ALBUMS, FILMS, MUSIC, BOOKS! BEST OF 2019!
“I think one of the most
beautiful things about being human is the music that we make and how it’s a
SALIF KEITA, ZIGGY MARLEY, BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA, YOLA, CW STONEKING, WILL KIMBROUGH
NICK LOWE, EILEN JEWEL, CEDRIC BURNSIDE, AMANDA PALMER
s n e d d i G n o n n i s a i i r h r u R T Patty o c s e c n a r Griffin F & combination of all of us.”
$12.95 inc GST JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE: 297
A Day On The Green
Volume No. 297 January/February 2020
Word. 09 The Welcome to the New Year. By Brian Wise
10 12 14 20
24 25 26
27 28 30
Rhythms Readers Poll 2019 Rhythms Writers Selection 2019 Vale Martin Armiger. Ian McFarlane salutes the former member of The Sports. Nashville Skyline Anne McCue reports in from the home of country music.
No Intermission Amanda Palmer is touring behind an album described as emotionally revealing ‘uncommercial art.’ By Meg Crawford. Hill Country Blues Cedric Burnside is bringing Mississippi back to Australia. By Meg Crawford. Heart Full Of Songs Brian Wise talks to Graham Gouldman one of Britain’s great songwriters, touring this month with 10CC. Burning Blues Kirk Fletcher is one soulful blues man. By Steve Bell. Gypsy Queen Eilen Jewel is back with a new album that addresses some major issues. By Meg Crawford. The Jesus (Of Cool) Returns Nick Lowe, master songwriter, is better than ever and touring with Los Straighjackets. By Brian Wise. The Real McNeil Tracy McNeil sheds her old life and makes the best album of her career. By Martin Jones.
FESTIVAL PREVIEWS 32 36
44 47 48 50 52
Rhythms Sampler #5. Another winner! Only available to subscribers!
ON TOUR 23
RHIANNON GIDDENS & FRANCESCO TURRISI:LIKE NO OTHER Rhiannon Giddens is reclaiming American music but has still found time to record with Italian musician Francesco Turrisi. THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN The Blind Boys of Alabama have eight decades of history. By Tony Hillier. REBELLION REGGAE Ziggy Marley has been around long enough to create his own legend. By Jonathan Alley. THE LION OF AFRICA SAYS FAREWELL Salif Keita, the legendary Lion of Africa, bids farewell to touring. By Tony Hillier. PATTY GRIFFIN RETURNS Austin-based Patty Griffin’s latest album looks inward as she recovers her strength and returns to Australia after more than a decade. By Brian Wise. OUT OF THE SHADOWS Is Will Kimbrough one of Nashville’s best kept secrets? By Steve Bell. IN SHADES While he works on a new album CW Stoneking plays it solo. By Samuel J. Fell. VAGABOND BROTHERS The Brit duo, Ye Vagabonds, are making timeless music. By Michael Smith. GEORGE BENSON: THE AXEMAN COMETH! The renowned guitarist pays tribute to some heroes on his new album and he will be here for Bluesfest. By Andra Jackson.
FIREWALKER Yola survived a life-threatening experience to make a Dan Auerbachproduced debut. By Brian Wise. AN IOTA OF TRUTH iOTA appeared at the first Gumball in 2005 and he is back for a special return show.
THE GREEN REVOLUTION A Day On The Green is nearing 20 years of great outdoor shows. By Jeff Jenkins. CHERRY ON TOP A Melbourne institution, Cherry Bar, is on the move. By Jeff Jenkins. CHERRY ON TOP A Melbourne institution, Cherry Bar, is on the move. By Jeff Jenkins.
TRAVEL 70 72
Reflections On The South Experience New Orleans and the South and you will never forget it. By Michael Mackenzie. Travelling Man: Jules Boult Musician Jules Boult also leads blues tours to the USA. By Michael Smith.
73 Musician: Liz Martin. By Meg Crawford 74 Musician: Mike Chunn. By Jonathan Alley 75 Musician: Rod McCormack. By Nick Charles 76 33 1/3 Revelations: By Martin Jones 77 Lost In The Shuffle: By Keith Glass 78 Underwater Is Where The Action Is. By Christopher Hollow 79 You Won’t Hear This On Radio By Trevor J. Leeden 81 Waitin’ Around To Die: Unsung Heroes By Chris Familton 82 Classic Album: Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats. By Billy Pinnell
MORE REVIEWS 83
95 96 97 98 98
FEATURE REVIEWS: Cold Chisel, Broads, David Bridie, Ruth Hazelton, Andy Baylor, Fenn Wilson, Fallon Cush, North Mississippi Allstars …… and more. World Music & Folk By Tony Hillier Blues By Al Hensley Jazz By Tony Hillier Vinyl By Steve Bell Film: Brian Wise talks to Nick Broomfield, director of Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love.
100 Technology. By John Cornell Books. Des Cowley reviews Archie Roach’s Tell Me Why:The Story of 101 My Life and Music. 102 Books Too! By Stuart Coupe. 104 THE RHYTHMS FESTIVAL GUIDE: JANUARY-JUNE 2020 108 Hello & Goodbye By Sue Barrett.
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is going on in the world. So, I am predicting that the next big protest movement in music will centre around the environment because whatever your politics I think you would agree that we need to do something. How prescient was Marvin Gaye back in 1971 on the brilliant album What’s Going? Just listen to ‘Mercy Mercy (The Ecology)’ and you’ll realise that things haven’t changed. I’d certainly like to leave my children a world that is better than it is now, wouldn’t you?
Welcome to the New Year. I hope you are looking forward to a great year ahead. I certainly am. I want to thank everyone who has subscribed or resubscribed to the magazine in the past month or so. You really are the lifeblood of this publication. Your support and feedback mean an immense amount to me. I know I have reiterated that a lot, but it is true. As magazines and newsagents fold like discarded playing cards we have managed to cling on a like a barnacle on the rusty boat of music. So, I thank you once again for your support. I’ll leave this subject with the observation that if every current subscriber convinced one friend or relative to subscribe, we would never have anything to worry about! So, think about it! In the meantime, hop online and buy a Rhythms t-shirt!
ALDOUS HARDING NZ AS THE WORLD TIPPED UK BILL CALLAHAN USA THE CAT EMPIRE Australia CATRIN FINCH & SECKOU KEITA Wales/Senegal EZRA COLLECTIVE UK HIATUS KAIYOTE Australia KIKAGAKU MOYO Japan L SUBRAMANIAM India LINIKER E OS CARAMELOWS Brazil MAVIS STAPLES USA MUTHONI DRUMMER QUEEN Kenya/France ODETTE Australia ORQUESTA AKOKÁN Cuba RHIANNON GIDDENS w/ FRANCESCO TURRISI USA/Italy SALIF KEITA Mali SLEAFORD MODS UK SPINIFEX GUM Australia TRIO DA KALI Mali TUULETAR Finland + MANY MORE! PLUS: The Planet Talks Program, Taste The World Program, Artists In Conversation, Installations, Street Theatre, Global Village, Workshops, KidZone AND MORE!
6-9 MARCH 2020 BOTANIC PARK ADELAIDE ON SALE NOW! WOMADELAIDE.COM.AU
The good news is that we have a brand new subscription portal which should make things easier for everyone. This is due to the change over to the web-based digital issue. So, you should be getting more timely reminders and it will definitely be an easier system to navigate. I hope you enjoy the current Rhythms sampler which I had the pleasure of compiling in the lead up to this issue. It is another reminder of the incredible amount of talent that we have in Australia. We have reverted to the old-fashioned CD due to some feedback from more veteran readers who were having trouble coming to grips with the concept of the download card. When technically challenged it is always handy to know a teenager, preferably one who will talk to you. One subscriber said they were reminded of what Ned Kelly’s mother said when cars first arrived in Australia: they scared the horses. It is a sign of the future I am afraid that a few horses are going to have to be scared but we will try to take it gently. (No horses were scared in the publication of this edition)
Anne McCue and Brian Wise at AmericanaFest. You might not have heard of some of the artists on the new Rhythms disc – that’s okay, neither had I! But what a journey of discovery. It was certainly a rewarding experience to go through all the music and choose a selection for you. I must admit that while I do use iTunes, I still much prefer the old physical product, in the same way that I prefer reading a book or magazine not a device. There were many highlights for me in 2019, not the least of which was becoming one step closer (literally) to the bionic man with a new knee. Unfortunately, the operation did not completely alter my personality and, while I am a lot more zen about some matters, I am still relatively critical of what
A decade or more ago we subscribed to cable TV so that I could watch the football. Little did I know then that I would be almost glued to it on a daily basis following all that has happened in politics over the past three years. ‘May you live in interesting times,’ is an old saying, attributed to the Chinese and used by Robert F. Kennedy. I cannot imagine any more interesting times in which to live. Apart from the usual TV news outlets, I am still a frequent listener to the radio. The ABC, BBC and NPR are my constant companions wherever I travel. I have also been a participant in the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime and confess that I have watched way too much television. But the fact is that there have been so many good series produced, most of which are able to stretch out over eight to ten hours, that with the advent of Apple TV you know that seismic shift will continue at a rapid pace. Sadly, we said goodbye to many notable musicians during the year. Many of us connected with community radio station Triple R FM also farewelled Stephen Walker (The Ghost). It has been difficult to believe his voice has disappeared from the airwaves. A mentor, inspiration, role model. He was all of these things to us and will be sadly missed. Until next month…..enjoy the music. Brian Wise Editor 9
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 THE RHYTHMS SAMPLER Here’s a brilliant way to start the new decade! Welcome to our fifth Rhythms Sampler. Twenty great tracks of wax (well, plastic). Available exclusively to subscribers of Rhythms and only until February 28, 2019. If you are not a member of the Rhythms family then please go to rhythms.com.au/subscribe and join us. Thank you to all the musicians who made their songs available. Thank you also to the labels. Thank you also to the subscribers who have made this possible.
SIDE A 1. TRACY MCNEIL & THE GOOD LIFE Catch You
The third single from the forthcoming album You Be the Lightning out in February through Cooking Vinyl Australia. Co-produced by Dan Parsons and McNeil, the track pays homage to her alt.country roots while flirting heavily with the unique pop sensibility she and her band The GoodLife have become known for.
2. MICK THOMAS’ ROVING COMMISSION Anything You Recognise From Coldwater DFU. Mick and the full Roving Commission band travelled to Memphis Tennessee to produce the album - which was also partly recorded at the late Jim Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch - and is rated by many as a career defining piece of work.
