Greatest Hits: Songs from the South Volumes 1 & 2
Gawd Aggie Recordings/Universal
Paul Kelly is the best artist to come out of Australia, bar none. And I had never heard of him before I received Paul Kelly’s Greatest Hits: Songs from the South Volumes 1 & 2. Now, it’s like audio crack. I can’t get enough.
Paul Kelly looks like a combination of Phil Collins and Morrissey and sounds like an Aussie version of Bob Dylan meshed with Frank Bango. But all of this molds into a singer/songwriter that deserves to be mentioned with the likes of Mr. Dylan and Richard Thompson. Kelly’s lyrics are more pointed and direct, like when he sings that “Every f***ing city sounds the same,” on the brilliant “Every F***ing City.”
The discs are split, “85-97” and “98-08.” The first disc is very, for lack of a better term, indie-sounding. It’s like he used the same recording equipment that R.E.M. used on Reckoning and Document. “Leaps and Bounds” sounds like it came straight from either album (or possibly The Boss’s Born to Run). On the second disc, he embraces his inner folk and bluegrass on tracks like the violin-infused “Be Careful What You Pray For” and “Our Sunshine,” which is straight-up bluegrass bliss on the caliber of Sam Bush.
Kelly’s Frank Bango tendencies come out when he hits (well, croaks) the lower notes, especially on “Before Too Long” and the Shawn Mullins-esque sung/spoken “Bradman.” His Dylan side shows up on tracks like the minimalist “Everything’s Turning to White” and the witty “Nothing on My Mind,” like when he says, “Fighting bulls is one thing/ But fighting bullsh*t’s another.”
Two discs, 40 songs, and over 150 minutes of music make this the best Aussie album to hit the States in a long time. Then you realize that somehow, Paul Kelly has been under the radar for over 25 years. That’s criminal. Kelly is one of the best singer/songwriters in the world. After listening to this gem, I guarantee you’ll think the same.
Paul Kelly: www.paulkelly.com.au