Every sideman deserves a little bit of the spotlight. Session guitarist and live hired-gun Emmett Kelly has done his share of work for other folks. But this week he has a new mini-record out with his band The Cairo Gang, and he gets to take his place at center-stage.
Emmett Kelly’s indie-rock resume is a long one indeed. Not to bore you with a long list, but it includes stints (live and in the studio) with Sonny Smith, Beth Orton, Joan of Arc, The Fall, an early incarnation of Thee Oh Sees, and a whole lot more. Kelly’s probably best known, though, for his collaborations with Will Oldham (a.k.a. Bonnie “Prince” Billy). Kelly was credited under his own name for guitar, vocal and keyboard work on a few of Oldham’s records beginning with 2006’s The Letting Go. Also in 2006, Kelly released The Cairo Gang’s eponymous debut. In 2010, The Cairo Gang received equal billing with Bonnie “Prince” Billy on the record The Wonder Show of the World. Kelly also released The Cairo Gang’s sophomore disc Twyxt Wyrd.
For most of its history, The Cairo Gang has been pretty much Kelly working solo. But that changed for their new record Tiny Rebels (out this week via Empty Cellar Records). Kelly assembled a real band for the mini-record, and the result is jangly, tunes like today’s song of the day “Take Your Time.” One listen, and you might think that you were listening to a long, lost outtake from The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension. About halfway through the tune, the gentle, folky psychedelia yields to hallucinogenic, snaking, Eastern-flavored guitar lines before circling back. Kelly expertly guides the organized chaos in the back-half as the action starts to rise once again, and when the song ends it’s a beautiful release. Kelly, ever the sideman, is definitely in charge.