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CD REVIEW: Robin Kelly - Silk & Knives

By  J.D. Stefan

 

Silk & Knives

 

 

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Artist: Robin Kelly
Album: Silk and Knives
Label: Self Released
Website: www.robinkelly.co.nz
Genre:  Singer-Songwriter/Folk Adult Contemporary
Technical Grade:  6/10
Production/Musicianship Grade:  7/10
Commercial Value:  3/10
Overall Talent Level:  6/10
Songwriting Skills: 5/10
Performance Skill: 6/10
Best Songs: Who Will Rescue Leon, Transformed
Weakness:  Very dated production and overall sound of the songs and album in general.

CD REVIEW:  

"Silk and Knives" is a 2002 CD release from Robin Kelly.  Kelly is a successful doctor, author, speaker and musician from New Zealand.  His bio is extensive and includes information about his medical practice, speaking engagements, philosophy and music and he encourages everyone to "explore their own unique creative gifts".  Kelly's vocals and guitar are accompanied by Mike McCarthy (engineering, production, keyboards, brass, bass and other instrumentation) and Rob Galley (acoustic and electric guitar).  Kelly's website provides details on three albums of his original songs that he has released since 1998.  Kelly often performs his songs live as part of his workshops and presentations.

"Silk and Knives" opens with "Hey Babe", a mellow, almost lullaby type of song with a simple arrangement of acoustic guitar and piano that leaves plenty of space for Kelly's clear tenor voice.  The CD's second track "(Don't Leave Me) High and Dry" introduces some nice electric guitar playing (sounds like a well-recorded Fender Strat) and more instrumentation in the form of some horns appear by the third song "A Lot Like You".  The trend continues throughout the album as the instrumentation varies from song to song.  The piano seems to hold the post of being the most consistent instrument.  Songs like "Take a Break" have a lighter, fun feel courtesy of some banjo and trombone.  Kelly's voice is relaxed and clear with just a bit of his New Zealand accent tinting his vocals.

The production on "Silk and Knives" is clear and consistent.  The recording is well-balanced and it's obvious that a lot of thought and care was put into the making of it.  Unfortunately, the songs are pleasant but nothing reaches out to really capture the listener.  There is a very dated feel to the whole album - it sounds like something from the 80s with reverb on all the instruments.  There is some solid songwriting on the CD, Kelly knows how to write a good song but lacks the ability to reach a mainstream audience - mostly due to the dated nature of both the writing and production.  Much of the production itself sounds like it was MIDI-driven, programmed sounds versus real instrumentation (especially the drums).  It's clear however that Kelly is following his own beat and that this is his vision and sound.  I don't sense that he's out to "make it" in the mainstream.  Rather, he strives to express himself through his music and there is definitely a strong conviction and feel that he imparts to all the songs regardless of their potential for commercial acceptance.  In that light, Kelly has accomplished here what he set out to do - express himself and inspire others.

It's clear that Robin Kelly is proud of what he's done musically here and along with all his other accomplishments and areas of focus he's obviously a very talented and inspirational person.  "Silk and Knives" is something I could see many people buying or picking up after attending one of his workshops or speaking engagements.  It may not be suited for commercial consumption or the mainstream market but one gets the feeling that it doesn't really matter to Kelly.  He's passionate about what he does in all aspects of his life and music is just one of several.  He approaches it though with the same care and thought that he puts into his other projects and should be proud of what he's accomplished with Silk and Knives.

J.D. Stefan

Read the Robin Kelly Interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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