3. BROADS Velvet Paradise
From Stay Connected which is made up of eleven songs that are layered with dreamy textures, synths, slide and saxophones. A thought-provoking record that tells tales from a range of perspectives, from intimate and personal recollections to broader musings, but all poking at the same thing - connection.
4. STEVE POLTZ Windows of Halifax
From Shine On. Born in Nova Scotia, long-time resident of San Diego and now a Nashvillian, Steve has visited Australia 20 times! Every show is a delightful mix of hilarity and pathos (but mostly hilarity). The album reflects Steve’s multi-faceted personality. The album is produced by Will Kimbrough who will be at Port Fairy and the Blue Mountains Folk Festival.
5. LEAH FLANAGAN Love Like Water
Leah’s first single since the release of her 2016 album Saudade, is a love song to our precious water, resolutely focused and poised to force conversation around the plight of our red sunburnt country and the finite resource.
6. CHARLES JENKINS & THE ZHIVAGOS Horatio Hornblower
Courtesy of Popboomerang (from Shake Yer pop Boomerenag Vol.3). Recorded, mixed and produced by Justin Rudge in various houses around Melbourne 2016. ‘Horatio Hornblower’ was initially recorded for the water themed “Too Much Water In The Boat” album, and for some reason never quite made it.
7. LITTLE WISE Johanna
From the album Want It All. Little Wise is songwriter Sophie Klein, who has been turning heads and melting hearts. Owning the stage solo or cutting loose with Rosie Burgess (bass) and Pam Zaharias (drums), Little Wise fuses Indie Folk-Rock with a good dose of Melbourne swagger.
8. BEN LEECE Paper Thin
‘Paper Thin’ was one of the songs written for No Wonder the World Is Exhausted but didn’t end up on the album, but has since been a popular staple in the live set. It was recorded and mixed by my good mate Sean Cook at Novotone in Newcastle with a little bit of help from Ash Blakeney at the Penny Gaff in Melbourne and features performances from Liam Ferguson, Mat Taylor, Tom Brooks, Laura Baxter, Georgia Delves and Pat Wilson.
9. RUTH HAZELTON The Killing Times
From Daisywheel. Ruth Hazleton is a multi-awardwinning musician, singer and songwriter, who has toured nationally and internationally in a career spanning twenty-five years. Daisywheel is a stunning new sound brimming with originality and something to say.
10. HALFWAY Square Ruled Pages
Courtesy of Popboomerang (from Shake Yer pop Boomerenag Vol.3). From the veteran Brisbane band that is still one of Australian music’s undiscovered treasures. Their songs have developed into cinematic soundscapes, lush with pedal steel, densely layered guitars and driving rhythms.
SIDE B 11. JEMMA ROWLANDS Ancient History
Courtesy of Popboomerang (from Shake Yer pop Boomerenag Vol.3) “Last year while Jemma was putting together some demos to take to the US, she recorded a version of her friend’s song, Ancient History. The song was written for Jemma, and given to her as a guitar and vocals demo by L.A musician and songwriter Elijah Forrest. Jemma and her band arranged the song, tipping their hats to 1960s girl-group-esque style.
12. SAM SHINAZZI I Wrote A Book For You
Writer/director Heath Davis asked Sam to write a song for the closing credits to his film ‘Book Week This is also the first single to be featured on Sam’s next album (his sixth) due for release in 2020. It is performed with Michael Carpenter. “This is a special song for me with a tonne of meaning; I hope others get some feelings out of it too,” says Sam.
13. KATIE BRIANNA Boots
Produced by Adam Young and taken from Brianna’s forthcoming LP, This Way Or Some Other, set for release in early 2020 via Stanley Records. The album straddles indie rock and pop, roots music and good, old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll and features contributions from indie rock royalty, including Ken Gormley (The Cruel Sea) and Bow Campbell (Front End Loader) amongst many others.
14. FALLON CUSH Burn
From Stranger Things Have Happened, an album that “rings loud and clear with a seemingly endless supply of melodies that cascade from the speakers in a near-perfect blend of indie rock and alt-country.” Add an iconic set of classic influences that recall The Byrds and Tom Petty!
THE RHYTHMS CD SAMPLER! EXCLUSIVELY FOR RHYTHMS SUBSCRIBERS:
15. LIZ MARTIN BAND Led Me Down
From the album Led Me Down - an album that is “atmospheric, passionate, brooding, melodic, at times downright swaggeringly rhythmic, and full of a mesmerising and captivating musical and lyrical diversity.” Martin has released two solo albums and two EPs.
Tracy McNeil, Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission, Broads, Steve Poltz, Leah Flanagan, Charles Jenkins, Little Wise (no relation), Ben Leece, Ruth Hazelton, Halfway, Jemma Rowlands, Sam Shinazzi, Katie Brianna, Fallon Cush, Liz Martin Band, The Gadflys, Allison Forbes, Dave Wright & The Midnight Ramblers, Dirty Rascal, Nathan Seeckts.
16. THE GADFLYS Deborah
From Love Despair, the first in 19 years for this highly revered indie band - formed by brothers Mick and Phil Moriarty - whose years of touring and album releases saw them establish a unique place among the doyens of Australian music.
17. ALLISON FORBES Hell Freezes Over (Single)
From Bonedigger, produced by Shane Nicholson, which pays homage to Allison’s rock background with her gravelly roots still imbedded into her love of gothic country. Tamworth’s own rebel child is a breath of fresh air and an outburst of originality in songwriting. Allison Forbes is a newage outlaw of country music.
Subscribe to Rhythms Print or Print & Digital today and we'll send you our EXCLUSIVE SAMPLER FULL OF GREAT MUSIC.... AVAILABLE ONLY UNTIL FEBRUARY 28, 2020. GO TO: rhythms.com.au/subscribe
R H Y T H M S S A M P L E R # 5 J A N U A R Y/ F E B R U A R Y 2 0 2 0
1. Catch You - Tracy McNeil (3.53) 2. Anything You Recognise - Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission (6.46) 3. Velvet Paradise - Broads (3.50) 4. Windows of Halifax - Steve Poltz (4.20) 5. Love Like Water - Leah Flanagan (3.53) 6. Horatio Hornblower - Charles Jenkins (3.29) 7. Johanna - Little Wise (2.47) 8. Paper Thin - Ben Leece (3.27) 9. The Killing Times - Ruth Hazelton (4.44) 10. Square Ruled Pages - Halfway (3.35) 11. Ancient History - Jemma Rowlands (3.29) 12. I Wrote A Book For You - Sam Shinazzi (3.03) 13. Boots - Katie Brianna (2.47) 14. Burn - Fallon Cush (3.08) 15. Led Me Down - Liz Martin Band (3.32) 16. Deborah - The Gadflys (3.45) 17. Hell Freezes Over (Single) - Allison Forbes (3.18) 18. Murray River Outlaw Blues - Dave Wright & The Midnight Ramblers (3.23) 19. Smiling Heart - Dirty Rascal (3.11) 20. Sirens - Nathan Seeckts (4.02) T H E R H Y T H M S R E CO R D CO M PA N Y L I M I T E D , M e l b o u r n e , A u s t ra l i a P r o d u ce r : R h y t h m s M a g a z i n e C o v e r D e s i g n : G ra p h i c s B y S a l l y C o v e r P h ot o : B . W i s e Available only to subscribers. F o r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n c h e c k : w w w. r h y t h m s . co m . a u Thank you to all the artists for their support. P 2 0 2 0 R H Y T H M S M A G A Z I N E P T Y LT D
T H I S R E CO R D S H O U L D B E P L A Y E D LO U D STEREO
18. DAVE WRIGHT & THE MIDNIGHT RAMBLERS Murray River Outlaw Blues
From Turn Out The Lights. Formed in 2017, The Midnight Ramblers are Dave Wright’s side project and delve deep into his vast catalogue to re- imagine some of his most popular songs into down home country and bluegrass stompers.
19. DIRTY RASCAL Smiling Heart
From You Be The King.The project formed around an amazing collection of songs by Andrew McSweeney (Midnight Hunting Crew). Produced Grammy winning drummer Jerry Speiser (Men at Work). Smiling Heart explores how we communicate our love for one another.
20. NATHAN SEECKTS Sirens From The Heart of The City. A brilliantly powerful song about
domestic violence. Nathan takes inspiration from the songbooks of artists including Bruce Springsteen, Jason Isbell, Lucero and Steve Earle.
