Juliet Kelly – Spellbound Stories
(Purple Stiletto PSR004. CD review by Peter Jones)
The idea behind this self-produced fourth album from singer Juliet Kelly is a good one: each song is about one of her favourite novels. Since the song titles don’t give much away, part of the fun is trying to work out which song is about which book (although if you want to cheat, you can find out by going to her website). The books are from a wide range of authors, but all of them are loosely linked by themes of mystery, magic and the supernatural.
The backing is supplied by a sympathetic and imaginative piano trio, and although the tone is often appropriately spooky, there is a light summery feel to tunes like Beautiful Smile, whilst the bouncy Little Things has already proved sufficiently poptastic to attract the ears of the people who compile radio playlists: it was played repeatedly between sets to a huge audience at last weekend’s Love Supreme Festival.
Elsewhere the mood is darker: the opener One More Dance, a song that seems to be about death and madness, is powered by Eddie Hick’s hypnotic drum pattern; Devil in Disguise has a strong melody in 7:4 that one could imagine Sade covering, with a lengthy coda featuring pianist Nick Ramm with Kelly’s improvised vocals given added atmosphere by a heavy dose of reverb. Deep bowed bass from the ubiquitous Oli Hayhurst underpins the slow, sinister opening to Ghosts, before Ramm’s piano arrives to relieve the tension.
Kelly is able to command a range of styles, from the austere Berlin cabaret feel of No One Can Tell to the twinkling Magic and Mystery. Her songs are beautifully written, with excellent commercially viable melodies. If there is one questionable choice, it is the version of Wuthering Heights included here: Kate Bush’s original track is such a towering presence that attempting a reworking of it is, frankly, asking for trouble.
Juliet Kelly has live dates at The Stables, Milton Keynes (15 September), Queen’s Hall, Hexham (19 September) and Urban Art Bar at the Red Lion Birmingham (16 October).
LINKS: Juliet Kelly interview about Spellbound Stories
WEBSITE – julietkelly.com
Peter Jones is a singer whose second album will be released in the autumn.