Review – Kris Kelly – My Visitors
Kris Kelly is an ambitious musician. Having studied opera performance and music composition, Kelly decided to marry instruments normally found in a classical setting with more folk/pop/rock sensibilities. What you get from this unification process is an eclectic bunch of songs that form My Visitors. This album came out late last year and is Kelly’s debut album although he already has a couple of live recordings and a studio EP under his belt. You can go to his website to listen to these and also find some demo recordings from six years ago. It’s interesting to hear how Kelly has evolved over the years.
Warriors of the Rainbow is a collection of Native American myths that Kelly has set to music. The melodies are beautiful and are orchestrated on vibraphone and flute so they have an airy quality that suits the material well. His second live recording, Love and a Navel, has the same soaring melodies that are Kelly’s trademark but are played on strings. This album does show off Kelly’s composition skills, which are considerable. The songs are all written to tell a story, however, and this is something I find on My Visitors as well, although the arrangements are gorgeous and in some instances riveting, Kelly sometimes sounds like he is trying a bit too hard to sound insightful. Or perhaps I have been listening to too many songwriters who write straightforward lyrics. I don’t know.
My Visitors starts off with a wonderfully syncopated song, Coyote. It’s a really good start to what really is a good, if a bit uneven, album. Kelly’s strengths lie in his arrangements and his vocal abilities. His voice has a very nice, clear tone, the lyrics are easily understood and delivered with confidence. He doesn’t try to over-sing anything and he lets the melody carry his voice rather than singing over top of it. The biggest complaint I have is that on a couple of the songs the drumming becomes distracting. For me personally, I would have not put them so upfront in the mix as they are really not the focal point of the songs and since there really is just the snare and cymbals, I would have put them a bit further down and brought up the bass guitar a bit more. I don’t think I would have missed the drum if it wasn’t there especially when there is a much better trombone/trumpet/flute melody to take its place. This is especially true in My Visitor where the brushes are very evident and, for me, distracting. At about the half-way mark the song switches to a lovely waltz-time melody where the bass guitar becomes more evident and the drum disappears, a much better sound, to me at least. But then again, I’m not a producer or mixer and this isn’t my album.
Curious Way is the third song and is one that I just couldn’t connect with. This is a busy song, there is a lot going on and the mix is distracting. This is also true of Antenna, which is also the most lyrically weak song on the album. Maybe I’m obtuse but I just didn’t get what he was trying to say here. This song was the one I liked least. Sidewalk Chalk has those pesky drums again and an awkward tempo change about half-way through but otherwise this is an interesting song with a syncopated beat and the horns that I really love. It’s great to hear horns in music again. They add a warmth and depth that is missing a lot of times. They can be menacing or sexy or fun but they always add an element to music that I find delightful.
My Visitors does have it’s challenges but on the whole it is a good album with some truly beautiful melodies that raised the hair on the back of my neck at times. At times I was reminded of Joni Mitchell (According To) and Dan Fogleburg (Dream). I really liked According To. It has a very strong string arrangement that has the cellos and violins playing off each other. There is an intensity and tension in this song that I found compelling. Dream starts off with a, well, dreamy arrangement floating around the atmosphere and then a little more than half-way through the fiddle and drums kick in giving the song an anchor, it then ends on the same dreamy melody it started off with. A lovely piece, really.