Busking in the streets of Edinburgh since his teens, Hugh Kelly dropped out of university to concentrate on his music, culminating in the release of his debut single, ‘Give Me All You Love’ in early February. This was followed by a video two weeks later and at the end of February he will release his debut EP.
His prodigious talent is clear and unambiguous: an extraordinary voice that ranges from the crunch of steps on a pebbly British beach to a soaring heavenly and slightly whiskey-soaked angel’s falsetto. Kelly’s guitar playing, augmented by what sounds like an entire gospel choir, is a suitable restrained bedrock to his alt. bluesy sound.
The single captures this range perfectly – the louche insouciance of Chris Isaaks at the beginning morphs into some wild, unfettered White Stripes-style exuberance and heartfelt wall of yearning:
The enigmatic black and white video that accompanies this song perfectly captures the abandoned wildness and wilderness of the song:
On the EP, this song is followed by ‘Spill My Blood’ which adds to the gothic, swampy tone of Kelly’s music – a slightly more restrained but no less heartfelt song that puts on display Kelly’s soul side. This song would fit in seamlessly beside a stack of Motown records and stand up both in terms of quality and emotion. Quite an extraordinary feat for young chap from Edinburgh barely out of his teens.
‘Knocked Out’ is a piano-driven reflective ballad that tones down the bluster and ramps up the melancholy yearning with devastating effect. Kelly’s vocal range and emotion is, again, quite extraordinary.
The EP ends with ‘Keep Me Warm’ – a more traditional rolling blues song with a nice plucky lilting guitar riff which serves to remind us that Kelly is as much a proficient songwriter and singer as an experienced musician.
Kelly is, I believe, a massive talent about to hit the big time. He has the songwriting skills and the musical experience that makes full use of his extraordinary voice, all wrapped up in a uber cool persona. He has all the qualities of a fully developing musician that makes the add-water-to-powder instant wannabe rock stars produced by so many reality TV ‘talent’ shows a joke. Keep an eye on him.
The single is available now on iTunes and the entire EP is available on 29 February 2016. Go get it.