Paul Kelly was a major figure for me during my inaugural year at the college radio station. His was a name I carried in with me, largely because a couple of his albums made unlikely appearances deep in the album review section of Rolling Stone, well past the point most readers had probably determined the artists and titles were getting too obscure to bother with and flipped the magazine closed. (I can’t find digital versions of those reviews, but there’s some circumstantial evidence that the column inches were courtesy of the championing of David Fricke, who still takes every reasonable opportunity to write about Kelly under the insistent Rolling Stone logo.) I’m sure I hadn’t heard a single note of Kelly’s music before crossing the threshold into the station’s on air studio, but I felt a certain commitment to the artist strictly on the reported brilliance of his songwriting. With little more than a few scraps of quoted lyrics, I was a preemptive fan.

Luckily, I wasn’t engaged in false hope. I dug into the albums already nestled into the 90FM music library when I arrived, dutifully gravitating to the song titles that I’d committed to memory (such as the grand “Dumb Things”). Much as I was happy to keep boomeranging back to that section of the stacks, there was always a special joy when a new album from a favorite artist arrived at the station. If nothing else, during the stretch it moved through the station’s new music rotation, it was considered acceptable to play the performer every shift, a green light I was delighted to see flash for Kelly. So Much Water So Close to Home was released somewhere around the beginning of my second school year at the station, just as I was beginning to feel a little puffed up with a veteran authority that I didn’t really possess. (“Sure, I know all about this obscure Australian singer-songwriting. Don’t worry, you’ll be knowledgable too someday.”) Even if the album fed some of my less appealing traits, it also stirred one of my better ones: genuine, open-hearted fandom.

I championed the album as best I could. I’m not sure it ever totally took hold with my fellow staffers. Even now, the record has a little bit of a tinge of afterthought when surveying Kelly’s discography, trailing well behind it’s predecessor, the practically perfect Under the Sun.  The peaks of So Much Water So Close to Home, such as album opener “You Can’t Take It with You,” stand up against nicely with the formidable best of Kelly’s output, though. I was making the right decision back then when I played these songs over and over.

Listen or download –> Paul Kelly and the Messengers, “You Can’t Take It with You”

(Disclaimer: I believe the bulk of Kelly’s output to be currently unavailable in the United States, at least as physical objects that can purchased from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the artist and the proprietor of said shop. I certainly urge anyone to snap up anything they can find from Kelly, though. Though sharing this song in this way strikes me as well within the bounds of the rapidly eroding concept of fair use, I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any entity or individual with due authority to make such a request.)

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