JADEA KELLY at the Great Hall, Wednesday, May 22. Rating: NNN
Album launch parties are special for both the musician and the audience, and Jadea Kelly's for her latest, Clover, was no exception. The Toronto country-folk musician was as sweet and gracious as the crowd was warm and supportive. The Cameron House regular increased her band to a six-piece that included two drummers, and the added musicians brought oomph to her largely slow to mid-tempo songs.
Occasionally the lush arrangements detracted from the songs' simple clarity or flatlined them into pleasant but middle-of-the-road territory. A cover of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams was just ho-hum.
Kelly really shines when she fully commits to the mournful noir-country sound featured on Clover (I'll Be, You Had Me, Powell River). Here, she set her acoustic guitar aside for a resonant hollow-bodied electric, slowed tempos to a crawl and pushed her plaintive vocals to the farthest, darkest corners of the room. Her unguarded, sincere lyrics rose to the foreground as guitarist Tom Juhas added slinky, atmospheric twang via a bottleneck slide on his finger.
Other highlights included two slow-groove tunes co-written by Justin Rutledge and David Baxter. A handful of guest vocalists assisted intermittently, though their mics seemed to be either off or extremely quiet. Near the end, Kelly's roommate, musician Melanie Brulee, appeared, adding confident stage presence that made Violet - which the pair wrote together in their living room - the night's most electrifying performance. It approached near-psychedelic levels, actually inducing chills.