Veteran Aussie singer/songwriter Paul Kelly can turn on a dime from poignance to cleverness without losing you. Maybe itís his peculiar knack for detail, as when he hurries an aside into a rhyme at the end of "Midnight Rain: "I hope youíre under a lucky star/Wherever you are/By the way, have you still got that stupid car?" Maybe itís his understated voice, dry as his native Outback and, when a song calls for it, every bit as harsh. Or maybe itís the way he punctuates his vulnerability in tunes like "If I Could Start Today Again" and "Love Is the Law" with cynical wit. He hits it best here with the elegantly simple twang of "I Wasted Time" and its cool couplet: "I tell you thereís no failure like success/And no success like failure too, I guess." He does overreach when he tries to meld new-jack programming with his folk roots in "Just About To Break." Give him points for trying to update his sound without abandoning his favorite subject ó the broken heart. But, Paul, if itís not fixed, donít break it.
(Paul Kelly performs this Saturday, April 6, at the Paradise with Freedy Johnston and Eileen Rose. Call 617-423-NEXT.)