‘This Land’ by Kelly Oliver - an exceptional debut album(October 20, 2014)
I cannot recall how many times I’ve predicted success for a new artist only to find that justice appears not to be done. Then again, just occasionally … the stars align. Almost a year ago I wrote: “I hear new artists and feel they deserve wider appreciation, from time to time that happens and then sometimes I’m left wondering why not. I’m willing to bet that for Kelly Oliver wider recognition will come at pace.” So aside from a brief flicker of satisfaction for an accurate prediction, for the past year it’s been truly wonderful to witness the continued rise of singer-songwriter Kelly Oliver - a lady that's set to become one of England’s premier folk talents. It’s also a manifest pleasure to review an exceptional debut album.
Following her five-track EP ‘Far From Home’, the album ‘This Land’ is a collection of finely-crafted, lovingly presented, self-penned songs laid across sometimes deceptively simple, yet always beautifully-architectured arrangements of guitar and harmonica. Her voice, rich and natural, silvered and sensuous, cascades lifeblood into her lyrics lifting her songs towards those hidden places where deep feelings dwell. Add an expressive touch on guitar and harmonica and you know that you’re listening to something fresh, vibrant and as essential as breathing.
‘This Land’ opens with a historical tale of prejudice combined with plea for compassion, ‘The Witch of Walkern’ offers punchy guitar and commanding vocals, then by contrast ‘Diamond Girl’ reveals every ounce of Kelly’s mellifluous voice - a supremely sensitive song featuring Luke Jackson. The caution-filled tale of ‘Daughter Dear’ suggests tradition blended with a contemporary edge, while including the impeccable ‘Far From Home’ with its expressive lyrics, seductive melody and evocative harmonica is a triumph. To cover a widely acclaimed song demands both respect and innovation, and Kelly’s take on Dougie MacLean’s ‘Caledonia’ offers all that’s asked as her voice soars across its moving message, and pouring equal feeling into ‘Grandpa Was A Stoker’, she fashions an emotive maritime narrative with a personal edge sprinkled with subtle violin and harmonica accents. Without doubt, ‘This Land’ adds more colour to this country's folk and acoustic spectrum.
I also remember saying: “Kelly Oliver is an artist you should remember and definitely not one to ignore. And I exaggerate not.” Again, no sense of conceit implied, simply restored faith that sometimes outstanding talent does win through.
Playing on ‘This Land’ are Kelly Oliver (vocals, guitar, harmonica) Lauren Deakin-Davies (bass guitar) with appearances on selected tracks from Luke Jackson (vocals) Kaity Rae (cello) Sunjay (guitars) and Dave Swarbrick (violin).
Find your copy of ‘This Land’ here: www.kellyoliver.co.uk.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll