Published on November 16th, 2014 | by Mike Ainscoe2
Kelly Oliver – ‘This Land’
Coming through from the lovely people at Folkstock on the back of a rather splendid pre-release film version of the ‘Diamond Girl’ track (more of which later), Kelly Oliver is yet another disarmingly young and unequivocally gifted singer/songwriter from the pool of talent which currently seems to be overflowing. Must be something in the water, but with the likes of Blair Dunlop, Lucy Ward and Luke Jackson (more of whom later) they seem to be coming out of the woodwork at an alarming rate.
With her debut album, ‘This Land’, she seems to have slowly crept up and not so much grabbed the folk world by the scruff of the neck, but with more of a gentle tap on the shoulder and a polite suggestion that we might like to give her music a listen as it’s actually quite good. And if she did so, she wouldn’t be too far wrong. For anyone who’s an album sequencing buff and digs into the way a record is actually put together, the first trio of tracks are absolute belters and set the scene perfectly. In typical folk fashion there are deaths and recriminations within five seconds. We have a man who has lost his only son, and the tale which follows in ‘The Witch of Walkern’ is a marvellously sung and accompanied mini epic, indulging in all the things which make for a compelling and driving folk song – all murders and calls for the Witch to be burned at the stake or drowned in the lake despite her pleas and confessions. When we talk about album sequencing and starting with a bang, this is what we mean.
It gets better! ‘Diamond Girl’ is the track which has been leading off the album in the media featuring the sublime rich tones of young pretender Luke Jackson in the chorus following up Kelly’s delicate lyric of young love at its most innocent and starry eyed. The way they express the faultless trust in young relationships is quite touching in exploring the naive and rose tinted view which comes with first love. It’s a theme which carries into ‘Mary & The Soldier’, which Kelly takes solo and starts to establish the delicacy of her delivery and her gentle finger picking style. Apart from the Luke Jackson contribution, Sunjay makes an appearance as does Fairport’s Dave Swarbrick, whose tell-tale fiddle can be detected on ‘Grandpa Was A Stoker’. None of them showboat, but all sit back and allow the songs to shine through.
There have been comparisons with Joan Baez, although listening to something like ‘Mr Officer’, she’s more Joni than Joan, although the lonely longing of ‘Far From Home’ may fit the Joan billing quite nicely. Lyrically a close relative of ‘Diamond Girl’, Kelly seems quite adept and unafraid to tackle themes of love, lost and found and the accompanying emotions. While we’re at it, there’s more than a passing resemblance to some of the marvellous young Dylan harp blowing, which you don’t see or hear every day – check out ‘A Gush Of Wind’ and ‘Off To The Market’. In fact just listen to the album. Period!
Not having the advantage of any press release hyperbole, release notes, or even a CD booklet allows the music to stand on its own as it should. With the patronage of Bob Harris with his ‘Under The Apple Tree’ session, and also a ‘Songs From The Shed’ session as well as various radio appearances and the inevitable and unanimously positive reviews which will follow this one, it’s good to be in at ground level before Kelly Oliver takes off.