December 01, 1996

Making Gravy

Filed under: Archive,Music

Paul Kelly
with Paul Brady
Governor Hindmarsh

Reviewed by Murray Bramwell

Paul Kelly has played here four times this year and each time he’s been full of surprises. The January gig at Heaven brought a five piece line-up plus a set from the Blackeyed Susans. Then, fresh from the Womad train, he played a full house at Festival Theatre with fabled pedal steel player and national broadcaster, Lucky Oceans. The Norwood Town Hall show featured Renee Geyer, whose fortunes have lifted since Kelly wrote songs for, and produced, her recent albums. And, now back on tour and performing in the amiable setting of the Governor Hindmarsh, Kelly is sharing the bill with Irish singer/songwriter -and Bob Dylan’s “secret hero” -Paul Brady.

It is a happy association which began when they met in Boston this year. While others of his contemporaries, particularly recording associate Andy Irvine and Planxty alumni like Donal Lunny and Matt Molloy have been here many times on the Guinness express, this is Brady’s first visit. Way overdue, if you ask any of his many Australian admirers.

It was clear that many know Brady’s work as he settles into his opening number- Nobody Knows from the 1991 Trick or Treat album. A rather bookish fellow with a shock of sandy hair Brady casts a glowering look at the chatterers at the bar but soon settles into a likeable set of his own tunes accompanied by driving acoustic guitar and filigree electric piano.

Lakes of Pontchartrain is a lovely ballad, closest in mood to the melancholy traditional fare with which he first made his name. Deep in Your Heart, sung in his sweet Dublin tenor, is another notable. Then comes a song which has been very good to him, as they say in the lounges- Luck of the Draw, title track for Bonnie Raitt’s multi-platinum album. And, to conclude, The World is What You Make it from last year’s Spirits Colliding CD.

Home town crowds are getting ever more fervent for Paul Kelly. Standing up the back at the Governor Hindmarsh is like standing on the hill at the cricket. One guy has brought his marine band harp with him, to play along. What is this – karaoke harmonica night ? Despite some bemused looks nobody seems to mind the quadrophonic harmonica too much. Meanwhile Kelly works his recent repertoire. I Can’t Believe We Were Married segues into an extended organ solo from keyboard player Bruce Haymes. Shades of the Susans, and the baddest seed, Conway Savage. Funny that, because now Kelly sings one from the Nick Cave songbook- Nobody’s Baby Now. Measured, elegiac- it is a perfect baton change. I’ll Be Your Lover Now is a new song with back-up vocals from Haymes. It is familiar Kelly fare, well-constructed, catchy. The harmonica bloke picks it up fairly quickly.

Fortunately he keeps his peace while the nation’s foremost songwriter unveils his ballad about the nation’s foremost bushranger. Ned meet Paul. Haymes on accordion and Kelly opens out a complex new song, Our Sunshine. Good on you Mr K, someone mutters on the hill as Haymes moves into some weirdly discrepant accordion for Kelly’s re-reading of Everything’ s Turning to White. A slower than slow blues, darkness at noon, the affectless accordion underscoring the cruelty of the Carver theme.

Then a song for old men- Papa Doc, Mao, Joe Stalin, Kelly suggests- Before the Old Man Died, Haymes brilliant on piano. And with the first test a week away, Behind the Bowler’s Arm- Paul Kelly’s anthem for the Australian summer. The hill is swaying, as they are for Kelly’s ol’ browneyes version of Sinatra’s All the Way, complete with extended harmonica break. Mr Karaoke puts his harmonica away for this one. Instead he’s holding up his bic lighter in solo tribute. Careless andWintercoat also receive crooning treatment, augmented by Haymes’ splendid chiming piano. And to close the set, two new songs: Melting , a song about ice cream and Kelly’s new single, also available on the Grace Brothers/ Myer Christmas album- a fine new song about families and regret, How to Make Gravy .

The encore is Reckless, the boys on the hill singing in beery unison. That Paul Kelly can sure stand a little Reyne. But the highlights are the duets with Paul Brady. Arthur McBride, the provo anthem Brady has refused to sing in recent times, resumes the playful rebellion that infused Brady’s first memorable recording of it, back in the late seventies with Andy Irvine. It is a fine reading, Kelly in good voice with Haymes on accordion and Brady’s keening Dublin accent shaping the narrative with sardonic pleasure. Then, to return the favour, another song for the times, the Kelly and Carmody classic, From Little Things Big Things Grow, with its jaunty optimism and melodic tralalas from an enthusiastic Brady, it brings a roar of recognition from the crowd -and a reminder that Paul Kelly is our poet true.

The Adelaide Review, December, 1996.

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