RHYTHMS READERS POLL 2019 AUSTRALIAN ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 1. Run Home Slow
5. Citizen John
The Black Sorrows
RHYTHMS READERS POLL 2019 3. Three Chords & The Truth
7. Breakdown On 20th
Avenue South Buddy & Julie Miller
BEST CONCERT/ TOUR – BY AN AUSTRALIAN ACT
1. Abbey Road
1. Teskey Brothers
The Teskey Brothers
10. Kitty & Frank
4. Ode To Joy Wilco
8. Patty Griffin
BOX SET/RERELEASE OF THE YEAR
2. Songs from The South Vol2.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Greatest Hits, 1985 – 2019 Paul Kelly
2. Kasey Chambers - Bluesfest 3. Lost Ragas – 7. Black & Blue Heart
3. Tell Me Why
INTERNATIONAL ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
5. There Is No Other
Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi
1. Western Stars
8. Dyson Stringer & Cloher
3. The Band
6. This Land
Dyson Stringer & Cloher
Gary Clark Jr
(50th Anniversary Edition) The Band
Out On The Weekend
BEST CONCERT/ TOUR – BY AN INTERNATIONAL ACT 1. John Prine
4. Thirteen Ways To look At Birds
2. Thanks For The Dance
2. David Byrne 3. Jeff Tweedy 12
JONATHAN ALLEY SUE BARRETT JEFF JENKINS
MICHAEL GOLDBERG STUART COUPE
ANDRA JACKSON >>
BILLY PINNELL IAN MCFARLANE
BRETT LEIGH DICKS
scene of the day, setting new standards with their mix of tough art rock and proto-punk energy. Writer Keith Glass described the band as a classic case of “right band, wrong time”, caught in a time warp between Countdown-promoted rock stars and the emergence of the new wave. They certainly had a unique intensity, with Glass commenting that “the oddly alien demeanour and appearance of singer Eric Gradman and his violin was front and centre, with as counterpoint the other lead vocalist/guitarist Martin Armiger looking scrawny and emaciated singing the more immediate snappy ‘pop’ songs”. Armiger began to hit his song writing straps with ‘Hit Single’ (also on the Carlton comp), ‘Gaze of the Damned’, ‘Cup of Dust’, ‘Drug Life’ and other Hearts numbers. he Australian music industry has mourned the recent death of Martin Armiger. He passed away in France on 27 November 2019; he was 70 years old. He was a guitarist, singer, songwriter, film music composer, producer and academic, a talented musician who was adored by his peers yet hardly recognised by the public at large. If it seemed he might hide his light under a bushel, such was his manner that he didn’t have to prove himself to anyone. Born John Martin Armiger, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England, he immigrated to Australia with his family where they settled in Adelaide. He got his musical career underway by the early 1970s, playing briefly with folk outfit Dona Nobis – led by the Doley brothers, Martin and Peter, who went on to front Rufus Red and X-Ray Z – before forming his own band Toads Nightly with future actor Noni Hazelhurst on lead vocals and Randy Bulpin on guitar. Armiger described the band as “a performance art group pretending/wanting to be a rock band”. Armiger and Hazelhurst also worked with a short-lived group called Johnny Ego and the All Stars with Rob Tillett. Moving to Melbourne in 1974, he immersed himself in the Carlton arts and theatre scene. With new members – including Jane Clifton and Jenny Keath – Armiger and Bulpin revived the band as Toads and played gigs around the Melbourne inner city circuit. He produced the soundtrack to Bert Deling’s cult film, Pure Shit (1975), which included several Toads and Armiger solo numbers. David Laing included Toads’ ‘Eudil’ and Martin’s ‘No Reason’ and the blistering rocker ‘I Love My Car’ on the excellent 2-CD compilation (When the Sun Sets Over) Carlton: Melbourne’s Countercultural Inner City Rock Scene of the ’70s (2014). Armiger took the songs into his next band, The Bleeding Hearts. The Hearts were one of the leading lights on the Melbourne underground 20
After the Hearts imploded in August 1977, he joined R&B pub band High Rise Bombers which also included Paul Kelly. In August 1978, he left to join The Sports who were then on the rise to major success. Armiger’s presence facilitated that rise to the mainstream, perhaps to the chagrin of their early fans but the delight of a much wider audience. The Sports’ lead singer Stephen Cummings recounted Armiger’s entrance into the band in his book Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? (2009). Cummings had just sacked original guitarist Ed Bates and inviting Martin to join “… created a mini-furore among the fans. They hated my guts. No one had a good word to say about me. What was I doing? Did I think I was hot shit? Was I going commercial? I hoped so. Martin was a good guitarist and song writer and he already had a following with The Bleeding Hearts, a more druggy, counter-culture group. ‘They’re no good since Martin joined’, people would bemoan. ‘They used to be great but I don’t get off on any of the new songs.’ The argument raged on and on: were The Sports better or worse since the addition of Martin? Martin had been at it much longer than we had. He was expert in all sorts of recording gear and great at arrangements… Martin knew how to sing terrific harmonies; I had never had a singing lesson in my life… Together we helped each other without getting in each other’s way.” The new Sports line-up was certainly flashier and louder; this was the version I remember seeing play live. If Armiger ever felt any pressure from outside forces he never said. Besides, his song writing contribution to the band’s oeuvre did all the talking: ‘Terror Hits’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘Strangers on a Train’, ‘Blue Hearts’ ‘When We Go out Tonight’ and ‘Black Stockings (For Chelsea)’, the last three co-written with Cummings. They are some of the brightest mod rock/power pop songs of the era, and in the case of the minor key ‘Black Stockings (For Chelsea)’ one of the most haunting and haunted tunes in Australian
rock. On an amusing note, check out the film clip for ‘Strangers on a Train’ – while the other guys appear in their cool street clobber, Armiger pops up wearing a sailor suit! Following the break-up of The Sports in early 1982, Armiger concentrated on session work, production duties (including Cummings’ debut, 1984 album Senso) and as Music Director and/ or composer for the ABC-TV series Sweet and Sour (1984), Dancing Daze (1986), Stringer (1988), Body Surfer (1989), Come in Spinner (1990), Seven Deadly Sins (1993) and Making Time (2003). His movie soundtrack work included The Empty Beach (1985), Young Einstein (1988), The Crossing (1990), Till There Was You (1991), The Wedding Party (1997) and Dark City (1998). His work on Yahoo Serious’ Young Einstein netted him an Australian Film Institute award, while he won the ARIA award for Best Original Soundtrack for You’ve Always Got the Blues, the soundtrack for Stringer.
ANNE MCCUE Anne McCue reports in from the home of country music.
If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Armiger devised and set up the Screen Composition course at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney, which he headed for 14 years. He was honoured at the 2017 APRA/AMCOS Screen Music Awards in Melbourne, with the inaugural Distinguished Services to the Australian Screen award. So that was Martin Armiger the artist and public figure, what about Martin Armiger the man? Rosie Westbrook is a renowned musician/screen composer who has worked with John Phillips (Not Drowning, Waving), Spencer P. Jones, Mick Harvey, Sean Kelly and Clare Moore, and she pays tribute to him: “I did a Graduate Certificate in Screen Music with Martin in 2009. It was a short version of the full degree he ran in Sydney. It was the only time they ran the course in Melbourne and basically Martin would fly down almost weekly from Sydney, just for this small class. He was our principal teacher but he’d bring in guest speakers, such as Philip Brophy. Martin taught us all the ins and outs of screen composition. He was just gorgeous, very patient, very funny, very giving of his time. “One of the first things we had to do was write a contract because he was adamant that we should know our rights He gave us all a blueprint for screen composition contracts. Because he was so incredibly smart he could actually understand contracts. The last time I saw him was at the 2017 awards. When the news came of his passing, I reckon every single student who studied under him would have been devastated. He was so many things in terms of a musician, producer and screen composer but to us he was just an amazing teacher.” 21
Amanda Palmer’s latest album is emotionally revealing ‘uncommercial art.’ By Meg Crawford
If Amanda Palmer (AKA “Amanda Fucking Palmer”) ever had qualms about shunning a major label in favour of crowd funding, hopefully she’s put them to rest in her third solo outing There Will Be No Intermission. The emotionally-revealing and often anecdotal album features ten songs – some of which run to a commercial-radio-repelling ten minutes – covering topics spanning abortion (‘Voicemail for Jill’) through to being a thoroughly human mum (‘A Mother’s Confession’), interspersed with musical interludes. Clearly, Palmer’s gutsy move has paid off – she’s freed herself up to create what she describes as “uncommercial art”, but others hail as a masterpiece. Now backed by over 15,000 patrons, the US singer-songwriter and one half of cult-duo Dresden Dolls relied on her Patreon crowdfunding platform not only to float the album financially, but also to engage directly with fans in order to shape it. “I knew that it would be financially liberating, but I didn’t quite know how it would affect me creatively,” she says. “I assumed it would affect me positively, but I had no idea how profoundly liberating it would be in the song-writing department until a few years in where I started realising how much Kool Aid was in my system regarding what a song was and how long it had to be. It was like I unplugged the refrigerator and finally noticed the missing hum.” The fact that Palmer communicated directly with her audience was nothing new per se –
she’s been doing it constantly on a variety of platforms for the last 20 years – but bringing them song-writing prompts was a first. “For three or four songs on the record, I went to my blog and said, ‘this is what I’m going to work on. I’m going to pose a question and I’m going to poll from your answers to write the song’,” she explains. “It really felt like capturing a zeitgeist. Reading 15,000 comments from real human beings across the globe and then trying to compose and mix them into a song was a magical feeling – like being a scribe of the tribe.” Now, Palmer’s in the thick of touring There Will Be No Intermission. On the frontline of the album’s impact on fans and a broader audience, the response is polarised. On one hand, a few doors slammed – for instance, Irish TV chat show The Late Late Show rescinded her invitation to perform after she refused its request to play a song other than ‘Voicemail for Jill’. “I was stunned that I was stunned,” she notes, wryly. “It’s a theme of my life.” On the other, her audiences are open-heartedly embracing the vulnerability and honesty of the album. Indeed, the show’s shaped up to be something akin to the Conversations With Nick Cave tour in terms of an artist’s candid exchange with fans. It makes sense then when Palmer divulges that Cave in part inspired her approach to the tour. “I actually talk about Nick Cave in the second act of my show,” she admits. “I not only talk about him, I tell a story about going
to see him in Sydney on the Skeleton Tree tour. I went and saw him while I was putting this tour together and not totally certain about how I was going to do it. Not just that show, but the album he made and song he made about the ‘Skeleton Tree’ and his entire approach, and mind you I’ve been a Nick Cave fan since I was 14 years old, served as a reminder to me that our job as performers is more expansive than we often remember.” With that injunction in mind, Palmer’s tour has taken some extraordinary and moving turns. For instance, she had the privilege of spending time with a fan in a hospice shortly before she died. She also found herself inviting abortionrights activists on stage when management for Dublin’s National Concert Hall refused to allow them to set up an information table in the lobby. For Palmer, it’s par for the course – her broader goal is connection. “Our job as entertainers is not necessarily to make the audience comfortable or to make the audience believe that everything is ok. If we’re doing our job as artists correctly, we’ll do the opposite. We will remind everyone that things are not necessarily ok, but that we are here on earth experiencing life together and, maybe ultimately, that is why things are ok. What people really want at the end of the day is to connect truthfully with one another and that’s really why we have artists.” There Will Be No Intermission is available now through amandpalmer.net. Palmer is touring in January and February. 23
BURNSIDE AS BURNSIDE
Cedric Burnside comes from storied roots, and while he’s his own musician, he’s keeping true to the soul of the music that defines him, writes Samuel J. Fell. Cedric Burnside answers the phone, says he’s expecting my call. I tell him I’ve been looking forward to chatting and he smiles, “All right, all right,” he says. He’s at home in Holly Springs, Mississippi, enjoying some time off after a long year spent taking his brand of hill country blues far and wide. “I’ll get to rest up a bit,” he says. “Well needed.” Burnside – son of drummer Calvin Jackson, grandson of the legendary RL Burnside, drummer and guitarist and songwriter, currently the man at the centre of Mississippi hill country blues – has been touring hard on the back of his first solo album, Benton County Relic, released in late 2018. It’s not his first release by any measure, but it’s the first it’s just him, it’s all on him. “It’s something I always wanted to do,” he says on making an album that was his – not The Cedric Burnside Project, not his partnership with Bernard Allison, not
anything he ever did with guitarist Lightnin’ Malcolm. “I love collaborating with people and stuff like that, but I always knew I wanted to do a solo album. I always knew I wanted to play the guitar like I hear it in my head, and write the songs like I have them in my head.” Benton Country Relic is Burnside and drummer Brian Jay. It was recorded in Jay’s Brooklyn studio. It’s pure hill country – a heavy percussive foundation, overlaid by driving guitar, repetitious and boogie-fuelled. It’s Burnside, make no mistake. Burnside, ever since he began playing the blues, has been a drummer; indeed, he was drumming in RL’s band at age 13, and it’s been behind the kit where he’s contributed most – with the likes of RL, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Kenny Brown, T-Model Ford, Paul ‘Wine’ Jones, as well as more contemporary acts like Widespread Panic and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. And so, a key
difference to making this solo record was stepping to the front, and swapping the skins for six strings. “I always wanted to play the guitar more,” he muses. “Of course, I love the drums… but guitar is my newfound love, so I wanted to play it more, and I definitely wrote more songs playing the guitar.” It may come as a surprise to learn that Burnside has been playing the guitar for almost fifteen years, seriously the past seven years. And he’s taken to it naturally, which should not come as a surprise, given his pedigree. “Because I’ve played drums so much, I’ve always had to play music to the other guys, and let them do it their way,” he explains. “So, it’s a good thing for me to hear the music like I hear it in my head, and play it like I want to play it.” Benton County Relic (the ‘relic’ part of the title nothing to do with Burnside himself, but the music: “So many of my friends when they heard this music were like, man, it sounds like something old, back in the ‘60s.”), is the calling card of a man who knows where this music is coming from. There’s another record in the works, Burnside looking at heading back to the studio as early as this month, but it bears investigation as to how important it is for him – again, given his pedigree – to keep the torch burning. “Oh man, it’s very important, I don’t even have the words to explain how important it is,” he enthuses, almost in awe of the position he’s in. “I’m not trying to fill shoes, of course, I wouldn’t dare try to do that.” He briefly name-checks his dad, his grandfather, Junior Kimbrough: “It’s kinda hard to fill their shoes.” “But I can make my own mark and keep this music alive, because this is what I learnt from them,” he goes on. “It’s in my blood… I think they’d be very proud of me to keep it alive, and also not contaminate it with anything, trying to be what I’m not. I am hill country blues, I’m from the old school, and that’s how I wanna keep my music.” Burnside tells of his big daddy (his name for RL) playing him Muddy Waters and Fred McDowell records when he was young. “I might have been only one of the grandkids, of fifteen or twenty, who sat there and listened to that music, saying ‘What is this?’” he laughs. “It captured my heart; it’s what I love the most.” Benton County Relic is available now via Single Lock Records. Cedric Burnside tours Australia in March, see gig guide for details.
