Kelley Smith – Moon Child – EP
Minnesota-based singer-songwriter Kelley Smith (acoustic guitar/harmonica/bells/violins) establishes a comfortable set of casual music, well-played with enchanting lyrics. Vocally however, at times, she’ll pour out some Dolly Parton tonality but that doesn’t detract from Kelley’s expressively simple 5-songs set that has a potent allure. It worked for Ms. Parton & Kelley doesn’t necessarily follow in her footsteps – the material is wholly of Ms. Smith’s making.
“Moon Child,” is slow with banjo plucking in a late-night bluegrass atmosphere. I could suggest her vocals cast a juvenile shade, which is how they’re blended & presented but, big but, that wouldn’t be accurate. Kelley has performance sparkle that’s simply youthful. It belies innocence without being sugary.
Songs are never rendered in a naïve manner – because Ms. Smith wisely creates a fascinating musical color for each. “Marriage,” is fluid with harmonica & her vocals pace the words casually with honesty.
What I do like about Ms. Smith is when she sings as she does on “Tea & Whiskey,” her vocal secures a warmer, more assured & inspired position without getting too edgy. She’s written her songs effectively without following the typical mainstream folk & country menu. Kelley writes from her soul, if not that, she has acute instincts.
Produced by Joel Schwartz (Resonator, electric & bass guitars/tenor banjo/mandolin/keyboard) the debut Moon Child (Drops Nov 14–Independent) EP features Christopher Merrill (upright bass), percussion by Lyle Molzan & Kelley with guest Evin Haukos (fiddle).
“Dust,” is a strong piece sung with maturity. Each song tackles in its own way topics such as long-term love, grief & Kelley’s attraction to the night skies. The music itself is a stirring mix of traditional & progressive folk elements.
Kelley is similar in tradition to New Zealand’s marvelous Jenny Mitchell. Ladies who don’t adhere to the path of showboating yet exhibit extraordinary songwriting & performance skills. They put an emphasis on atmospheric textures & both offer ear-caressing guitar, banjo, fiddle with arresting voices & interesting lyrics. They’d make a good team.
Highlights – All 5 are worth a listen.
Cover art by David Hayward. Color image of Kelley courtesy of Trevor Tobin. CD @ https://www.kelleysmithmusic.com/