The Boy on the Bench –  Shaun Kelly and The Returned Gifts (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

25299508_1817923398505094_6510905890943310647_nI have to confess that I had never heard the tag “B-Town scene” until Shaun Kelly’s latest rather excellent record landed on my desk. So a bit of googling later reveals it to be a cover all term for a host of sonically, largely unrelated bands working in, around and out of Birmingham. Like most of these sorts of terms it began as an insider joke but has gain traction with those looking to remain ahead of the jump, journalists (not this one obviously) and those looking to impress with their musical knowledge. But Birmingham has always produced great bands from The Spenser Davis Group to ELO from Johnny Foreigner to Swim Deep and a host of others. Shaun Kelly and his musical posse are just the latest torchbearers for that city’s musical heritage. The less said about Duran Duran the better!

The Boy on the Bench is a graceful and deft collection of songs, mixing folk and Indie-pop with Americana and even a few underpinning EDM grooves just to add some new sonic texture to what is essentially the classic singer-songwriter canon. And it is this clever blend of familiarity and modernity, not to mention the sheer quality of the song that makes this a real gem. Stigmata in particular sounding like a future classic, windswept rootsy indie built on elegant riffs and eloquent sonic arrangements seeming linking the West Coast to The West Midlands of two different continents.

As The Crow Flies wanders down some dusty, raggle-taggle country-folk pathways, Broken People grooves with the spirit of His Bobness…that’s Mr Zimmerman to you…embellished with some eclecticism and electronica and Dorothy is jaunty pop par excellence. It’s a great album on all levels, great songs, great musical vision, infectious, memorable and great fun. Who knew that people still made albums like this any more?


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