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Dave Kelly - We Had It All (Hypertension Music)

Star rating: 
4

For blues completists and fans of premier British bluesman Dave Kelly, WE HAD IT ALL provides a 'family album' of sorts - a scrapbook of unreleased tracks from a thirty-five year career, each featuring at least one notable collaborator.

Being that the material herein has been cut and pasted from assorted studio tapes and live recordings, the quality is rarely pristine. But behind the snap, crackle and pop, there are many gems to be had. Take, for instance, Needed Time which combines Dave's bottleneck playing with the laid-back delivery of Eric Bibb's vocal and inimitable guitar style. Thanks to the extensive, stunningly produced sleeve notes, we know that this recording comes from a Lancashire radio performance - and it's a delight to find that this rarity has been committed to disc.
 
Other notable treats from this bag of goodies include a mandolin-driven cover of Green Day's Good Riddance, sung by Dave's son Homer Kelly-Tarrant and doyenne of the British folk scene, Christine Collister. Despite its unpolished quality, the cover still seems more sincere than Glen Campbell's over-produced 2008 version. There's a beautiful recording from Dave's daughter Lily Kelly-Tarrant entitled Wasting Time, which features the gentle, folky fiddle of Steve Simpson and D-Day Blues, a Dave Kelly original featuring Jona Lewie on boogie piano.
 
Perhaps the best moments of the album crop up in the handful of recordings made with legendary blues musicians. These include a version of Dust My Blues on which Dave performs a slide backing for the great Howlin' Wolf and a fantastically jangly version of Take This Hammer featuring the vocal and twelve string guitar of Long John Baldry. But it's the appearance of Dave's sister, the much missed Jo-Anne Kelly, that lends this album its most poignant, stirring moment. Ramblin' Gal - a reworking of Hank Williams's Ramblin' Man - is taken from the rehearsals for an album the siblings never completed. Whilst Jo-Anne's voice raises a skinful of goosebumps, Dave's haunting slide guitar is equally bewitching.
 
Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky