb
By the time the album winds down with the jazz and country-touched soul of "Little Aches and Pains" -- a hymn to aging honestly and gracefully, followed by a hidden track, one more homage to his muse -- Kelly has more than made his case for his integrity and talent. "I don't count my losses now," he sings, "just my gains." If that count is measured by the depth of his songwriting, Kelly has come out a clear, convincing winner.
"Spring and Fall" will be released on November 6, 2012.