Nothing but a Dream: Paul Kelly

Article excerpt

Paul Kelly

Nothing But A Dream

True North / Universal

PLENTY OF music artists have a vibrant faith walk, and they express that walk in their art. By definition, they are ideal subjects for this column.

Less obvious subjects are artists like the veteran Australian singer and songwriter Paul Kelly. A faith walk is not a prime focus of most of his songs on his latest disc, the just-released Nothing But A Dream. His melancholy tales, usually on matters of the heart, range from rage and dry wit to regret and occasional tenderness.

However, the Christian observer will be struck by the fact that the lion's share of the songs has Christian references. Usually, they do not even approach proselytizing. Rather, they are simply a matter-of-fact awareness that faith, spirituality, and the church are part of the everyday lives of everyday people.

"All the kings and queens in the bible, they could not turn back time. So what chance have I of a miracle in this life of mine," Kelly sadly sings to begin the album's opening track If I Could Start Today Again. Aware of his frailties, he admits "I know I'm not the milk and honey kind" and he concludes "I know my prayer's in vain." Regardless, this song, its starkly gentle acoustic backdrop recalling Kelly's earliest work, displays a deep awareness that God is part of the equation.

That reference point is equally clear in songs such as I Wasted Time, a poignant folk rocker of an aging man who savoured life and now goes to funerals for old friends with the attitude "It's down to this; it's either me or them." Fused with the sense of regret -- "I wasted time, now time is wasting me" -- his bottom line is "Now it's closing time. Won't you pray for me?"

Would You Be My Friend is a soulful, melancholy anthem of love. Whether the subject is human or divine is unclear, but the former is plausible, even before the trademark acerbic wit of the late line "If I'd passed the point of no return like a poor, puking child in church, would you be my friend?"

Even a straight love song like the swirling popper I Close My Eyes And Think Of You sees Kelly's character employing a spiritual theme in his declaration, "I know there's a raging river. …