Alan Kelly,
The Rest of the Country
(Megsheilian, 2000)

With a name like Alan Kelly one would assume an Irish connection but the songs on this album are pure American and all the better for it. In fact, the influences of American history are so strong that it does remind me of a new convert to a land and so the Irish connection is still possible.

"Navajo Wind," the opening track on this album, is a fine example of the story song. With a Native American sound it is almost like watching a movie as the tale is told with drama, feeling and a very pleasant tune that never overshadows the words.

Alan Kelly also sings with great feeling about small-town America and how it is disappearing. Being a native of a small island in Europe, I could still empathise with the writer of these songs. Small-town and village life being homogenised by big business in not an exclusively American problem and because of this Kelly's songs are international. Once again, given serious exposure he could be a very popular writer and singer.

This is evident even more so in his ability to write and perform a song called "Talking Food Groups." In this often hilarious six-minute saga, he explodes myths, asks some serious questions and most importantly entertains. The social conscience is pricked very effectively in his track "Philadelphia is Crying." The song is a tale of drugs, no-go areas and protecting one's family from harm. Listening to the song one feels the horror of this scourge on modern society and how it enslaves people "blocks from the Liberty Bell."

A sign of the true songwriter is variety and Kelly shows that he has a wide range of emotions to convey and succeeds in getting his message across with catchy tunes and thoughtful words. Even in the humorous songs there is food for thought.

One track that brightens my cloudy days right now is "Devil in Short Red Pants." This is one of the sunniest, happiest and soul-elevating songs on the CD. The steel band sound is so different from the other tracks one has to check that a new CD has not started.

My one disappointment with the album is that the words are not included; this would enhance the album so very much.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 29 September 2001

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