Reviews

The Power, The Glory & The Monkey Time

Blues Blast Magazine, Issue 10-21 May 26, 2016 
Featured Blues Review 

​George Stephen Kelly – The Power, The Glory & The Monkey Time 
Ace Sleeve Records – 2016 
www.georgestephenkelly.com 

10 tracks: 41 minutes 

George Stephen Kelly is based in Detroit and this album is a horn-driven delight with plenty of fine playing and some idiosyncratic original songs alongside two solid covers. George wrote the songs, handles all lead vocals and plays guitar throughout with a large cast of Detroit sidemen, including the return to recording of Motor City Josh (Ford) who engineered the sessions and plays some guitar. Michael Jenkins also plays guitar, bass duties are split between Alex Lyon and Ryland Kelly (who also contributes piano and guitar to one track), drums between Antonio Johnson and Todd Glass, keys between Kevin Tubbs and Chris Codish. The horns appear on seven tracks with De’Sean Jones and Marcus Elliot on sax and John Douglas on trumpet. Caleb Ford (Josh’s brother) adds backing vocals to one track. 

Opener “My Love’s Enough” has an insistent horn refrain and lyrics that link phrases in a style that to these ears seems to have been influenced by rap. However, that is purely in the way that George links words to fit the music which is definitely soulful with a fine trumpet solo from John. “Morning After Pill” is a bouncy shuffle with George’s slide work and an excellent horn chart (containing some Duke Ellington references) providing a solid blues in which George declares himself afraid of the central character who has “a licence to kill, she got it registered legally; she’s got the morning after pill, she likes to live dangerously. She’s mentally ill, please keep the girl away from me.” George shows his gentler side in “My Forever, Your Always” which has a suitably charming horn arrangement to match the romantic sentiments. 

It is not often that you find a title in the blues that takes from the ancient legends of antiquity but George’s “Sisyphus Blues” does so most successfully. Although the horns are absent George more than compensates with some of the very best guitar playing on the album, not one but two outstanding solos here as lyrically he recreates the Sisyphus legend in a contemporary context: “I rolled a stone to the top of the hill, it rolled back down again. Exercise in futility – that’s how my days are spent”. A strong sense of humour shows through in the lyrics of the self-explanatory “Too Much Month At The End Of The Money” which has a funky rhythm punctuated by the horns, George leaving the guitar duties to Josh on this one. 

The first cover is “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You”, best known from Wilson Pickett’s version. While the ‘Wicked Pickett’ had a unique soul voice George has a good enough voice to deliver the song very well in a really swinging arrangement and also delivers a stinging guitar solo – another outstanding track. The horns sit out the tale of “Bad Whiskey”, a slow blues about the evils of the ‘demon drink’. “Nice Ride” features Michael’s wah-wah embellishments and gut-wrenching solo on an interesting song that takes us through a series of key events in life, each featuring a different type of car, giving the title a double meaning as George takes us on a journey from prom to marriage to funeral cortège! 

The second cover is a swinging arrangement of Boz Scagg’s “Runnin’ Blue” which has Keith Kaminski’s sax and Jimmy Smith’s trumpet boosting the horn section to four players. The final track “Just Because You’re Paranoid” is another example of George’s ability to write a song that combines unusual lyrics with strong melody as a delicate arrangement underpins the song. 

This is an impressive set of sometimes unusual songs that will appeal to those who enjoy the soulful end of the blues. This reviewer certainly enjoyed listening to the disc and can recommend it to others. 

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category.  ​ 

Midwest Record  
02/26/16  

Ace Sleeve Records  

GEORGE STEPHEN KELLY/The Power, The Glory & The Monkey Time: A white boy from Detroit with the blues by way of Memphis is another of those stars that burn brightly across the night entertaining the fans before moving to the next beer joint down the line the next night. Capable of holding his own with others that have trod the same boards with a little better luck and name recognition, this is a cat not to ignore when he comes to your town, even if it's the middle of the week and you have to pay the babysitter a little extra. Rollicking along in fine style, be sure to add this cat to your blues rolodex. Hot stuff throughout. 

​Rootstime, Belgium  

Singer-songwriter-guitarist George Stephen Kelly hails from the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Musically he is influenced by blues legends Blind Willie Mctell, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson and by contemporaries John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, The Allman Brothers, Jimmy Hall, Boz Scaggs and Van Morrison.  

Kelly's new album, The Power, The Glory & The Monkey Time is a collection of eight original songs and one Wilson Pickett cover (the swinging rocker "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You") and a grooving horn laden Boz Scaggs cover "Runnin' Blue". The opener, "My Love's Enough" is funky soul, followed by "Morning After Pill", the most energetic track of the album. Kelly and Motor City Josh alternate with guitar solos. "My Forever, Your Always" is a fantastic soul ballad, that a lot of people will associate with their loved one.  

"Sisyphus Blues" features a Southern rock influence. Most people with raise their eyebrows (those who do not know Sisyphus).  "Too Much Month At the End Of The Money" is about the frustration of making ends meet. Listen closely in this funky track to the tenor sax solo of De'Sean Jones and lead guitar by Motor City Josh.  

The most bluesy track "Bad Whiskey" is about whiskey (single malt or bourbon?) and "Nice Ride" stand out for the wah-wah effects by Michael Jenkins on guitar. The last track "Just Because You're Paranoid" sounds like it could easily be included on a movie soundtrack, with George on slide guitar and Ryland Kelly contributing a haunting solo on nylon string guitar. 

​Jefferson Blues Magazine, Sweden  

Kelly is the singer and guitarist as well as a veteran of the Detroit music scene. He is also known as a good songwriter. On this album he wrote eight of the ten songs. Soul, rhythm 'n' blues and blues is heard. Most songs feature quite impressive horn arrangements.  