Even before his phenomenal success with 10cc Graham Gouldman was a renowned songwriter. By Brian Wise. While 10cc might have sold more than 30 millions records with a slew of hits that helped to make Graham Gouldman one of the most successful writers of the ‘70s he was already renowned before songs such as ‘Dreadlock Holiday,’ ‘I’m Not In Love,’ ‘Rubber Bullets,’ ‘Art For Art’s Sake,’ ‘The Things We Do For Love’ and others were dominating the charts. Gouldman had already enjoyed huge success in the ‘60s with songs such as ‘For Your Love,’ ‘Heart Full of Soul,’ and ‘Evil Hearted You’ for The Yardbirds, along with ‘Bus Stop’ for The Hollies, ‘No Milk Today’ for Herman’s Hermits and ‘Pamela, Pamela’ for Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. In 1970 Gouldman teamed up with Eric Stewart (also a writer and engineer) along with Kevin Godley and Lol Crème to form 10cc and enjoy even greater success. While the original line-up of 10cc has not been extant since the late ‘70s Gouldman has retained the band name and will be here in April with The Things We Do For Love tour, reprising all the hits. The 2020 version of 10cc will feature Gouldman singing as well as playing bass and guitar. Long-time members Rick Fenn and Paul Burgess will be on lead guitar and vocals and percussion respectively, while Mick Wilson will be on vocals, guitar, percussion and Keith Hayman plays keyboards and guitar and also adds vocals. Gouldman might be a veteran musician but he hasn’t slowed down. He did two tours with Ringo Starr in 2018, has been recording a new solo album and has kept 10cc alive. Of
course, it’s a different world now to when he began writing chart hits in the ‘60s. Does he think the art of songwriting is dying? “I don’t think it’s dying,” he replies on the phone from the UK. “No. Because of the way music is made now, it sounds different. It’s more mechanical. There seems to be a lot of writing teams. I wouldn’t write with more than three people at a time. Somehow the song gets diluted in a funny sort of way, so that there might be 10 writers credited. So, I would say that it’s still there, but it’s changed somewhat. “There is a kind of formulaic sound to a lot of songs. There is actually a chord sequence that is used a lot and it seems to be a lot of people use this chord sequence and that might have something to do with it. But it’s also the way songs are recorded and autotuned and there’s a kind of a soullessness about them.” When he arrives here with 10cc, Gouldman will have a huge batch of great songs to play live. How does the band manage to reproduce the elaborate sound of the studio recordings on stage? “I’m very keen to do that,” he responds. “When I go to a concert, I don’t personally
want to hear any new versions or different versions of a classic song. I’m a big believer in that. We do as much as possible to reproduce the song as the original record. Now, of course, the personnel of the band has changed somewhat but I think the main thing to do is to capture the spirit of the original record as much as possible. I think we do it pretty faithfully. We’re told that we do so and I try to do that, and so I think we succeed.” “The songs to me are the stars of the show,” he continues. “It would be ridiculous for us to go on and do loads of unknown songs. It would be absolutely ridiculous. I’m really aware of what an audience wants to hear. I’m an audience member myself. I go to gigs and I want to hear all the hits. If the band decides to do some other extra stuff and they think it’s okay then that’s fine by me. It’s a special relationship. It’s one of those things where a lot of the time people say, ‘Well, you must’ve sung ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ thousands of times. Thing is of course, it’s not that I’m just repeating the song, I’m repeating it to a different audience every night when we’re on tour. So, that makes a complete difference to just singing it and just singing and singing it.” 10cc will be touring Australia in April/May. 25
OF THE MINOR KEY Eilen Jewell’s latest album deals with restlessness – and politics.
By Meg Crawford
From playing in church to supporting blues greats, Kirk Fletcher is a soulful blues man
By Steve Bell. Kirk Fletcher has spent his whole life surrounded by music, from his earliest forays playing guitar in his father’s Pentecostal church to his hard-earned current status as a soulful blues-guitarist to be reckoned with, having played alongside artists the calibre of Joe Bonnamassa and in outfits like the Fabulous Thunderbirds. In more recent times he’s added singing and songwriting to his arsenal and his most recent solo album Hold On finds him a bona fide triple-threat, the bountiful riffs, licks and solos augmenting strong self-penned songs showcasing a fascinating worldview. “It’s mainly about love and passion and just reflecting on moving from Los Angeles to Switzerland, and just looking at the US and everything that’s going on there in a different way,” he explains. “I’m like an outsider in a way, but also being very much connected through experience. “It’s just really interesting and Hold On is a product of that really, just my observation on life. And being in my early-40s too, I’m quite different from the man I was in my 20s or 30s, thinking about just guitar and blues and jamming all the time, that’s all there was!” His upbringing forged in Fletcher an unquenchable desire to form a bond with his audiences. “I’m from the church – my father was a pastor – and I was playing in front of people when I was nine years old in my father’s church, so I’m just really used to that connection with people,” he continues. “Especially now writing my own songs and saying what I really want to say I think I enjoy that connection even more, and when people understand what I’m saying that’s really great. “I wish I’d started singing earlier in the church, but it was a really great musical experience. You’re all going there and you’re all together and it’s just like a big family thing. 26
“I think that’s the biggest thing about it, really, just the spiritual part and having everybody together and playing music together – whatever you do and no matter how bad it is or how good it is, if you’re there you’re there and it’s all a big happy family. Mostly!” As well as being a guitar prodigy he also formed a relationship with the blues from a very young age. “My family is from Arkansas so my parents would talk about these blues artists and stuff, people they would listen to when they were young in Arkansas,” he smiles. “So, for that reason these names always intrigued me and mystified me and made me want to check out what they were listening to, because I’ve always just liked old-timey stuff. “When I figured out who Muddy Waters was and B.B. King and Lowell Fulsom – the list goes on and on – I was just fascinated by it. I don’t know why or anything, but I’ve always just been enamoured by old stuff.” That’s not to the complete exclusion of modern music, Fletcher’s tastes seeming to know no bounds. “I really do like all kinds of music,” he laughs. “It started with gospel, and then everything on the radio and then MTV when I was a kid I was into. Growing up learning how to play guitar in the ‘80s it was a time when everything cool
had a guitar in it, so that was everything from Van Halen to The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Prince to Miles Davis.” Fletcher was even present around gangster rap when his father relocated the family to build a church amidst the genre’s ground zero. “My family – my Mum and Dad and me – moved to Compton in 1987 or 1988, and it was right at the height of all that gangster rap with NWA and DJ Quik and all that stuff,” he recalls. “It was a crazy culture shock because I was from the suburbs of California like Long Beach and Lakewood, totally the opposite of that. “It was a culture shock but I think in some ways it was very beneficial just to see how life was in a different way and to learn that there was something different. But I just kinda stayed in my room a lot and practiced and listened to records, just trying to stay out of trouble. “Although I really am a big, big fan of funk music like James Brown and ParliamentFunkadelic and Prince and Chic and all that stuff so I could see the connection between funk, blues and rap music of that time. It didn’t have enough guitar in it for me at that time, but I dug it!” Kirk Fletcher is touring Australia in February.
