Based in London, there’s strong traces of his Irish background to both Niall Kelly’s vocals and the melodies of his Celtic-soul tinged Americana of his latest release Not Sleeping. Most notably so on opening number Love Light, though, having said that, the second number, the shuffling way Shelter In Your Arms, is deeply embedded in old school Nashville with BJ Cole providing pedal steel and Alberto Manuzzi barroom piano.
The tumbling chords of Fire In The Hole, on which wife Caitlin provides background vocals, illustrates a keen melodic sensibility, the domestic images of the lyrics echoed in the autobiographical Not Sleeping with its lines about his new baby, though quite how the reference to Elton John’s Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters fits in I’m not really sure.
It’s a somewhat uneven collection, the early sparkle of the simple fingerpicked They In Turn with Kelly’s dusty vocals, the organ backed Van Morrison-esque When Do I Check In and the steel-flecked country waltzer Pretty Horses somewhat overcast by forgettable instrumental Crowland, Should Not Have Taken My Time’s sluggish meandering Southern blues jam and the overlong slow blues rock trio closer Rosa Lie, all of which are rather unfortunately lumped together as the final three cuts. It would have been a stronger set had Kelly played to his country strengths rather than seeking to show stylistic and musical versatility in a more live set framework, but there’s enough here that works to make it worth a listen.
Review by: Mike Davies