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Sam Kelly And The Lost Boys + Jellyman's Daughter

Venue: Forest Arts Centre
Town: New Milton
Date: 30/11/17
Website: https://www.samkelly.org/

Opening for the Lost Boys throughout their ‘Pretty Peggy’ tour is The Jellyman’s Daughter featuring Emily Kelly and Graham Coe. The duo were breathtaking from start to finish, performing five beautifully crafted songs featuring guitar, cello and a mix of solo lead vocals and harmony that demonstrated a fine polish acquired over their five year partnership. Kelly is charming and the near sell-out audience at the arts centre warmed to the pair immediately. Far beyond a natural rapport with the crowd, what really sets Kelly apart is her vocal tone and ability, expressive and just a tad smoky, with impressive range and control. She easily ranks among the strongest singers I have heard this year. Throw in Coe’s exceptional cello technique and you’re left with an unmissable team. He dances between the kind of rhythmic elements favoured by cellists including Natalie Haas and melodies played with a distinctive bluegrass edge. At times the pair were joined by Jamie of the Lost Boys on banjo adding to the bluegrass undertones.

After a brief break Sam Kelly and his Lost Boys strode out onto the stage, lining up across the theatre with all manner of instruments in hand. The band have been touring their newest release, Pretty Peggy, and the evening saw them perform the album in its entirety with each track played sequentially. It would be all too easy to simply review the record and touch upon the arrangements and songwriting skill contained within, but it is more important here to share the added electricity of the live performance.

The band struck a perfect balance between musicality and sheer instrumental ability, with various members dancing between instruments with deceptive ease throughout the night, and even in the scope of a single song. On top of this they were generous performers, sharing an energetic concert directly with the audience and maintaining this connection throughout. Even their quieter numbers had a fizzing intensity.

The sound in the venue was remarkably well balanced, and each instrument was distinct even within the biggest textures which ensured the huge arrangements never strayed into muddy territory. This also meant that atmospheric writing in the strings had the right clarity as whistling harmonic notes in a wash of deep reverb highlighted haunting passages against cymbal swells. This particular combination seemed to be part of the underlying structure of the album.

Sam guided us through the album tracks with wit and charm and just a few humourous slip ups, including a moment in which he briefly announced the fictional demise of Cara Dillon. Sam is clearly the glue that holds the arrangements and performances together, but at no point did he overshadow the gifted collection of musicians flanking him on stage. They seemed to have a genuine rapport, evidenced by the on stage banter and their immersion in the songs and tunes.

With plenty of chances and encouragement to sing along, a warm delivery from the band, polished musicianship and a selection of well crafted songs, this tour is simply unmissable.

Words: Lee Cuff

Photos: Jo Elkington

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