The track, The Garden, is available via:
Folk; Singer-Songwriter; Jazz
The album, The Wonder of It All, is available via:
26th October, 2018
WHEN I think about Kate Kelly…
a few things spring to mind. I wanted to talk about songwriters who can weave genres together and create that multi-genre palette; singers whose voices have sunshine and power that creates positivity and uplift; recording in charming and perfect locations; Nashville and its endless addiction; recording and writing music that reflects on hard situations and tough life obstacles – I will end by having a look at where Kate Kelly can go and what she can achieve. It is interesting encountering Kelly and what her music stands for. I have featured a lot of different songwriters over the past few weeks and, whilst the music is good, you do not get that much of a spread regarding genre and sound. I have always been of the onion musicians are at their strongest when they mix genres together and stretch things. It is great if you can cement a particular vibe and hone it but I am drawn to those who splice together various elements and colours. Kelly is someone who weaves threads of Jazz, piano; Folk and Pop together into something elegant and enticing. You are drawn into this world and compelled to follow her ever note. I suspect this accomplishment and sense of confidence comes from a varied musical upbringing and a curious mind. Most songwriters want to bring their influences together through their own material but they are not always capable of bringing it all together in a personal and fresh way. I am not sure which artists Kelly grew up around and who she responds to now but you can sense all the different musicians and styles that her ears responded to at a young age. I can imagine Folk legends and 1960s Pop; some great Soul and Singer-Songwriter icons and some of the best modern artists. I am not sure whether Kate Kelly listens to a lot of mainstream artists but there might be a few modern Pop artists in the blend.
Music is a wonderful thing and should be explored to its fullest. Kate Kelly, one imagines, is obsessed by the power of music and how different sounds can strike different chords. There is so much emotion and variety in her music and that is one of the reasons why people are attracted to it. There is that sunshine and endless skip but you get revealing lyrics and pure emotion coming out. She is not someone who compromises her real feelings and hides them in clichés nor is she someone who pours everything out and makes for a challenging listen. There is nothing wrong with songwriters who put their pains onto the page and let their heart bleed but Kelly can balance true revelation with something hopeful and inspiring. She is hard to pin down and define as a musician. There is a lot working away and each of her songs has so much working away and going on. The Wonder of It All is an appropriate title for an album that opens its arm and travels far. You get different impressions and stories and it is as full and rounded a record as I have heard in a very long time. Another reason why I love Kelly’s fusing of genres and multifarious approach is because it remains in the mind longer. If her album were pure Folk or Pop then there would not be as much depth and nuance as you’d like. It is hard cohesively putting different sounds together so they remain focused but Kelly does that. Her record, as I shall explore, is very deep and emotional – you might think the sunny mood hides all of that. I like how the balance is created and how nothing is compromised. One gets to experience the true pains that Kelly experiences and the music provides more relief and warmth. The fact Kelly brings a lot to the party means her music will resonate and appeal to a large demographic and you do not have to work hard to jump inside and be affected by everything she sings.
I shall come back to the music and its variety when focusing on a song from the album but, right now, I want to move to the voice and what affect that has. Think about what Kate Kelly has had to endure and put onto the page – painful struggles and hardships – and it would be easy to score those feelings with a rather downbeat and dour vocal. There are some moments on The Wonder of It All where you can feel that emotion shine and pervade but optimism and hope is the abiding theme. I feel the voice is the most arresting and important part of the music process. It is hard to think of any music that is not really defined and emphasised by the voice. You can be drawn to a lyric or composition but the vocal is what brings it to life and gets it to the ears. I have witnessed a lot of different vocal styles and you get something new from each. Most of what I am reviewing at the moment is either quite hard-hitting (spiked) or have something moody working away. I feel a lot of artists avoid being too cheery and bright with regards their vocals because they feel it compromises the music or sounds a bit too cheery. Maybe that is something they want to avoid; if they are too bright and sunny then will you concentrate on what they are saying?! The sensation and bliss of hearing an artist pour something rousing and cheery into the mix is unexpected and always a pleasure. I am not suggesting all artists go out there and sing about their personal hurt in a cheerful way but there is a lot to be said (of the) emotional and intellectual impact one gets from a bigger vocal. Ballads and emotive performances are great but I think we are seeing less and less positive performances coming through. Music is becoming more introspective and personal and, with that, so much of what we hear has quite a depressive edge.