With her latest album Gypsy US singer-songwriter Eilen Jewell (AKA the Queen of the Minor Key) demonstrates yet again why she’s hailed as Americana royalty. Jewell’s 2017 record Down Hearted Blues was a glorious collection of vintage-blues covers, but fans have been waiting since the album prior (2015’s Sundown Over Ghost Town) for Jewell-penned tunes. On Gypsy she’s delivered with 11 original songs spanning traditional country through to blues-rock, plus one cover being the country heartbreaker ‘You Cared Enough to Lie’, which pays homage to her criminally underrated, honky-tonk idol Pinto Bennett. Unifying the album is the prefix “early”. While Jewell’s oeuvre is firmly in the Americana camp, it’s the early iterations of music under that banner that float her boat. “There’s something more honest about early music than there is about contemporary music,” she says. “A lot of it has to do with the production style in the studio. I think that’s what I mean by honesty. In early forms of studio production, it was one microphone and you captured a performance. So, the people in the studio had to be able to make the sounds that you hear on the recording, whereas nowadays you can invent any sound with a computer, and you can overdub anything you think is a flaw. The flaws, as it turns out, are partly what makes the recordings magical to me.” Jewell has said previously that she doesn’t work up her albums with a theme in mind per se. At some point though, she often comes to realise that certain thoughts are on high rotation during the process. With Gypsy, it was the concept of restlessness that preoccupied her. Jewell’s quick to point out that she loves her life, but her feet have been scratchy ever since she was a kid. “When I was living away from my home state of Idaho, the restlessness took the form of homesickness and I’d write a lot about Idaho,” she explains. “Then, when I moved back, I wrote a lot about what home meant to me, what it meant not to be finally homesick and what this place that I call home seems to be like to me. Now that I’m home, it’s a restlessness that’s maybe more a spiritual restlessness that keeps popping up. “I’ve been back in Idaho now for, gosh, it’s been seven years already. It seems like that comes up quite a bit. I’m here now, but what does it mean to be home? It turns out that it doesn’t mean all of my problems are solved, and every now and then this urge to almost become a different person or to step out of who I am and where I am and reinvent myself still comes up.” Thematically, there’s an angry undercurrent to Gypsy as well. Take, for example, ‘79 Cents (The Meow Song)’, a triumphant, catchy-as-hell feminist anthem for our times, which takes a due stab at Trump, amongst other targets including the wage gap. Fundamentally, it’s an old-school protest song, and while most of Jewell’s audience revels in the sentiment, it’s put the wind up listeners in the Trump camp. In part, it’s a defiant response to fans not wanting her to be political in the first place, and the outpouring of wrath she incurred when she posted on Facebook that Mavis, her five year-old daughter, had said if “she was POTUS, she wouldn’t be grabbing ladies by the vagina”. The kid’s on the ball, right? You’d think that would be an absolutely uncontroversial statement, but no, sadly. “That post and the negative response to it really bothered me for a while and it took me a little while to get over that one. I don’t really understand why anyone would object. It seems like one of the things people really objected to about my daughter saying it was just that we had told her it had happened. They were calling me a child abuser – that Trump said that wasn’t something kids should know about. I guess what I’m concluding is that people who are pro-Trump will do and say anything to protect him, even if it means calling someone the worst thing you can call them – even if it’s to someone whose music you supposedly like – it doesn’t matter provided you’re protecting him and what he stands for. It’s just a very strange world we find ourselves in right now.” Eilen Jewel is touring Australia in March.
Once dubbed the Jesus of Cool, Nick Lowe is a masterful songwriter who just gets better with age. By Brian Wise Nick Lowe, master craftsman and producer, is returning to Australia next month for his first tour in seven years but this is a tour with a difference. Lowe will be accompanied by Los Straitjackets, a band devoted to guitar instrumentals (they also recorded an entire album of Lowe’s tunes), and for performing in the famous Lucha Libre fighting masks. Lowe arrives hot on the heel of his recently published biography (Cruel To Be Kind: The Life and Music of Nick Lowe) by former musician Will Birch – a tome that by his own admission the songwriter has not bothered to read. Just one of the many things you might be surprised to learn is that the childhood Lowe became friends with the future King of Jordan. The book is a rollicking read and outlines the various incarnations of Nicholas Drain (Basher) Lowe since he joined his first band, Kippington Lodge in the mid-‘60s. Lowe was a pub rock pioneer with Brinsley Schwarz. (In fact, not only one of my favourite bands of all time but a source of great regret in that I did not arrive in London in time to see them during that famed pub rock era). Then he became a pop/rock star with his own hits such as ‘So It Goes,’ ‘I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass’,’ I Knew The Bride’ and ‘Cruel To be Kind’ and songs that were hits for others such as ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.’ There was a substantial career as a producer for Stiff Records with the first Elvis Costello albums plus Graham Parker, The Damned and Wreckless Eric - and, later, for Carlene Carter (whom he married), her father Johnny Cash and others. He was also in Rockpile with Dave Edmunds and toured Australia with the band back in 1979. Throw in the short-lived ‘supergroup’ Little Village with Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner with one excellent album to its name. Add a swag of royalties from getting a song on The Bodyguard soundtrack which has enabled Lowe to do whatever likes free of the demands of musical fads and fashions. There are at least two tribute albums to Lowe and literally hundreds of covers of his songs, including Midnight Oil on ‘Peace, Love & Understanding.’ For the past quarter of a century Lowe has been recording albums that have become hallmarks of how a songwriter can mature and develop their craft for an adult audience, dealing with the sorts of problems that afflict us all. From The Impossible Bird in 1994 28
through to The Old Magic in 2011 Lowe has written a host of songs that sound like they can stand with some of the classics recorded by some of his idols. Lucky enough to see Lowe on many occasions overseas, including the famous Massey Hall in Toronto, I was intrigued to know how the combination with Los Straightjackets might work. But when I saw them at Antone’s in Austin, Texas, in late 2018 any doubts were immediately quelled. The combination is dynamite with the band bringing a new energy to Lowe’s performance. Lowe and the band have recently released the Love Starvation EP which includes a great cover of ‘Raincoat In The River’ (recorded by Ricky Nelson). “They are well-known in the United States,” explains Lowe of Los Straightjackets when we catch up by phone. He is in his home outside London. “They don’t do vocals. I have known them for a long time and we share a management. They can turn any tune into a surf instrumental!” “They are a fantastic group,” he continues. “I got together with them, five, six years ago, I suppose. I put a Christmas record out and it had pretty good success in America, where I work most mostly nowadays. Then we started to get invitations to do what you might describe as out-of-season work. That is really when it started taking off for us, and I started writing songs for the group, for the projects. It really started to get into something much more interesting.” “When we first got together, I suggested some tunes we could do and they dutifully, sort of learnt them up,” continues Lowe. “We had been in the rehearsal room for about half an hour and I said, ‘Look boys, just play the songs as if you were going to do them instrumentally and, let us throw the record out of the window, so to speak - just learn the chords up and away we will go. “That is when it started really getting cracking and it doesn’t feel at all like they are backing me up or anything like that. It does feel that I sort of joined their group, really.” How does Lowe feel about his recently published biography by Will Birch? “Well, I haven’t actually read it,” he admits Lowe. “So, I don’t really know what is in it. It is a very curious thing because when he asked me if he could do it - I have known him for a long time and he is a really a good friend of mine - I was flattered but I didn’t really want him to do it - mainly because I am still alive. I think they need a bit of an ending these books. What better than to have the old Grim Reaper coming in the final chapter. “Also, I thought really it is a bit naff now. Those books, they are four a penny. Every bugger has done it. I thought he had missed the boat a bit with it. So, what I thought was that I could stand apart from
it, rather grandly, while he went around and interviewed everyone. I didn’t really mind what anybody said. In fact, the more scurrilous the better was my feeling. But I also thought I don’t have to worry because he will never get a publisher. I thought no one is going to want to read this. So, he will never get a publisher, or he will just get bored and fed up and he won’t finish it. So, I relaxed about it, and he got on with it. “Everything was going fine until he uncovered this stuff about my antecedents, my great grandparents and things. He called me up and said, ‘Look I have dug up this stuff about your people. Let me take you to lunch and show you this stuff.’ So, he did, and it was so fascinating to me that the next thing I knew he had invited me to lunch again. I had the best part of a bottle and a half of Pinot Grigio inside me and I am gassing away to him about bloody Wreckless Eric and Dave Edmunds, which is the one thing that I totally didn’t intend to do. So, I was rather seduced into it. But I find it extremely uncomfortable reading stuff like that about myself. So, I haven’t actually read it. So, I don’t know what the hell is in it.” “So, I am really in a strange position with it but it is my own fault. Will is a great guy and I don’t want to fall out with him. There is no reason for that to happen at all.”
“But the weird thing was that we didn’t break up. We stayed together and we got this house together because we were the only people we knew, really, and just had nothing else to do really, except practice and practice and play away and build up this huge repertoire of tunes. Then when suddenly this opportunity, this pub-rock thing started, which we were in on very early, it couldn’t have been better for us, really. Suddenly, it all turned around and was actually rather a plus. Suddenly we found ourselves being back in the public’s good books again ... well, at least in this sort of cool cognoscenti of London in the early seventies. You know, suddenly, it was very cool to be in that scene and, we found ourselves in it by accident.” Nearly 50 years on from that fiasco, Lowe has gone on to be one of England’s most respected contemporary songwriters. Unlike some of his peers, he has also shown that growing old gracefully in the music industry is possible and, like fine wine, he has just got better with age. Nick Lowe is touring with Los Straightjackets in February. The Love Starvation EP is available on YepRoc.
