Paul Kelly’s recent releases have experimented with everything from Shakespearean poetry to funeral songs, but his latest record Life Is Fine, out today, takes us back to the music that we first fell in love with.

The songs are in conversation with each other; we hear the recurring motifs of nature in the forms of the moon, ocean, wood, rain and more. Track 11, titled Petrichor is particularly dense with natural imagery, even the atmosphere somehow perfectly captures and reflects the way petrichor would feel, that being the smell that often accompanies the first rain after a long stint of dry weather. This way of making a song feel something that’s hard to grasp and capture with words, is one of the things that makes Kelly such an astounding singer songwriter

No stranger to collaboration, Life Is Fine is born from a similar group of musicians that put out Kelly’s 2014 record The Merri Soul Sessions, with Kelly joined on the vocals by Vika and Linda Bull, Ashley Naylor on guitar, Cameron Bruce on keys, Bill McDonald on bass and Peter Luscombe on the drums. Vika and Linda both leave their mark on two tracks in particular, My Man’s Got A Cold and Don’t Explain – both proving a reminder of the way Kelly’s music is lifted to a new place with the involvement of other vocalists.

Despite his years in the industry, Kelly has in no way lost the playful characteristic in his music. My Man’s Got A Cold featuring Vika Bull explores the comical reputation of the man flu, with all the vocals performed by Bull. It’s packed with teasing lyrics including ‘He’s thinking about the hearse’ and ‘He even said no to head’, and features only Bull’s vocals – an unexpected but tastefully placed break from Kelly’s. This humorous addition to the record is something that is also evident in the accompanying music video to the lead single Firewood & Candles, and hopefully a sign of what’s to come from future visual accompaniments for the record.

Some tracks more than others are reflective of Kelly’s earlier releases. Josephina captures Kelly’s tasteful way of telling simple stories in swelling and intricate tracks, whilst Finally Something Good exudes euphoria, and fills you with elation, so much so you can’t hold back a smile.

Life Is Fine oozes with energy, charisma and character, and is sure to sit as one of Kelly’s strongest and superb records of his extensive catalogue. He has yet again proved why he is one of, if not the, most talented and exceptional singer-songwriters in Australia.

4.5/5

Paul Kelly – Life Is Fine

Released: 11 August, 2017 via EMI