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Jeff Kelly - Beneath the Stars, Above the River (Green Monkey)

16 October 2019

It’s not unusual for an artist of any kind to be influenced by places: their beauty, their culture, their overall state of being. So it is with Beneath the Stars, Above the River, the eighth solo album from Green Pajamas leader Jeff Kelly. Inspired by his travels in Spain and Portugal, the album mixes fado and flamenco into his usual folk and psych pop. That doesn’t mean the tracks here are simply faux Spanish pieces with English lyrics over them, but true blends of these countries’ styles with what Kelly always does – the Seattle songwriter is smart enough to take what fits in with his own vision, rather than trying a wholesale appropriation. “The Initial Kiss,” “Todo por la Gianta” and “The Lisbon Vampire” navigate Spanish atmospheres, but still stride firmly through Kelly’s world. Many of these tunes don’t bother with musical touchstones, and simply reflect his inspirations in their lyrics – cf. the rocking “Señor, Señor,” the wistful “Duro River Wind” and the lovely “Juliana of the One-Man-Scanner Station.” Always a model for the art of songcraft, Kelly scores another winner here, perfectly weaving the music native to his inspirations into his own aesthetic.