Before I go on to look at a new subject; I will stay with the vocal and artists that can create joy. Kate Kelly studied Music Therapy and, when she was studying, understood how powerful music could be and the need to celebrate the joys in life. I have been thinking about music as therapy and how potent songs can be to people. Music can touch those with physical disabilities as a means of recovery and fast progression; those with memory issues who can help regain function and focus; others who are depressed and can be helped when they hear music. There are so many different sides to music and it has a huge therapeutic role. Kate Kelly has learned about the different ways music can assist and that need to heal and uplift. Kelly’s music does not lack substance and compromise that for something endlessly positive and spirited. She is able to talk about her path and how her life has shaped and not had to compromise anything. It is fascinating hearing about a songwriter who has gone through a lot but, as her album title suggests, seen the sunshine and pleasures that can come at the other end. She is not going to let things bury her and you feel all of that hope and potential in the voice. A rich and engaging instrument that helps soothe you and nourish the spirit; few songwriters out there have the same prowess and abilities as Kelly. I will follow her career closely but there has been transition and developments since her E.P., New Heartbeat (2016), and today. The Wonder of It All, was written last year and ties together everything that has happened since the E.P. Kelly has changed a lot since then but has not lost the ability to raise the spirits and take music to a more positive place. I am not sure I would be able to keep a lid on my emotions if I wrote my own stuff; it is impressive and commendable Kelly can talk about life frankly and not bring pure negativity to things.
Kelly, before writing her album, saw a lot of negativity circling and realised how music was stepping into a darker and more depressive place. There were and are a lot of artists who are positive and bright but there are so many more that seem to be unable to find a way out of a dark place. That is easily forgiven but Kelly wanted to take a different approach and not follow the pack. You can hear something instantly gratifying and fulfilling when listening to her albums and one of the reasons why I wanted to look at The Garden as a standout is because it seems to define everything about her and bring together all her talents. One reason why we get such evocative and scenic music is because of the locations Kelly wrote the music in. Kelly reflected on a hugely challenging year in 2017 and wanted the earth and her surroundings to bring joy to the record. Rather than write this paen to misery and have a very moody record; Kelly has penned something that inhibits different spaces and locations. One knows where The Garden would have been written and how a particular beautiful space could have inspired that track. From dusty corners to gardens and open spaces; Kelly collated her songs whilst situated in these different spaces –you get so many different scenes, senses and stories. Rather than write in a studio or spend all of her time at home; she has been to these spaces and channelled what was around her. It is fascinating getting into those different locations and bringing the different elements into the songs. Parks, greenhouses and cosy rooms were all used for inspiration and situation. One feels their sounds and secrets through the record and it brings a much more interesting and detailed dynamic to the album. The Wonder of It All is a pure and honest album that opens its arms to the world but does not hide its truths and heart.
Kate Kelly feels the best way to listen to her new album is to curl up with a kitty and a cup of chamomile tea. Unfortunately, my current situation is less romantic so I have had to settle for a cup of coffee and a view of a litter-strewn street…can’t always get what we want! I can close my eyes and envisage what Kelly means and why the tea-kitten combination is the optimal setting. She wants people to step into a dreamlike state and escape from the pains of life. There is a lot going on in everyone’s lives and it can be hard to find time to step away from that and experience something more kind-hearted and pleasurable. So much modern music is steeped in something downbeat and harsh and you need that moment to get away from it and find something nice. Kelly is a songwriter who has a positive approach and can lift the mood of every listener. It is hard reflecting on something tragic or strained and keeping you head level. Kelly does not abandon the seriousness of her past and what she has gone through but feels the best way of presenting this through music is to be a more optimistic songwriter. The vocals hold a lot of the power but the whole experience is one of joy and positivity. How many of us have gone through heartache and depressive moments and been able to keep our head high and smile through it. It is difficult to get that perspective and find the positives in a negative situation. Kate Kelly wants people to find something positive in her music and feel more enlivened and lifted. I have talked a lot about her subject matter and her positive nature so it is about time I end this section by talking about Nashville and how The Wonder of It All was put together.
