Seven Sonnets & A Song
GAWD AGGIE/Cooking Vinyl America
A Left of Centre Covers Album That Not Only Entertains but Educates.
Oh dear; my heart sank when I saw the words ‘concept album’ and Shakespeare in the same sentence……………..neither of which were ever going to make my heart skip a beat.
Paul Kelly is one of Australia’s finest singer-songwriters yet only came to my notice last year when he released a splendid live album with Neil Finn from beat combo Crowded House; https://wordpress.com/stats/day/rockingmagpie.wordpress.com?startDate=2016-07-01 so while initially not bothered about the content; I gave it a spin anyways.
Surprise, surprise…..I was astonishingly won over as quickly as track two.
The first track is Sonnet 138…..hmmm; not a great song title but Kelly’s warm and ‘lived in’ voice coupled to a Jazzy beat, brings something to life that I couldn’t get my head around 45 years ago at Tanfield Secondary School.
Sonnet 73, which follows sees Paul harmonising with Alice Keath while strumming an acoustic guitar while a pedal-steel (YES! A pedal-steel) turn the Bard’s words into an Alt-Country ballad more fitting for a night at the Jumping Hot Club.
Obviously a Shakespeare fan; Kelly sings from the heart and manages to convey his love, without ever ‘preaching’ or looking down his nose’ at people like me; who have spent a lifetime ‘not getting it;’ yet when Vika Bull takes the lead vocal on My True Love Hath My Heart you simply forget that the words were written over 400 years ago by a Shakespeare contemporary Sir Philip Sydney.
Even a week ago I would never have thought that I would or could have a favourite song on this album; yet I’m debating which of two actually takes the accolade. Sonnets 44 & 45 is simply wonderful; and if played on national radio would have listeners thinking it was Paul Heaton from the Beautiful South but; and it’s only because I hated it as a schoolboy; Sonnet 18 is the winner because while everyone will recognise the opening line “Shall I compare thee to a Summers Day?” you will forget the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ as the violins, cellos and banjo (!) waft over you like a lo-fi Summer Breeze and make you realise Folk Music didn’t start with Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan.
Not your usual album by any stretch of the imagination; Kelly has re-invented William Shakespeare’s work as modern day Folk Songs; and you, as I did, will have your breath taken away as Kelly not only blows the dust off these tired old works; but actually polishes them so they shine like diamonds in the sunshine.
Released July 29th 2016