A good album cover adds curb appeal to an artist’s work. A pleasant looking cover encourages one to pick up the product, and give it a first look. And if there’s a first look, that’s a good invitation to listen. Julie Kelly’s cover made me want to listen. Glad I did.
Julie Kelly – Happy To Be
Released – September 9, 2014
Laid back and quintessentially West Coast, this is a set of mostly lesser-known tunes from some pretty well-known tunesmiths, including some of my favorites – like Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough. And one that made me nervous as I pushed the disc into the machine. More on that in a minute.
This is an eighth album for Julie Kelly. It serves as my introduction to her work. It’s a lean-back music experience, akin to a Sunday cruise with the top down. The atmosphere is one of a bunch of pros having fun. The band isn’t backing her – she’s just one of them. But clearly – the one with her name on the cover. Gently swinging, voice polished to a fine sheen, working every emotion out of the lyrics, Ms. Kelly has that ability to make it sound like she’s not working hard at all. And frankly, I don’t think she is. I think it’s just that easy for her. But then, the best always make it look that way.
The song that worried me – sax guy Jim Tomlinson’s song he wrote for his wife, vocalist Stacey Kent is “I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again,” with lyrics by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s one of my favorites. “Too new to be covered,” I fretted. No need. The arrangement by pianist/vocalist John Proulx also features him has a duet partner with Ms. Kelly, and that adds an element that takes it out of a straight comparison, and makes it one of my new favorites.
She’s also taken Jobim’s “Corcorvado” to a new level with a new arrangement (by Otmaro Ruiz), and a chance to show off her own residency in Brazil earlier in her career. “(Ruiz’s) arrangement illuminates the lyric brilliantly,” she writes. She’s also clearly having a lot of fun with Mr. Dorough’s witty “You’re The Dangerous Type,” and Mr. Frishberg’s “Our Love Rolls On.”
That backing band – Bill Cunliffe is on piano, Anthony Wilson on guitar, Tom Warrington on bass, Joe LaBarbera on drums – and a whole brass section on a couple of tracks, including Bob Sheppard, Clay Jenkins, Ron Stout and Bob McChesney.
And one of the finest sets of album art I’ve seen in a while. Photography by Mikel Healey; graphic design by Karin Elsener.
An outstanding work of art that’s as good as the cover promises. Very highly recommended.
Playlist adds at 62nd Street – “Corcorvado,” along with “I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again.”
American country artists have always done well in the UK, where their music finds its way into the pop stream with ease. Suzy Boggus, a name from Nashville in the 80s, just came off what looked like a very successful UK tour. Maybe it’s that I’m paying closer attention, but I’m also hearing more of what sounds like country music coming from the UK. I mentioned Ward Thomas a few weeks ago, and another that found its way to the mailbox recently is a group called Red Sky July. Ally Mcerlaine on guitar, with vocalists Shelly Poole and Charity Hair. Their second album, “Shadowbirds,” hits in the US later this month.
You don’t have to like country music. You only have to like music. Enjoy.