EP Review

Elly Kellner – The Right Tools: EP Review

More melodic reflections from The most Melancholy Lady of the Lowlands.

Release Date:  26th March 2021

Label: Self Release

Formats: Download / Streaming

We like Elly Kellner, here at At The Barrier.  Her September 2020 EP, I Could Have Made a Child stopped us in our tracks, almost literally, and are delighted to be able to announce the release of, not one, but two further EPs  during the coming weeks.  Indeed, the first of those two releases is already with us; the wonderful The Right Tools hit the ether on 26th March and its another stunning collection, that picks up right where I Could Have Made a Child left off – five stunningly beautiful melodies that aren’t jazz and aren’t folk but which occupy a unique piece of territory somewhere between the two.

And if one magical collection isn’t enough for you, then put the date of 30th April in your diary, because that’s when Elly will be releasing her next EP, Earth Vibrations, and this time, we’re expecting something very different.  Earth Vibrations is a collaboration between Elly and ten musicians from Syria, Cameroon, Japan, Armenia, Germany, India, Mongolia and The Netherlands and the brief snippets that I’ve been privileged to hear sound very special indeed. The release has been produced together with Senhora do Ó from Portugal. As Elly says, “It’s a busy release year for me as I’m catching up on a backlog.”  Quite.  Watch this space – At The Barrier is clamouring to hear more, and we’ll bring you a review of Earth Vibrations as soon as decency permits.

But back to the task in hand… Elly is, as we know, a highly regarded singer/songwriter who has worked with Grammy winning producer Larry Klein as well as with the one and only Iain Matthews, and she was awarded the 2019 Tamoil Culture Prize for Arts and Literature.  Iain Matthews has suggested that the only reason that Elly isn’t more famous than she is, is because she doesn’t want to be and, as he goes on to say, “She has it all.  The voice, the songs and the charm.  The Full Monty.  She’s a star in my book, and once you hear her, I know you’ll agree.”  Elly describes herself as The Most Melancholy Lady of the Lowlands.  Her songs are beautifully melodic and radically honest – and she loves to explore lyrical territory that goes beyond the usual taboos.

The Right Tools consists of five songs and all are markedly different to each other.  In describing how she came up with the EP’s title, she says: “It’s not quite about hammers and saws.  [I pictured] a mental toolbox; the more tools we have, the more options we have to deal with the challenges life throws at us.  Not every tool is going to be effective in every situation, and not all of us own the same tools.” 

And so, in an enactment of those thoughts, each song is a reflection upon the different ways that we try to understand, help and comfort ourselves, each features sparse yet subtly appropriate instrumentation (sometimes just Elly with her guitar, at other times light-touch percussion, drums from regular collaborator John Lumpkin and soft piano or organ from Sasha Shlain) and each shines the spotlight on Elly’s wonderful, intimate vocals.  Opening track Come in the Morning combines those elements to consider how we seek self-understanding from the intimate embrace of another in a jazzy and comforting song.

The gentle Won’t Mine Kill Yours metaphorically likens intimate partners to plants to question whether the plants’ inter-twining roots will result in strangulation – all to a lovely melody in which Elly’s guitar and Sasha’s piano provide the perfect complement to each other.  Cameroonian soul singer Danielle Eog Makedah provides some wonderful harmony vocals on The Right Tools – the title track to this short collection – whilst John Lumpkin’s ponderous drums, Sasha’s piano and Elly’s bass crank up to what is the closest thing to a full band sound – and it’s exquisite!

The jaunty, bouncy Come Home could almost be described as a pop song – of the finest order – before the warm, wonderful and mellow Late Bloomer brings the EP to a breathtaking close.  Kane Mathis guests on kora – and it blends beautifully with Elly’s guitar – and Iain Matthews provides additional vocals.  Elly’s vocal performance is superlative, even by her own incredibly high standard, and the harmonies the Elly and Iain achieve are a particular highlight.

Elly Kellner has done it again!

Watch the Official video to The Right Tools – title track of the EP – below. You can get the EP through Elly Kellner’s Bandcamp page, here.

Elly Kellner Online: Website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube

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