“With the passing of time it seems more and more remarkable,” responds Lowe when I mention that many fans might be surprised to learn that he spent a lot of his childhood in foreign countries due to his father’s job and even got to know the young King Hussein. Then there are some great stories about his early career, especially the ill-fated Brinsley Schwarz launch in New York by Fame Pushers Ltd. The band was flown to New York for a showcase, arrived late and confronted a room of drunken music writers. It did not end well. “The curious thing the Brits have - and, for all I know, the Australians too - is that they like to pull people down if they think they deserve it,” he explains, “and then, after you have done a little time in purgatory, suddenly you are an underdog and Bingo! you are all right again. Because they love an underdog and they love pulling down someone who has got a bit too big for their britches. “Certainly, before we went on this trip, I remember swanking around town telling everybody, ‘Oh yes. We are off to the States next ... “ We were really just this terrible little group that had been playing every little shit hole in town and suddenly there I am swanking away to my friends about how we are going to play at the Fillmore East. “Of course, everything did go wrong, as you know, and we got a thorough caning for it. I remember how that felt ... just the awful realisation of how foolish and stupid we had been, and what a lot we had to learn. 29
Tracy McNeil sheds her old life and starts anew with the best album of her career. By Martin Jones By my hasty reckoning it was very close to ten years ago when I first came across Canadian singer-songwriter Tracy McNeil. She introduced herself to Australian audiences working alongside Jordy Lane – the couple even formed a duo, Fireside Bellows. Though they went their separate ways, McNeil remained in Australia and set about establishing her own career, putting together a handful of albums and gathering a band of some of Australia’s best musicians, a group she calls The Goodlife. The latest incarnation of the line-up sees Dan Parsons, an accomplished singer-songwriter himself, taking McNeil’s side as guitarist, muse and producer on the brand-new album You Be The Lightning. Anyone who’s seen Parsons and McNeil perform individually or as a duo (which they’ve been doing a lot over the past 12 months) will attest to how perfectly their music sensibilities coalesce. And it’s there for everyone to hear on You Be The Lightning – an unabashed love letter to classic rock. From the moment the warm synths and Tom Petty-ode guitar riff bloom in opening track, ‘Highway Girl’, it’s a familiar and welcoming place. “I think the beauty of us and why we work so well is that we’re so in sync,” McNeil says of Parsons. “Our musical tastes are spot on, like we can read other’s minds. He’s really great at articulating… I might have an idea, and he’s able to really clearly articulate it to someone else so that we can get the sound we’re after. “We’re after the same thing. It’s very rare that we disagree. And he’s never willing to settle. I might settle sooner than him ‘cause I might be tired and go fuck it that’s good enough. But he never settles until it’s right and it’s so worth it.” That said, when it came down to the allimportant track sequencing for You Be The Lightning, McNeil trusted her own judgement… with a little “spiritual” guidance. “Oh, I did that in the backyard drunk! But I put a lot of time into it!” she laughs. “I spent hours with the headphones on with the house to myself. I had plenty of wine and we had some behind the scenes footage and I was putting together what I thought would be a promo clip at the time because I thought the record 30
TRACY MCNEIL & THE GOODLIFE YOU BE THE LIGHTNING COOKING VINYL This sounds like the album Tracy McNeil has been wanting to make her entire career. Not that McNeil’s past work has been substandard, it’s just that everything sounds like it’s fallen into place on You Be
would be out a lot sooner. So, I came up with that order and then I showed Dan, he got home later, and I said, ‘What do you reckon?’ And he’s like, ‘Perfect, it’s fucken done!’ I just knew. “People just say chuck your best songs up the front but, nah… it’s gotta be A-side, B-side. I think of the vinyl when I do it. You flip the side and here’s the second half of the journey.” Parsons is just one of a number of factors that have collectively conspired to reward McNeil with the best work of her career. A confessional break-up and start-over record, You Be The Lightning rattles with the extreme highs and lows that make such records (Rumours is the obvious example) landmarks. “The record is kind of born also out of a relationship dissolve, you know, a marriage dissolve really, and that’s huge,” McNeil reveals. “That’s where it all began. The independence and going out on my own (sigh) it’s been a whirlwind. Because I’m a sucker for comfort and what I know and what makes me feel safe and what makes me feel supported and I’ve just basically thrown all that to the wind. Like let’s just see what happens. I just felt this burning to break all the norms and just do what I wanna do and like time is short and life is short, and time keeps fucking ticking and it’s not stopping for anyone. So, I’ve never really done that. I’ve never gone a hundred percent in.”
The Lightning – the songs, the players, the production. And it’s earned McNeil her first label signing, a gratifying result. Like many landmark albums, You Be The Lightning was born of heartbreak and rebound. McNeil split with her long term partner but gained a new muse in singer-songwriter Dan Parsons, who co-produced the record. Though McNeil wrote all the songs and brought them to the band, Parsons’ influence in helping to arrange and polish the material is
evident throughout, as is his world class guitar playing. But the whole band has lifted under the inspiration of these songs, Bree Hartley’s drumming climbing to a new level and Brendan McMahon playing the Benmont Tench role. Both McNeil and Parsons’ sensibilities owe a lot to ‘70s country rock and pop and here they realise Stevie Nicks’ dream of joining The Heartbreakers.
It’s all there on opening track ‘Highway Girl’ which unfolds like a sequel to ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’. But we’re just talking about aesthetics there. As the stories and melodies claw their way under your skin you begin to appreciate the McNeil has poured her heart and soul into these songs. Martin Jones
place where you’re living the most authentic life you can. And that’s led me to a life in a van and selling all my furniture! But it feels great. It’s scary but it’s exciting. “And the moment I stepped off of the platform onto the train, everything started coming together. And then the phone call came through that we have this support and the label wants to put out the record.” Yes, that’s the real big news for McNeil who was preparing to release You Be The Lightning independently. “We’ve worked on this record for over two years,” she picks up the story. “It’s the longest I’ve worked on any album. And not only that but writing songs for a year and a half and then recording it over a year or so and Dan and I we produced it together and we spent hours and hours working fine tuning it long after the band was done. So, it’s been a long haul. And then we were just gonna smash it out. We were gonna put it out right when we got back from Canada. And then we thought we might as well just pitch to labels thinking nothing would happen. And then… something happened. So that was cool and that changed the trajectory. “We pitched it and didn’t think anything would happen and then Cooking Vinyl wanted to pick it up. I got the phone call in Canada and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s really cool’. I’ve never had a team or that kind of backing.”
It sounds like there was no shortage of subject matter and emotional inspiration for songs…
It’s gratifying confirmation for an artist who has refused to give up on her music.
“No that’s for sure. It’s a real cathartic rebirth. I’ve got stuff in the bio, like how do you distil a year and half of your life where you changed everything you know – everything about your life? Just standing on your own two feet and looking at what’s not working to get to a
A series of yet to be revealed opportunities are lining up for McNeil in 2020, apt reward for her resilience and commitment. You Be The Lightning is available on Cooking Vinyl February 14, followed by a national tour. 31
Rhiannon Giddens is helping to rewrite the narrative of American music history as well as continuing to push musical boundaries in collaboration with Dublin-based Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. By Brian Wise It was almost a miracle as well as a pleasant surprise when Rhiannon Giddens arrived at Sound Stage Studios with Francesco Turrisi during the Americana Festival last September. The next day Giddens was to receive the Legacy of Americana Award (presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American Music) and was also nominated as Artist of The Year. One of her other projects, the fabulous Our Native Daughters (with Amethyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell) had been nominated as Group of The Year and were performing at the ceremony. (They have also been nominated for a Grammy in the Best American Roots Song category). As well as that, Giddens was on one of the conference panels and had also been promoting Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary series in which she has a role. You wouldn’t have blamed Giddens for being stressed out and deciding not to do any interviews.
“So many people around the world are trying to tell us that we are all different and we’re all separated….”
Yet Giddens seems remarkably relaxed amidst the rush as we are ushered into a small control room overlooking one of the main studios. Perhaps it is the fact that she has spent fifteen years in the industry since the formation of the Grammy Award winning Carolina Chocolate Drops that enables her to remain so calm. Yet there is certainly an intensity when talking about music, something about which she obviously feels passionate. In 2017 Giddens received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, one of 30 individuals to do so, enabling her to concentrate on music for a year. The Foundation noted that “Giddens’s drive to understand and convey the nuances,
complexities, and interrelationships between musical traditions is enhancing our musical present with a wealth of sounds and textures from the past.” In the past two years alone, since her acclaimed solo album Freedom Highway, Giddens has also: been only the fourth musician to appear at both the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, performed as a soprano with the Louisville Orchestra in a tribute to Muhammad Ali; appeared in The American Epic Sessions documentary, written the music for the ballet Lucy Negro, Redux; recorded vocals for an art installation; contributed a song to a popular video game; hosted a regular podcast on music and appeared in the TV series Nashville. (The only thing she hasn’t done is write a book, but she is probably working on it right now!). All along, Giddens has been an advocate for the re-examining of American music and giving credit to the role of African Americans in the development of the music. Giddens shared the Americana Legacy Award with Frank Johnson (1792-1844) a North Carolina native who was a prolific composer and leader of a travelling black brass band and also the first African American musician to have his works published as sheet music. Now Giddens is sitting with Italian multiinstrumentalist Turrisi who will be out in Australia in March, perhaps hot on the heels of a Grammy for Best American Roots Performance for the song ‘I’m On My Way’ from their album There is No Other, produced by Joe Henry and recorded in five-days in Dublin, Ireland. Turrisi was born in Turin, studied in the Netherlands, travelled the world playing jazz, then settled in Dublin. Over the years he has performed and recorded with Bobby McFerrin and Dave Liebman amongst others and even toured Australia with the music group l’Arpeggiata. His latest solo album is titled Northern Migrations. “When I left Italy, at the time I wanted to study jazz professionally, and there wasn’t really a structure there that could offer everything,” he recalls when I ask him how he became a jazz musician living in Ireland. “So, I ended up going to Holland, because one of the teachers I was working with in Italy started there - as opposed to coming to America, which was what most of the
people would’ve done at the time. But it was so expensive and so far away. So, then I thought Holland would be a little bit of a compromise. So, I was there for a while, and then I ended up moving to Ireland because I actually married an Irish woman.” “Ireland, I suppose, is home now,” he adds, noting that he got divorced but has a child to look after. “It’s been 13 years since I’ve moved there. There’s a lot of influences there as well. I’ve been a little bit involved with the local scene with Irish traditional music as well, and stuff like that. Trying to bring my sounds there and absorb some of their sounds. So, there is a lot of different influences, for sure.” Giddens also lives in Ireland, having married an Irish musician. Though they are now divorced they still have children to care for who live there. “Basically, where the kids live, that’s where we live,” she says. The music on There Is No Other album traces the overlooked movement of sounds from Africa and the Arabic world and their influence on European and American music, with a mix of original songs and interpretations ranging from Ola Belle Reed’s ‘I’m Gonna Write Me a Letter,’ as well as ‘Wayfaring Stranger,’ ‘Little Margaret,’ Oscar Brown, Jr’s ‘Brown Baby, the Italian traditional ‘Pizzica di San Vito’ to Gian-Carlo Menotti’s aria ‘Black Swan by. Like a lot of histories, the musical history of America was not necessarily written by the people who actually did make it. Giddens role and the Burns’ documentary helps to change that. “It’s great that he’s doing that, that he’s making this such a detailed documentary,” she says. “There’s a lot of things to surprise people with country music. Unfortunately, the narrative has been told in a very particular and false way about where that
music comes from. I hope that his production will move the needle on that because I think it’s crucial that it’s talked about because of the things that are dividing us in the United States right now. I mean, they always have, but it’s particularly, I think, important to talk about how more together we have been as a people.” “It’s just become more uncovered,” she responds when I suggest that things seem to have become a lot worse in recent years. “I just think it’s important now that people see that this has always been here. Now we just have to grapple with it in a way that is going to make some change. “I’m just one of many talking heads. I was the last interview that they did, and they talked to a ton of people. This took years and years and years to put together. It was 16 1/2 hours or something like that. But I’ve represented an important strand that has often been left out of the story. So, I’m glad that they brought me in to just put my little bit in.” Giddens’ musical scope can be seen in the two albums that she was involved in during 2019: the one with Turrisi and the other, Our Native Daughters. “Songs of Our Native Daughters - that’s an album of the black women who play the banjo and who writes songs,” explains Giddens. “We’ve all worked together in different ways throughout the years. >> 33
Amethyst is the relative newcomer to the group, to the whole scene. But we took the opportunity to just get together as a group and to write songs and really address the issue of the African American woman and the history that we have - in particular with all of the intersectionalities. We have the misogyny and the racism all rolled into one. Particularly black women in America. It’s a real particular history and a very unique culture, and we got an opportunity to address that in song and music together, which was pretty great.”
