Even when played by a full-tilt electric band, Paul Kelly’s best songs capture the detail of those moments in life that stop us in our tracks to consider how we will change (or already have) as a result of those moments. In the intimate, spare setting of Spring and Fall, the sound mirrors the lyrics, and each resonates off the other to vivid effect. On "New Found Year," for instance, the author utilizes circular acoustic guitar patterns to surround a set of words that simultaneously echo forward and backward in time.
Paul Kelly usually maintains a healthy detachment from his subject(s), such as on "When A Woman Loves A Man,” and that clarifies his observations. Yet, even when speaking directly of himself or to another, the way he does on "One for the Ages,” he communicates fully and deeply, delving inside the cliché referenced in the title to find the fundamental truth that turned it to a truism. The brevity of that track, one of three here clocking in at under three-minutes, ensures the accuracy of its intent as neither the singer nor the musicians–including long-time guitar comrade Dan Kelly–belabor the point of the composition or its arrangement.
Similar restraint comes into play with a larger ensemble as appears on "Gonna Be Good." Here Paul Kelly’s tongue is fairly far into his cheek as he delivers his vocal in a knowing tone. Meanwhile, drummer Peter Lunscombe also holds himself in check through the better part of the cut, thereby making all the more dramatic those flourishes by which he ascends upward with sweeping electric guitars at the track’s conclusion. Similarly, in "Someone New," the Australian composer isn’t afraid to directly confront contradictions of emotion and the simplicity of the arrangement amplifies this approach, especially when an orchestra billows up around him ever so briefly near the end of the track.
Muted though it is, Spring and Fall refuses to become background music. The mix of dobro and violin on "None of Your Business Now" catches the ear while the accusatory tone of the title tune carries through a pointedly urgent performance. "Little Aches & Pains" might seem implicitly defensive too until the final line: "I don’t count my losses now, just my gains;" The enlightening beauty of that conclusion lies in how it dovetails in spirit with the beginning of Spring and Fall and, in so doing, provides the finishing touch to one of the best albums of 2012.