Folkstock releases tend to come thick and fast, and Kelly Oliver has been among the most prolific of the label’s rising stars. Bedlam is Oliver’s second full album and it’s already spawned a couple of deliriously radio-friendly singles, and attracted thumbs-up reviews from all quarters.
The fact that her work has already been championed by esteemed luminaries shouldn’t deter us mere mortals from looking more closely at Oliver’s frantically diverse collection of originals. She is a young woman with a lot to say, and keen to explore different modes of expression. That is something that particularly interests us at 1320Radio.
An early single, Rio, has already featured on our playlists, and it’s been an obvious fit for a station that speaks of the present, but respects the past. The song is a breezy, carefree affair given extra wings by a beautifully produced arrangement that has the cheerful echo of 1968 about it. It’s one of those tunes where chart-able pop brushes up coyly against acoustic folk on the dancefloor and finds that they get on famously.
In essence, the album is one of light and shade, rather than dark and light; and the musical ideas that shape the songs are alternately full band arrangements or feature light accompaniment. Jericho has a big strong chorus that deserves the full backing it gets from nicely appointed instrumentation and insightful production choices, while Miles To Tralee is well paced to reach it’s destination in good time and in good spirits.
For me, Oliver is at her best on this album with songs that come lightly adorned and allow her voice to trill sweetly above the melody. In The City, The Other Woman and Ghosts at Night are especially successful in this respect, and show Oliver starting to explore different parts of her vocal range. That is something to be welcomed, for it opens up new possibilities for her increasingly diverse songwriting.
Same World strikes the best balance, I think, between providing Oliver’s singing with a sturdy instrumental platform and framing her lovely song with the understated decoration. It allows us to hear Kelly Oliver speaking to us as an artist, and that may turn out to be an even greater expression of her talent then her self-evident ability to communicate as a skilled performer.