The credits of Please Leave Your Light On, the starkly and subtlely arranged, deeply heartfelt and impactful vocal-piano collaboration by Australian legends Paul Kelly and Paul Grabowsky, inform us that the two recorded these twelve pin-drop perfect tracks at the David Li Sound Gallery at Monash University in Melbourne in August 2019.
They couldn’t have known then just how the intimate and thoughtful, stripped down reworkings of tracks from Kelly’s illustrious four decade career – plus the plucky, Gershwin influenced new original “True To You” and a Cole Porter favorite – would fit our collective need for reflection and solace in mid to late 2020.
Beyond the sheer beauty of listening to two masters reveling in tunes that require extra-attentive listening to catch every musical and lyrical nuance – and for those whose knowledge of Australian music stops at Olivia Newton-John, The Bee Gees, Men at Work and Air Supply – the collection makes for a stunning introduction to two of the continent’s most storied talents. The album came about when Grabowsky, a heavily awarded jazz pianist and film composer, was asked to curate a series of concerts in which he worked in duo settings with various singers. Having known Kelly since the mid-90s, the piano playing Paul asked the singer Paul to collaborate, and their chemistry was immediate.
As they glide tenderly in the studio setting through the songs from Kelly’s repertoire that they performed live, their mutual passion for legendary similar American collaborations like Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle and Tony Bennett/Bill Evans shines through beautifully. An icon of folk, rock and country, Kelly’s unique troubadour voice may remind new listeners at any given time of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman and Tom Waits.
Listening to gems like the wistful, irony laden “Petrichor,” the dramatic recitation of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 138” (featuring a colorful pounding vamp by Grabowsky), the philosophical “Time and Tide” and the album’s first single, the plaintive, regret-filled “If I Could Start Today Again,” you will no doubt be inspired to do a deeper dive into Kelly’s massive catalogue. Ditto with Grabowsky, whose exquisite arrangements, accompaniment and elegant solo improvisations on “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and “God’s Grandeur” will provide tonic to however you’ve been feeling since the start of the pandemic.