Review: Jadea Kelly, Eastbound Platform
The first thing I thought when I put Jadea Kelly’s Eastbound Platform album on was how much she sounded like fellow Canadian songstress Sarah Slean. They have the same vocal quality, a sort of ethereal fragility, and a thin, but expressive upper register that they prefer to use. The similarities don’t end there: Kelly’s songs are smartly arranged to support her vocal melodies, many of them piano based and funky.
Kelly gets a fair amount of attention in the Toronto roots music crowd; she’s often featured at some of the better venues like the Cameron House and Horseshoe Tavern, so she’s already got a good fan base who enjoys her songwriting and the variety of genres with which she experiments. Still, she’s worthy of extended attention, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her reach the level of Slean, or other Canadians like Sarah Harmer and Kathleen Edwards.
Eastbound Platform, which was released in 2010, opens with a catchy tune, “Never Coming Back,” which uses repetition brilliantly. Too many artists fall into the trap of repeating lyrics when they’re stuck for what to write, and the effect of that quickly moves from easy to join in to pretty annoying. Not so with Kelly; she is able to swiftly move to a new set of lyrics or different register or texture to shake things up. As the album progresses, Kelly alternates between slower tempos punctuated by melancholy melodic fragments (“The Sound”—which is written by David Baxter and Justin Rutledge—and “Walking Wounded”) and more cheerful, road-trippy songs (“North of 42”, “Hazel”).
“Heavy Heart” has a pretty slick arrangement, with a giant chorus of backing vocals that are also heard in passing on songs like “Lay My Body Down”. Sparse verses on “Heavy Heart” are marked by a hand clap groove so casual that it barely makes the beat and the choruses fill out with angsty distorted guitar and extended “Whoas” from the singers. What a group of singers, showcasing some of Toronto’s best: Justin Rutledge, Joshua Cockerill, David Baxter, and Angie Hilts, among others.
Guest John Showman’s (Foggy Hogtown Boys, Creaking Tree String Quartet) fiddle perks up tunes like “Rosin” and pianist Jason Sniderman does a great job of filling out the rootsy combo, putting the songs into a pop realm occasionally. The disc is produced by David Baxter, a well-known multi-instrumentalist who has recently released a couple of good albums, Patina (2011) and Day and Age (2009).
I haven’t seen her live yet, but Eastbound Platform tells me that Kelly puts on a good live show. She does tour Canada, so get out to see her if you can. In the meantime, here’s a clip: