Orewa Heartbeat by Robin Kelly is the next chapter in the talented New Zealand based singer/songwriter’s musical journey. It’s a journey deeply informed by his commitment to alternative medicine, but make no mistake, Kelly is far from a rose-colored glasses songwriter. The thirteen songs on Orewa Heartbeat grapple with mighty subjects and, despite Kelly’s essentially affirmative answer to life, his writing recognizes that reaching an accord with ourselves and the world on any number of issues is its own journey and never free of poignancy. His artistry is unquestionable.
A number of influences shine through and Kelly doesn’t shy away from indulging in some imaginative orchestration but at their heart, however, the material on Orewa Heartbeat has great intimacy born from a singer/songwriter working at the peak of his sensitivity.
“Waiting for Me Too” has great warmth and plays on listeners in a very inviting way. There’s a strong classical-minded quality to the song blended with its obvious concessions to typical pop song structure and the two seemingly disparate approaches results in a particularly impressive performance. It’s bracing to hear how Kelly can convey his lyrics with such loving regard yet they are still capable of getting across a deeply felt and very adult message.
The slow unwinding quality of “I Wanna Love You” gives this highly romantic song an appealing feel that never risks sounding overwrought. Pairing harmonica with acoustic guitar and accordion makes for an excellent top line melody for the song. It never overcomplicates things and shows the same focus we hear on the album’s other twelve tracks. “Truthseeker (Song for Pete)” looks back, somewhat, to the sound we heard on the initial track, but there’s much more of a full band effort in effect here rather than the minimal cast employed on the first song. The lyrics are among Orewa Heartbeat’s finest and Kelly delivers them with great artistry.
“Country Mile (No One Comes Close)” is cut from familiar cloth. Kelly has a real talent for writing love songs rife with sentiment, but never so cheesy that we feel compelled to end them before their natural conclusion. The spirit of this song is, definitely, stepped in classic country sounds and Kelly handles that style like he was born to sing in such a way. “So Easy Now” has a shuffle-styled country arrangement that never sounds too edgy or assertive, yet is clearly the product of a songwriter who knows how to avoid any extraneous notes. “The Tennessee Moon Beams Down (And Smiles)” has an even stronger classic country influence, near swing, and Kelly sounds alive with the sheer joy of singing juxtaposed with an equally vibrant arrangement. It’s one of the finest moments on Orewa Heartbeat.
Feel The Love With Robin Kelly
“Steal Away (Song for Steve)” is a full band effort and marks the final instance of harmonica appearing on the album. Kelly’s echo-laden vocal is among the best on the release and you can’t help but feel your heartstrings pulled by the contemplative, emotive singing Kelly offers here, as elsewhere. “Someone Else’s Dream” ends Orewa Heartbeat with a vocal/piano solo piece that, with stripping any additional instruments away, allows listeners to really focus on his voice and words during the album’s final moments. There are deep layers in this song and it can handle a variety of interpretations.
Much of the beauty in Robin Kelly’s art lies in the fact that, while it certainly has its own meaning for him, the open-ended nature of the songs allows us to take whatever we need away from the lyrics and music alike. It’s one of the many hallmarks distinguishing Orewa Heartbeat as a true work of art.
Find more about Robin Kelly on his WEBSITE
-review by Shannon Cowden