Michael Kelsh

Well of Mercy

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On his third independent release, Well of Mercy, Nashville singer/songwriter Michael Kelsh strums and picks his way through 15 polished country-folk songs, one co-written with Rodney Crowell, the project's executive producer. Bringing to mind the pre-Large Band work of Lyle Lovett and other country-folk troubadours, such as Guy Clark, Steve Earle, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, the album has a quiet intensity, shifting between reflective, yet catchy folk rounds and gentle two-steps, many featuring fine harmony support from Nashville diva Joy Lynn White. Universal notions -- such as rootlessness, redemption, reconciliation, and mercy (or lack thereof) -- are elegantly explored. This is country for singer/songwriter fans -- sensitive, but not mopey, and with just enough grit to make you care about the songs' marginalized average Joes. There is a sameness to some of the arrangements, but high points include "Restlessness," with vocals from friend and bass player John Cowan, the title track, "Well of Mercy," "Love I Hold," and the Crowell collaboration "Top of this Train." Pedal steel and dobro authority Rusty Young flavors the disc with rich fills and co-wrote "Love Is Stone Blind." Produced by Bill Halverson(Neil Young) and recorded live essentially, featuring Squirrel Nut Zipper Stu Cole on upright bass and Larry Atamanuik (Sam Bush) on snare, the album's clean, organic sound suits the material perfectly. This is a poetic, unassuming artist worth supporting.

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