Jeff Kelly

Ash Wednesday Rain

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Kelly's songwriting talents are undiminished on his first CD release. His lyrics are a little odd, dealing with things like old schoolroom experiences and Bettie Page, with an evocative and melancholy (but not morose) quality that one usually associates more with British rockers than ones from the American Northwest. The big difference between this and his cassette-only outings is the production, which is much fuller, and a mixed development. Kelly's songs -- and, even more so, his voice -- benefit most from sparse settings, where his sad melodies and forlorn vocals can really get to you. Here those qualities are sometimes smothered a bit, and while the arrangements are sometimes imaginative, occasional brush strokes like booming drums and, more particularly, out-of-place jazzy saxophone riffs are ill-suited for the material.