The opening song, My Love's Enough serves as a bit of a prototype for the up-tempo songs. Funky and rhythmic with great space for both Hammond, blowing riffs and blåsarsolon. A song that certainly works well on the dance floor. When Kelly lets loose on the guitar, and especially the slide, it becomes slightly bluer. An occasional shuffle slips past.  

Kelly is no stranger to pure soul. He has a real hit in the soul ballad, My Forever, Your Always, the best song. The cover of the Wilson Pickett soul hit, Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You, however, is a swing blues version.  

This is quite enjoyable listening. 

Fins, Chrome & The Open Road:
A Tribute To The Cadillac, released in 2005  

​This review is for a compilation album released in 2005 by 95 North Records, which included the likes of Charlie Musselwhite, Jimmy Hall, Maria Muldaur, Little Milton and more.  
"Cadillac Assembly Line" tells the story of leaving a girl behind to work in the Caddy factory. George Kelly is a very accomplished slide guitar player and ranks among the best. He plays some great solos and fills on this tune.  
Steve Ekblad, audiogrid.com 

Reviews for Lucid Intervals, released in 2004  

Blues on Stage  

George Kelly  
Lucid Intervals  
Mixter Records (© 2003, MIX000027)  
by Jim Angehr  
Review date: August 2004  

How many blues albums come with lyrics in the liner notes? Almost none at all, but that doesn't really bother me.  

When I listen to the blues, it's the music, not the words, that move me—it's a primordially stirring musical genre. As much as people criticize the sameness of 12-bar blues, every time I hear the shift up to the second line, the music draws me in, and by the time we get to the turnaround, I'm ready for the next twelve frames. In a blues song, all we need are a few evocative lyrics that the music then completes. In the blues, the lyrics are a few pencil sketches, and the music does the rest. "I can't quit you baby, but I've got to put you down for a while," turns the key, and the music drives you home.  

Folk and rock, especially outside the billboard charts, is really about words. Lyrics make the statement, and music gives the accent.  

​The liner notes to Massachusetts native George Kelly's Lucid Intervals come with lyrics. Lucid Intervals, strictly speaking, is not a blues album, but it's a great album: a record of bluesy, heartland rock with serious songwriting aspiration. Intervals is Kelly's first album, and it serves notice that he's after big game. The opening track, "Get What U Pay For" (a sidenote plea: 4 the love of Pete, why don't U write out your song titles?), wearily recounts the price you pay to get to the top, and Kelly's slide guitar adds a dimension of resignation to the song's unfolding. The following tracks prove Kelly adept at love-lost balladry ("Bad memories of days gone by/Waste the present, God knows why"), but the album truly finds its groove midway through.

"Bluesman" is the only 12-bar number on the album, and it's an effortless, gritty blues. The following cut, "Otis Spann," sounds like the long-lost cousin of "Sultans of Swing," as Kelly bemoans that the Muddy Waters pianist is "buried in an unmarked grave." The final three album tracks, "Love Interest," "Desert Island," and "Pyrrhic Victory" demonstrate just how powerful a base of blues and jazz can be to writing pop songs; the jazzy arrangements here elevate the songs far above typical AOR fare, and the lyrics hold their own. Try to imagine what Dire Straits would sound like if Mark Knopfler played slide guitar, and you're on the right track.  

Over the course of Lucid Intervals, we've heard, in addition to your basic band lineup, horns, congas, accordion, flute, Uillean pipes, and bodhran—and none of it sounds forced or scattershot. Vocally, Kelly possesses a worn croon that suits his music well. He's equally comfortable singing slower and faster songs. The coarse edge to his voice imparts credibility to his song subjects, but the gentle vocal baseline that he sets insures that his welcome doesn't wear out by album's end. On the slide guitar, Kelly combines dexterity and buttery tone with a knack for knowing when and when not to play. Finally, in his songwriting he tackles themes of loss, frustration, aging, and other heavy subjects with aplomb. Lucid Intervals is a serious album from a serious talent, and satisfying from beginning to end.  

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All Music Review by Steve Leggett  

Massachusetts native George Kelly has made his home in the Detroit area since 1995, which may account for the strong blues and soul base he brings to the songs on Lucid Intervals, his debut album. A fine slide guitarist, Kelly is also a careful and literate songwriter, somewhat in the John Hiatt vein, and his straight, unaffected vocals on these tracks allows each song room to breathe. The ensemble playing is crisp and full, and the overall tone and sound of the album is a bit like Steely Dan playing the blues. The standout track here is the six-minute "Otis Spann," which unfolds as an intimate homage to the great blues pianist. The concluding cut, "Pyrrhic Victory," is also strong, and has an historic and epic reach that marks Kelly as an artist and writer to watch.  

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Blues Revue: The World’s Blues Magazine  
Blues Bites - Tom Hyslop  
September 2004  

Detroiter George Stephen Kelly provides a songwriter's slant on blues-oriented material. The production on Lucid Intervals (Mixter 000027) puts his guitar and slide in contemporary settings, with keys, bass, drums and various percussion, wind and brass instruments; the overall sound is s-m-o-o-t-h. He's a wordy tunesmith who sometimes cuts to the heart of his material with a single line: "You get what you pay for, you're gonna pay for what you get" sums up his take on status and material wealth. On the other hand, "Bluesman" has more lyrics than any other track but clocks in at half the time (it's a fast, swinging shuffle). Kelly's Elysian Fields and Pyrrhic victory references might confuse us simple blues types; best are the jazzy "Love Interest" and the elegy "Otis Spann".  

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