STELLAR FOLK, BLUES & ROOTS MUSIC FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE PLUS WORKSHOPS, THEATRE FORUMS AND MORE
RHIANNON GIDDENS (USA)
Does this tie in with the MacArthur Fellowship?
“The album was called There Is No Other, referring to this idea that there is a lot of connections that are there somewhere, they just want to be uncovered sometimes. So many people around the world are trying to tell us that we are all different and we’re all separated. But we’re trying to say it is with music, and trying to find all this connection between different, let’s call them musical genres, styles, and instruments that are not necessarily related on the page. So, there’s a lot of different things in it. “With a lot of this stuff, I don’t think we went at it in a conscious way originally. I think we have a very similar approach to music in general. We’re both conservatory trained. Rhiannon studied classical opera singing, I studied jazz piano in conservatory. But at the same time, we both got very deeply into folk music and different types of music from where we are from. Me being Southern Italy, 34
ELEANOR MCEVOY (IRL)
“That really gives me the freedom and the courage, in some ways, to just say yes to the things that I want to do and would not think too much about how commercially viable they’re going to be,” she explains. “To just say, let’s just go into the studio and if the label doesn’t take it, then I’m going to pay for it myself. The record with Francesco was like that. It was just like, we need to go into the studio, and we need to do this and if Nonesuch doesn’t want it, then well, by gum... But they did, of course, which I’m really happy about. But the MacArthur’s given me a little bit of bravado in that sense. Up to a point, but just to go: I really believe that this needs to happen, so let’s just do it and worry about it later in terms of money.” “The album, I suppose, represents a little bit our collaboration and our meeting,” says Francesco about There Is No Other. “Me and Rhiannon met once by chance four years ago, where we just ended up having a little jam and discovering all this strange connection and instruments that normally are not really put together. Then we started talking again, two years ago and this project, little by little, started coming together.
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the Mediterranean, and Rhiannon being Southern, from obviously that part of the United States. We bring all of this different luggage with us of instruments, of different types of music. It just came really natural. We discovered so many sounds in this process.” It has always seemed odd to me at the Americana Awards that jazz – that most original and unique form of American music has never been of Americana and I pose that question to Giddens and Turrisi, especially given his background in jazz. “Well, that’s the problem with made up labels, isn’t it?” observes Giddens. “I understand what they were doing with the Americana, I totally get it - but this is the issue. Who draws those lines? Who gets to say what is Americana and what isn’t Americana? What represents Americana? “The very term Americana, you would think, well, that means American music but it doesn’t. It means a very particular kind of American music. But it’s just like any other label. What does even jazz mean? That actually covers a very broad spectrum of music. But then some people would say, ‘Well, this is real jazz and that’s not.’ So, we
always get into these troubles with labels. Music just hates labels. It really does. Any time you really try to pin something down, that’s when I feel like the music starts to die. “It’s just like the best stuff has always come out of this combined with this to make this amazing thing. That’s exactly what we’re trying to say with There Is No Other. It’s just like this has been going on for millennia and it’s been going on from around the world. When people move with their instruments and they move with their musical ideas and wherever they go, they affect and are affected by the people who are where they end up, or who [they meet] along the way. So, it’s just really obvious in America because it was such a short amount of time and all these different peoples came and mixed in ways that they hadn’t previously. But this has been happening everywhere and it’s part of our human condition. I think one of the most beautiful things about being human is the music that we make and how it’s a combination of all of us.” Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi will be appearing at Port fairy, Womadelaide and the Blue Mountains Music Festival.
3 Grammy Win s Americana Ar tist of the Year
HARRY SHEARER INTRODUCES
A MIGHTY WIND
G N OU Y NEIL BE denied WON’T >> The lyrics tell a version of Young’s story. Growing up in Canada, his father leaving when he was a young boy, beat up at school, dreams of stardom, leaving Canada for Hollywood, courted by “business men” who came to hear “the golden sound.” The key verse is the fifth one, especially coming as it did after the success of Harvest. Neil Young writing to himself, writing to his dead friend, writing to every wannabe rock star.
“Well, all that glitters isn’t gold/ I guess you’ve heard the story told/ But I’m a pauper in a naked disguise/ A millionaire through a business man’s eyes/ Oh friend of mine/ Don’t be denied.” And the chorus, which at times during the tour he would scream: “Don’t be denied/ Don’t be denied/ Don’t be denied /No no, don’t be denied.” On this version however, he reprieves the fourth verse, the one about business men coming to hear the “golden sound.”
In terms of longevity, the Blind Boys of Alabama have set a highwater mark for music making that’s unlikely to be matched. To put their astonishing record into historical perspective, in the eight decades since this now venerated gospel group first started singing together, America has participated in a world war, finalised the creation of the atomic bomb, put men on the moon and witnessed the arrival of the worldwide web. During the 1960s, the band was part of the soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement, singing at benefits for Martin Luther King. They’ve played for three presidents: Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama. Eric “Ricky” McKinnie has been associated with The Boys for more than 40 years, since 1987 as a fully-fledged member, singing, drumming and narrating. As such he recalls their first trip to Australia back in 1994, though he can’t remember exactly how many times they’ve been back since. The group’s sublime four-part vocal harmony has seduced all denominations and demographics on past trips, including a fistful of shows at Bluesfest, and will doubtless mesmerise audiences at the WOMADelaide, Port Fairy, Perth and Brunswick festivals when they return to our shores in late February and March. As McKinnie enthused during a phone interview with Rhythms: “Every time we come over we have a great time.” The Boys’ group leader and elder statesman, sole surviving founder member Jimmy Carter, is well into his eighties now but still going strong. Others in the touring group — fellow blind singers, baritone Ben Moore and soprano Paul Beasley, and guitarist/musical director Joey Williams — are spring chickens by comparison. McKinnie, who lost his sight to glaucoma in 1975 at the age of 23, insists their disability is no handicap: As he asserts: “It’s not about what you can’t do; it’s about what you do. And what we do is sing good gospel music.” He enjoys unique status as the only nationally known blind drummer in the US. “I don’t think my drummin’ changed after I lost my sight; I think people’s perception of who I was changed. I’ve always had the ability. I’ve used my ears to be more focused on what’s happenin’ around me. So many people become visually distracted by what’s going on around them that they don’t listen.” 36
Although folk and country artist Marc Cohn became an honorary member for last year’s Work To Do album and subsequent tour, the Grammy Award-winning composer and singer won’t be joining them in Australia. The Boys have five Grammy Awards of their own, including a Lifetime Achievement Award and have recorded more than 60 albums. “I’d have to say that getting’ the Achievement Award at the Grammies was our finest moment,” says McKinnie. “That award let us know that it was all worthwhile,” he emphasises, adding with a chuckle: “Most of the previous recipients of that award have stopped travellin’ or they’re too old to really appreciate it.” Commenting on the group’s astonishing staying power and sustained popularity, he points to consistency in personnel over the years: “We’ve only had about half-a-dozen changes”. Of all the songs that The Boys have covered in their career, McKinnie singles out ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘God Said It (That’s Good Enough For Me)’ as personal favourites. Another set-list staple is Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’, which in the Blind Boys‘ rendition becomes a fervent prayer for salvation. Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ and Norman Greenbaum’s ‘Spirit In The Sky’ are other pop songs that benefit from their deep gospel approach. Traditional works such as ‘Down By The Riverside’, ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain’, ‘Take Me To The Water’ and the civil rights anthem ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’ are also mainstays in the repertoire. Spirituality and simplicity are the prime criteria in the selection of new material, McKinnie indicates. “Every song we do tells a story that people can relate to,” he stresses. “They’re songs that are easily understood and that touch hearts. We don’t have a problem with doin’ any kind of song — and we’ve been doing secular songs for a long time — because what we sing is from the heart and reaches the heart. People who come to our shows always have a good time, and if they come sad they’ll go away happy. We always have a good time, because we really enjoy what we’re doing.”