Nashville is a place that appeals to a lot of musicians and grabs you with its delight and beauty. Not only is it a Mecca for Country artists but there are so many styles and genres being played in the city. I have never been myself but I know what a strong economy there is there. You do not have to be beholden to a certain genre but there is a rich Country music scene. Certainty, if you want to find great Rock and Pop artists then you’ll have choices there but there is something incredibly powerful about Nashville that brings musicians together. Kelly and a group of talented musicians decamped to Iron Oak Recording Studio and started the magic. With Andrew Conner (Iron Oak) producing and backed by musicians such as Andy Cata and Scooter Spicer; it is a group effort but you definitely have the heroine’s voice shining and her leading the way. I am drawn to the music of Kate Kelly because you can hear so much working away and so much musicianship in what she does. On The Wonder of It All; you get so many different scents and sensations projected by the band and you can almost smell Nashville coming through in every note. I wonder, in years to come, where the city will go and how it will grow. I know there is a lot of Country music in the city but so many other styles and being celebrated and featured. There is a community and togetherness that means musicians can easily collaborate and the rich history of Nashville inspires new generations. Kelly hails from Alabama so it is a lot different being in Nashville and experiencing that world. It seems like Nashville is a natural home for Kate Kelly and it is helping her realise her dreams. I feel she can go a very long way and there is a lot more music coming from her. I want to move on to reviewing The Garden but, before then, I would urge people to look back at where Kate Kelly has come from and what she has planned.
There are many treasures on Kate Kelly’s The Wonder of It All but The Garden is a song that stands out. The first few notes have a child-like skip to them and you get impressions of people frolicking in the garden or wildlife in full bloom. It has some funkiness and trip and you are instantly wondering what the song is all about and where it goes from here. The introduction is fantastically evocative and has sensuality to it. There are little flourishes of strings and teasing beats that melt alongside a skipping bass-like sound. The track gets underway with a definite sense of intention and Kelly’s voice perfectly fits into the agenda. The heroine has been wandering and looking for answers. I am not sure whether there is a distinct story but one feels the setting of the garden is a place of reflection and realisation. Many people need a place to think and unwind and you feel like Kelly has come out to the open to find some solace and direction. The music backs her skip and step but you can feel that need to get away from a tense and hard situation. Maybe there is a heavy heart at work but the heroine wants things to improve and lighten. The troubles are being taken out to dry and (the heroine) is wiping her eyes. One gets elements of Soul and R&B in the music. There is something classical and modern that clashes together and gets into the brain. A new, healthier life is ahead and the garden is the place where Kelly goes so she can find some sense of peace. It is great she has that place to go and she can release her tensions. One of the things that create mystery is the secrets regarding the personal troubles. Maybe there are general stresses and problems that have motivated the songs but one feels the daily grind has made its mark. Kelly is someone who can deal with her troubles and make sense of them but still needs that retreat and calm.
I love how the music keeps this uplifting and child-like wonder and gives The Garden a true spirit. Although Kate Kelly’s vocals are not overly-bright and spirited; there is that energy and power that gets into the blood. Our heroine wants to take people to her garden and let them experience what she is seeing. There are few who get to view that sensational scenery and the innate peacefulness; it is a location that can melt all the problems in the mind and make you realise there is brightness out there. Kelly is always about finding the positive and she has found this corner of the land she can call her own and realise her worth. The band back Kelly with a delicate yet powerful composition. It seems the song relates to someone else being down and having troubles. It is interesting but Kelly seems to refer to someone else but, in a way, she might be talking about herself. Kelly is reflecting on the garden and looking at a troubled time for someone – the past year has been quite tense and tough. You know things have been bad but, again, I wonder whether it is less directed at someone else and aimed at her own soul – the lyrics talk about someone going through the motions and trying to find their way. You can hear a horn coming in and giving the song another kick and style. Little details are thrown in that seem to represent all the scents and flowers that bloom in the garden. The call of nature and the interaction of birds seem to be represented in the music; the warmth of the sun and all the colours that come bursting through. Every line seems to reveal a new truth and you get more of the story.
