LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
BEDLAM - KELLY OLIVER
Release date: 6th March, 2016
Genre: Alt-Folk, Acoustic, singer-songwriter
Location: Hertfordshire, England
Record Label: Folkstock Records
Bedlam is the excellent second album from Stevenage singer-songwriter and one of our LCM favourites Kelly Oliver. The new album has in part a fuller, richer and more produced sound than her critically acclaimed and award winning 2014 debut album 'My Land'. Kelly has chosen some great musicians on the album including Thea Gilmore, Debbie Hanna, Ciaran Algar and Lukas Drinkwater. Interestingly and unusually Kelly has used three different producers and recording studios on this album, Nigel Stonier (Thea Gilmore), Stu Hanna (Megson) and Lauren Deaken-Davies (Folkstock Records). This could have been a big risk as the sound and feel could have become inconsistant and disjointed, but the result has been a complementary album with the three different producers bringing out the very best in the tracks they have worked on. Kelly is a strong storyteller, with a kean ear for a melody and a catchy hook and this is very evident on the new album. With influences including traditional Irish folk and singer-songwriters Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Cara Dillon, Alison Krauss, Steve Earle and Alanis Morissette, Kelly has continued to grow and mature in her songwriting and music.
The album opens with the title track 'Bedlam', a song based in the past. It is written from the standoint of a young woman who, having given birth to an unwanted child, finds herself imprisoned in London’s notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital. Originally the hospital was near Bishopsgate just outside the walls of the City of London, but It moved outside of Moorfields in the 17th century, then to St George's Fields in Southwark in the 19th century. The word "bedlam", meaning uproar and confusion and is derived from the hospital's prior nickname. Although the hospital became a modern psychiatric facility, historically it was representative of the worst excesses of asylums in the era of mental health reform. Bedlam is the first of the four songs produced by Stu Hanna who also adds fiddle, percussion and guitar. This results in a richly layered track with Kelly’s vocals and harmonies at its beating heart.
Next up is ‘Lay Our Heavy Heads’, featuring more production and instrumentation from Stu Hanna, including fiddle, mandolin and electric piano. It is a romantic song about a young man’s love and devotion.
One of my personal favourites 'Jericho' is the first of the album tracks produced by Nigel Stonier. which also finds him playing a range of instruments including bass, piano and dulcimer, as well as adding backing vocals. The song is partial based on the biblical account of the fall of the walls of Jericho. Kelly is also joined on the track by the multi-awarding wininng Ciaran Algar, who provides fiddle and backing vocals. The result is a very catchy radio-friendly mix of indie-folk and pop.
'Miles To Tralee' is the follow-up song to her debut album's 'My Grandfather was a Stoker'. This time it's Kelly grandmother who is the subject of the song. Always a live crowd favourite. Kelly often uses it at the end of her set. The song once again features Ciaran Algar on fiddle.
The more stripped and roots based Irish folk sound that featured in Kelly’s first album can still be found on Bedlam, thanks to Folkstock Records very own Lauren Deakin Davies who produced 'This Land'. Kelly has once again worked with Lauren on ‘In the City’ and three other songs on the album. This song is one of urban alienation and being lost and alone in a big city. It also features Lukas Drinkwater on double bass, Lauren’s percussion and Kelly's bittersweet harmonica playing.
The second of Lauren’s produced tracks ‘The Other Woman’ is a song about some of the pitfalls of falling for a married man and it's consquences. With real feeling this is tenderly and beautifully arranged.
Another firm favourite on the album is the very radio friendly ‘Same World‘ Stu Hanna adds guitar, mandola and keyboards in this gentle, Americana flavoured ballad while his wife Debbie Hanna adds some great harmony vocals.
‘Ghosts at Night’ and ‘Die this Way’, both produced by Lauren Deakin Davies again continue with some more stripped back rootsy arrangements. Featuring Lukas Drinkwater’s double bass perfectly complimenting Kelly’s vocal and harmonica.
The album ends fittingly on very the upbeat 'Rio' featuring the backing vocals of Thea Gilmore, Nigel's wife. Another one of our favourites on the album. There is also a great string arrangement on this track, which bounces along with the energy of the great city Rio itself.
- Lay Our Heavy Heads
- Miles To Tralee
- In The City
- The Other Woman
- Same World
- Ghosts At Night
- Die This Way