Niall Kelly – Not Sleeping (niallkellymusic.com)
CD / DL
London-based Irish musician, Niall Kelly, releases his second solo album, a solid Americana record with a Celtic twist. Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews.
I first saw Niall Kelly as he was opening for Geraint Watkins’s Sunday afternoon sessions at the (now sadly gone) Wheatsheaf in Tooting. Niall originates from Derry, Northern Ireland and has been leaving in London for the past 12 years.
He’s been gigging all over the capital and is one of the resident acts at the world famous Ain’t Nothin But Blues Bar in Soho. His first album Hands In Fire was released in 2012 and now comes the follow-up – Not Sleeping. The songs already sounded very good when I heard them in the function room of The Wheatsheaf with added embellishments from his wife Caitlin on Fiddle and guitarist James Forster but hearing them with the full arrangements on the record is a revelation.
The songs display a classic 70s singer songwriter vibe with solid song craft. Recorded live in the studio in as few takes as possible to keep the performances fresh, the record is a killer. The thing that struck me the most compared to the live versions was the really nice organ parts that really added a soulful dimension to the songs reminiscent of one of Niall’s most illustrious countrymen : Van Morrison.
Everything sounds warm and organic, the opening track Love Light sees the brushed drums blending seamlessly with the Hammond organ and Niall’s voice. The second song Shelter In Your Arms is one of the mainstays of The Wheatsheaf setlists and showcases the talents of BJ Cole, Britain’s leading pedal steel player. He adds a country twang to the song that could make it pass for a Gram Parsons’ outtake. He also appears on two other songs : the title track Not Sleeping and Pretty Horses.
There are some gorgeous ballads with just Niall’s voice and his fingerpicking (Pouring Rain) but also more up-tempo tunes like Poor Lias or Should Not Have Taken My Time (featuring an absolutely storming solo by James Forster). The Celtic side of Niall’s music is to be found in the numerous string parts played by Caitlin, her contribution to the instrumental Crowland being one of the highlights of the record. The last number, Rosa Lie, is a blues song that enables James Forster to flex his muscles on guitar.
All words by Craig Chaligne. More from Craig can be found at his Author Archive.