It seems the subject – whether Kelly or a friend – that has this secret and it is quite hard to reveal. This sacred and spiritual garden has a great open gate that leads down a restful and quaint spot. There is no need for a map, as it is said, and the heroine will be waiting there. As the bass steps and there are little flourishes in the background; the heroine calms the song and asks (the subject) to come to the garden. One gets impressions of Jazz and a more romantic and studied performance. There is looseness and playfulness but so many wonderfully tight and exceptional notes. It is a busy and intriguing composition that is allowed to wander and play to the very end. We get to imagine and reflect as the final notes come through. The song has given up some secrets but leaves some others close to the chest. Everyone will get their own impression of the garden – its size and where it is located – but everyone will share that sense of pleasure and hope. The Garden is a tender yet emotive song that hints at some darker times and struggles and you are never sure whether it is the heroine speaking about herself or someone else who could benefit from time in this secret garden. I keep listening to the song and it is great to play it when you need that lift and energy. There are many other great tracks on The Wonder of It All and The Garden is a perfect starting place if you need an introduction to the colourful and varied tapestry that Kate Kelly weaves. It will not take long until you fall for Kate Kelly and are carried away by the sheer vitality, warmth and beauty of her music.
It has been an eventful and hard year for Kate Kelly and a lot of what you hear on The Wonder of It All makes sense of all of that and projects a more optimistic sound. I have talked about the different locations Kelly wrote in and how she wanted to present music that was optimistic and embraced the world. You can definitely feel inspired and lifted hearing her music but look deeper and the lyrics point at something more challenging and hard. I know the album will go a long way and hit a lot of people. The U.S. songwriter has achieved a lot in her career so far and I feel there is a lot more to come. Right now; Kelly will be touring and promoting the record as much as she can and getting it out there. I am confident she will get more fans in the U.K. and it would be great to see her over here. Kelly is making a name for herself in the U.S. and she is marking herself out as one of the best young songwriters coming through. What strikes my mind is how effecting the music is and how you want to keep exploring it time and time again. How many songwriters stay in the mind and linger long after you have heard it? Things are getting bigger and brighter for Kelly and I know The Wonder of It All will help a lot of people out. Projecting forward, and I feel 2019 will be a big year for Kate Kelly and she will go far. I wonder whether she will tour overseas and what is coming along. I know there will be inspiration for more material and she will be reacting to the aftermath of her latest album.
I am a new fan of hers and there are many more out there who need to get behind Kelly and what she is all about. I love the way she approaches music and what she brings to her songs. The positivity and sense of peace you find in the vocals is incredible but the lyrics are personal and do not hide their pains. I have heard few songwriters like Kelly and I feel we all need to spend some more time with her. It has been a great year for music and I am seeing some brilliant new artists emerge. Each one of them has their own stories but none that are like Kate Kelly. I hope Kelly keeps writing and has been motivated to pen something new. Not to rush her but there will be an appetite for future gems and this is a songwriter that music needs right now. Explore all the avenues and stories throughout The Wonder of It All and you will feel stronger, better and uplifted afterwards. Not many records can do that and I feel songwriters could learn a lot from her. The Garden is a track I was compelled to investigate because of its setting and how potent the vocal is. I have listened to The Wonder of It All a few times around and am picking up something new with each exploration. The eight-track record is a deeply personal and inspiring thing that you can play in any mood and any time and feel better when it is over. I will end things now and wrap it up but want people to get involved with Kate Kelly and what she is all about. I love what she does and how she approaches things and how you feel when you listen to her songs. I started the morning a bit sleepy and with a slight headache but after listening to Kate Kelly and The Garden, I am in a much more positive…
FRAME of mind.
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