Paul Kelly & the Stormwater Boys Foggy Highway

Over the past two decades, few singer-songwriters have compiled a body of work as extensive and impressive as Australian Paul Kelly. His profile here has faded a little of late, and some of his recent work has fallen short of earlier glories. Happily, he’s back in top form with this disc, one that represents an interesting stylistic detour. It is being termed his bluegrass album, though a tune like the gentle ballad "They Thought I Was Asleep” can be termed country-folk, rather than straight bluegrass. It is certainly Kelly’s roots-iest album to date. A reprise of his earlier favourite "Don’t Stand So Close To The Window” reminds us what a lovely song it is, though the new treatment doesn’t quite match the original’s appeal. His duet with compatriot Kasey Chambers on "You’re Learning” is a total gem, right up there with the Gram and Emmylou duets that were clearly an inspiration. A version of the Stanley Brothers classic "Rank Stranger” is included on a bonus disc, and it reveals another key influence on Kelly. "You could write a book on that song,” he notes. Foggy Highway was recorded in just seven days, and a sense of spontaneity was captured nicely. Kelly’s voice is earthy and honest, which suits this genre perfectly, and his songwriting is as strong as ever. He has had a long love for this form, and does it proud on this fine album. (True North)