STATION TO STATION
John Kelly is another man revisiting old territory as he revives his music show, Mystery Train (Lyric, Sunday-Thursday), back on the airwaves after departing RTÉ Radio 1 a decade ago. At the time, the show’s demise was much lamented by his fanbase, including this reviewer. (Full disclosure: I was a regular contributor to Kelly’s show The Eclectic Ballroom, again way back in the days of Radio Ireland.) Having passed his afternoons since then mainly playing works by classical and contemporary composers on the JK Ensemble on Lyric, the presenter sounds positively giddy to be reunited with his old stash of records.
Early on Monday night’s (re)inaugural show, Kelly jauntily suggests it might take him a while to find his feet having spent the past 10 years playing “church music”. But he quickly settles into a groove, moving from vintage soul, R&B and jazz to rock, post-punk and even electronic-tinged pastures. Within an hour, Kelly sounds looser and more relaxed than he has in years, gleefully obliging listeners who want to hear “the music that got me thrown off the old show in the first place”.
On one level, Kelly is doing the same as Yates, simply going back to what he does best. But reviving the show has its risks, not least the chance that it might lack the old alchemy of a lugubriously witty host going off on enjoyable stylistic tangents. Meanwhile, Kelly has a prodigious musical knowledge and wide-ranging taste to match, but his selection leans undeniably heavily towards the past, albeit its rewardingly obscure corners.
But the new incarnation of Mystery Train is proving an unalloyed treat, as the host gleefully takes his passengers on a journey to unexpected musical destinations. The clue is in the show’s name.
MICK HEANEY IRISH TIMES
© John Kelly