NIALL KELLY – Promenade (Glovebox Records, GL103)

PromenadePromenade is Niall Kelly’s third album release, and a Kickstarter project, as is ever more commonplace these days. A dozen or so years spent deeply immersed in the London blues scene gave Derry-born Kelly a thorough grounding in the business, ready for when he branched out with his own band. Picked up in 2017 by Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott as support on their sell-out Irish tour, Kelly took his music home again.

Title song, ‘Promenade’ shuffles brightly along in Kelly’s signature Americana style. But there’s a definite Celtic twist to this music, too. This can be ascribed, at least in part, to the fiddle playing of his wife, Caitlin, which is heard to particular effect on the pulsating ‘Stranger In Love’.

Other musical flavours abound too, not least the rockabilly thrust and steaming Hammond organ of album opener, ‘Burned By A Little Love’. Then there’s Martin Winning’s intriguing jazz/lounge woodwind on country ballad ‘Sparrow’ that adds extra poignancy to the song’s mournfulness.

‘Polly May’, first featured on Kelly’s self-released Soho Sessions EP in 2017, is a hip-twitching rolling blues with stately brass ornamentation, courtesy of Matt Holland. This contrasts with the brooding melancholy of the brass section on slow, piano-led ‘Got It Made’.

‘The Letter’ is not the Boxtops’ classic but, as with all the songs on the album, it’s Kelly’s own composition, this time with Latiny, Tex-Mex overtones alongside its shiny country steel. It’s a mood that sneaks out euphorically once again in the more uptempo ‘Turned It A Little Loud’.

There is, it must be said, more than an echo of Van Morrison about the songwriting and especially the musical arrangements – a certain richness and warmth that perfectly complements Kelly’s tenor. This is no doubt due to the production talents of Tucker Nelson, who’s created a richly layered, nuanced sound palette based around Kelly’s preferred method of recording as ‘live’ as possible, with minimal takes to keep the sound fresh and capture the spark of performance.

Kelly’s first two albums, Hand In Fire and Not Sleeping were re-released as a double-pack under the title, Not Sleeping in 2018. If Promenade is your first brush with Kelly and you like what you hear, then it may well be worth checking this out, too.

Su O’Brien

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‘Promenade’ – official video: