Paul Kelly: Nature (Universal)

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Mushrooms
 Paul Kelly: Nature (Universal)

The first important things to be said about Nature – Paul Kelly's 24thstudio album – is that the first two singles, With The One I Love and A Bastard Like Me (For Charlie Perkins), are not representative of the rest of the album.

Both are Kelly originals, the former an uptempo acoustic-driven number in his unmistakable style and with a lyric open to multiple interpretations, and the latter a raw tribute to the rough-hewn Aboriginal activist and leader Charlie Perkins which takes its tile from his autobiography.

But fine songs though these are – and Bastards is especially gripping – much of what else is on the album errs to a quieter and overtly poetic style, largely because Kelly has sourced the lyrics from poems by Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas and, somewhat improbably, Philip Larkin.

And around these works, which all deal with Nature, human nature or the nature of existence, he weaves new material based on poems he has written which also explore similar emotional and natural terrain.

His own quiet Little Wolf is a Dylanesque, intimate chiller with menace and a down tempo Americana setting which leads to Whitman's observation of base human nature and his thought that given their lack of guile, jealousy, greed and such he could live With Animals.

These terrific songs lead into the centre of the album with his own wonderful Bound to Follow (about a mysterious spirit) and Seagulls of Seattle which is a reflection on life when the pace has slowed and there is time to reflect in a more simple moment.

Morning Storm (another original) comes with a quiet folksy setting and addresses the sanctuary, security and certainty of home when the literal and metaphoric storm rages outside, and the highpoint is his setting of Plath's Mushrooms where he brings the subtle point of the song (which isn't really about mushrooms) with the repeated “so many of us”.

Manley Hopkins' God's Grandeur about the damage Man has wrought gets a more jaunty treatment and Larkin's The Trees (about renewal) has a shimmering quality.

With a small band, women's voices in support and lyrics/poems which are unified and speak to each other, Nature is a truly lovely and lyrically deep album.

Just don't think it is much like A Bastard Like Me, terrific song though it.

It was my pleasure to introduce and interview Paul Kelly about this album before a small audience (who also asked questions) for a session filmed by Radio NZ. You can see the interview with Kelly performing his songs, here. The clips are in chronological succession further down the page.

Nature will be available in standard and deluxe versions. The standard version is the 12-song single-disc CD and vinyl. The limited Deluxe Edition of Nature is a double disc set: Disc one is the album and disc two is a 27-song DVD, capturing last year’s show from the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House, which captures Paul and his long-time band with songs from the just-released, ARIA award- winning Life Is Fine album as well as Kelly classics like To Her Door, From Little Things..., HowTo Make Gravy, Before Too Long, Deeper Water and many more. 

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