On a tour where Young was challenging his audience with an album’s worth of new material, perhaps with this song he was insisting one has to follow their vision, no matter the cost. Certainly, he was saying there’s more to life than money – something he certainly knew by then. “‘Don’t Be Denied’ has a lot While the Blind Boys have worked with an impressively diverse to do with Danny, I think,” Young told McDonough. “…I think that’s array of stellar guests on records and on stage, Ricky says they don’t the first major life-and-death event that really affected me in what actively them out. you “Wekinda don’treassess try to pick anybody. here; I wasseek trying to do… yourself as toWe’re what you’re our doing door’s–always open. All you’ve is knock, and ifSo, you’ve because you realize thatgotta life isdo so impermanent. you got wanna somethin’ thatbest we you like can and while can come we’ll do it.” do the you’retogether here, tothen say whatever the Among famous thatyourself.” The Boys have recorded or fuck the it is many you wanna say.artists Express
worked with in a career that has seen them cross multiple musical Michael Goldberg, a former Rolling Stone Senior Writer and boundaries, McKinnie singles out Ben Harper, Dr John, Tom Petty, founder of the original Addicted To Noise online magazine, is Aaron Neville and Peter However, they’ve also collaborated author of three rock &Gabriel. roll novels including 2016’s Untitled. with legends like Prince, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Lou Reed, Mavis Staples and George Clinton. While they’ve been in existence for eighty-odd years, the Blind Boys Of Alabama show no signs of slowing down — as 150 shows last year, including a tour of Europe with blind West African duo Amadou & Mariam — might indicate. The $64,000 question now is: will they be able to keep going long enough to pass the centenary milestone? “I reckon we will,” says McKinnie, who seems confident that new members will always emerge to extend the group’s imposing record. “We keep our ears open for fresh talent; we try to find people that think like we do.” The term “living legends” is lobbed around with impunity by glib music commentators. With the Blind Boys of Alabama, however, use of the alliterative catchline is nigh obligatory. Mind you they acknowledge some assistance from ‘on high’. “I believe the band has been chosen to do what we do,” says Eric “Ricky” McKinnie, adding, “and when God shows favour, things work out for ya. We’ve been prayin’ for a long time and just believin’ that things do work out. We do what we have to do to keep the music goin’ and do the best concerts that we can.” The Blind Boys of Alabama play Perth Festival (Feb 29), WOMADelaide (March 6 & 7), Port Fairy Folk Festival (March 8 & 9) and Brunswick Music Festival (March 12). 76
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Ziggy Marley carries on the work of his father, whose political messages are still relevant. By Jonathan Alley Ziggy Marley’s name is synonymous with conscious roots reggae. Nearly four decades have passed since his father Bob Marley died in 1981, and the years have provided space to forge his own identity. But the power of his globally recognised surname never diminishes. He is the first-born son of a cultural icon who changed music, whose empowered message of self-reflection and human unity couldn’t be more relevant in 2020. Ziggy began playing music aged only 11, while his father was still alive, going on to subsequent success as The Melody Makers (with his several siblings). But, Ziggy Marley is absolutely his own man. His latest album, Rebellion Rises was recognised as his strongest in years, the opening track Dem Fake Leaders decries the current global political class as “riding a wave of fear, starting fires … making enemies out of friends.” While Rebellion Rises is undoubtedly a solo album (his seventh), Marley evidently still likes to record with family. His younger brother Stephen contributes vocals and guitar to Circle of Peace and Ziggy’s young son Gideon delivers a spoken contribution to the track Storm is Coming, a musical re-telling of a phone conversation Stephen and Ziggy as a storm bore down on their respective homes. Prior to an Australian visit to play Womadelaide (March 6-9 2020, Botanic Park), he’s speaking to Rhythms from Los Angeles, as wildfires continue to impact the drought-ravaged Californian city. “The fires, they still burn, but we survive.” he rumbles down the line. It’s just pre-interview small-talk, but delivered with such gravitas it could be a song on Rebellion Rises. “Our responsibility as human beings is to be more forceful in our objectives: more forceful in addressing man-made climate change” he says. “It is in our hands, we need to stand up and show the leaders of the world that the mass majority of us feel this way, about the direction the world is going in, we also need political influence within Government”. 38
The climate emergency is just one issue addressed by the record. The cavernous leadership vacuum at the helm of some of the world’s major nations is, not unexpectedly, a major pre-occupation. “Politicians don’t care about ‘x’ or ‘y’ anymore, all they care about is power. t’s really interesting to me, this time in the world. Their agenda is not going to succeed. They have no longevity, our hearts are not there, where their hearts are. They are leading a small group of people with this hate.” ‘Mosiah Garvey’, a 1975 cut by legendary Jamaican dee-jay Big Youth (later sampled by On U Sound’s Gary Clail) prophesied that ‘there will be a false leader’ and that people would ‘die like dogs’ as the prophecy is fulfilled. But it’s all too easy to draw a straight line leading to today; Marley knows the song, but typically has a wider, more philosophical view. “There are many ‘false leaders’! Look at Africa, the richest place on Earth. It’s not one person, it’s a generation of leaders who are selfish, who are greedy, who have no ideology, who have given power to their own objectives – instead of asking how we can work together as a planet, to help everyone on the planet. Why is that so hard to do?” Riled up, Marley is suddenly in righteous full-flight. “What’s so hard about that? Instead of all this hate and war, instead of Russia annexing Crimea, instead of Islamic Terrorism, it’s not beneficial to the people. We have to wake up the people. Music is a part of that. It is so reachable! We can do it! Addressing racism, more forceful in addressing the use of war and violence to solve conflicts between peoples and nations. It is achievable!” But do leaders even need to be political? Marley remains dismissive of political process and readily agrees that, in this day and age, anyone can be a leader, in a way. “Greta Thunberg? Sure: she’s great. But we can all be Greta, or our own version of her; it’s just lazy to let these politicians decide our destiny. None of them care about us as people”. Marley undoubtedly paints in big brush strokes: he doesn’t so much see ‘nations’, more a world
of peoples. He’s interested in a better world for people wherever he goes, no matter how much or how little he knows about his destination. Australia seems to be no exception. Asked what he knows of the political climate here – the Australia behind the beautiful beaches and stunning scenery used to attract tourists – he’s typically candid. “Most of us are people that disagree with the actions that we see taking place all over the world. It is detrimental: because it’s not a civilised way to treat human beings. A refugee? Someone who is less fortunate? How do you treat people? I tell you: it has been tried before, it has failed. They will try again, it will fail. But we need to exercise our actions and voices: because they think there is no opposition to what they’re doing.” Marley’s way of exercising his own voice is to make stirring roots reggae. Indeed, in the political hotbed that was the Jamaica of his youth, reggae was the true soundtrack to the times; and not just his Father’s records either. As the post-independence nation struggled to set a course and the bitter political rivalry between Edward Seaga and Michael Manley caused tensions to boil over, the reggae stars of the day reacted with music. And Ziggy Marley grew up around it all. But today, Jamaica is different. Dancehall, cocaine and basketball have taken the place of the roots rockers’ ganja and cricket. Marley respects the cultural expression of Jamaica today, but sees less of the spiritual conscious roots message espoused by his father in his heyday “No, it’s a different generation and you expect that. That’s not a problem: youth have expressed themselves” he reflects. “I like all types of music: I’m not judgemental of people expressing themselves. But that music that we speak about is a spiritual music: and I will say that that is missing from the modern music coming out of Jamaica, there’s no magic in there, no spirit; there’s an element missing – a spiritual element.” Ziggy Marley plays Womadelaide March 6-9 2020, Botanic Park, Adelaide.
RECOMMENDATIONS If you’re heading to Womadelaide , here are three releases from Ziggy Marley we recommend you check out first. CONSCIOUS PARTY (ZIGGY MARLEY AND THE MELODY MAKERS) The Melody Makers break-out record, produced by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz (Talking Heads); the production might still be ‘of Its time’ given the pop sheen that hangs over the record , but the songs are actually muscular and dynamic ; particularly the dubby Lee and Molly and the breakout hit Tomorrow People. FLY RASTA (2014) Solo album three saw Ziggy effortlessly achieve critical acclaim with a roots album as modern production took other reggae artists in myriad directions. Huge credibility due for legendary DJ U-Roy’s appearance, also features guest vocal spots from Sharon and Cedella Marley. REBELLION RISES (2018) Why sit on your laurels when you can burn them? Rebellion Rises Is rough and tough: the realist record Marley’s ever made. Contemporary production that’s right for the music, killer horns, righteous vocals mixed way up front. Possibly the Ziggy Marley record you’ve always wanted him to make. One to wave flags to, without a doubt; a record for the times. Listen for the sneaky shout-out to brother Damian’s Jamrock In World Revolution.
Rebellion Rises is available now. 39
FESTIVAL The legendary ‘Lion of Africa’ bids farewell to his Aussie fans Tony Hillier salutes Salif Keita He is known around the globe as ‘The Golden Voice of Africa’ but as legendary singer Salif Keita winds down an illustrious trail-blazing music career ‘White Knight’ might be an even more fitting sobriquet.
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The first of the fledging 1980s’ World Music scene’s superstars will be bidding farewell to his Aussie fans when he makes his fifth and final appearance in March at WOMADelaide’s Botanic Park, where he previously graced the main stage in 1993, 1997, 2007 and 2013. At the age of 70, and after a half-century of gigging and recording and four decades of international touring, the farmer’s son from the former French colony of Mali has decided to significantly scale down his involvement with the music business to spend more time on an island home in the Niger River that affords him “peace and tranquillity in the midst of the crazy hustle and bustle that’s Bamako”. Also, to consolidate a lifelong commitment to ease the suffering of those, like himself, who were born albinos. >>>
>>> If that’s not implicit in the title of what seems certain to be his last full album release, 2019’s Un Autre Blanc (Another White), Keita spells it out in his deeds and in his public statements. “The main purpose of the album was to record and release a number of titles I had been working on for some time, and to do so in collaboration with a number of close friends, musically speaking – Angelique Kidjo, Alpha Blondy and Ladysmith Black Mambazo especially. But, of course, it was important to make another statement on behalf of all those affected by and living with albinism. I will continue this struggle for as long as I am able.” The ‘White Knight’ of West African music currently oversees two foundations — one local, the other global — in his campaign to help stamp out prejudice about albinism in the land of his birth and in Africa
in general. “We have to speak out,” he declared recently on a French website. “People with albinism are killed because of old beliefs.” Folklore and superstitions have led to albino people throughout Africa being shunned, beaten, murdered and even dismembered for their body parts, which are said to have magical powers. The legendary musician feels compelled to continue promoting acceptance and understanding of people born with albinism. “I’m black with black blood, although I have white skin. I’m proud to be an albino and I’m proud to be who I am. Although prejudices are deep-seated, and killings and mutilations still take place today, decades later, I feel that we’ve made some progress. I’m hopeful that the prejudices and superstitions that enable the crimes against albinos will be eradicated in my lifetime.” Growing up as an albino in Mali wasn’t easy for Keita. On the upside, it ultimately led him to music, though it wasn’t exactly a smooth path. His original ambition to be a teacher was dashed when he was told he couldn’t teach because schoolchildren would be frightened by his appearance. Initially, he didn’t want to be a musician. As he explains: “I’m from a family of nobles. In Mali, nobles don’t make music — that’s for the griots.” Salif says he was left with no choice: “I could either be a musician or I could be a delinquent, a criminal, a thief, a bandit.” Keita’s family tried to stop him becoming a muso, so he left home in the late 1960s for Mali’s capital city, Bamako, where he began singing in cafes and restaurants. At the time, he thought music was just something to do until he found another profession. He never imagined himself becoming a pro musician, but after teaching himself to play guitar he joined the original Super Rail Band. He performed with that famous collective in the hotel restaurant at Bamako station
from 1969 to around 1976. Thereafter he joined Les Ambassadeurs, whose residency at a Bamako hotel exposed Keita to an international clientele. Political unrest eventually saw him move to Mali’s southern neighbour, Côte d’Ivoire, and a desire to reach a wider audience led him in the mid-1980s to Paris — then the epicentre of the burgeoning phenomenon known as ‘world music’. He quickly established a following as a solo artist in the French capital. Keita’s 1987 debut album, Soro, was an international revelation, combining the musician’s strikingly soulful and soaring singing with traditional Mandinka music, cutting-edge production and an A-team of expatriate musicians, to create a sleek Afro-pop melange. Apart from a few tweaks and the odd excursion towards acoustic instrumentation and jazz-funk, Keita’s sound has not fundamentally changed over the years. “I’ve maintained my style throughout,” he concurs, “though, of course, it’s been shaped by different producers over the years.” A wide range of musicians has influenced his style. “I love the 1950s/60s R&B soul music of Wilson Pickett and Etta James, for example, but also mainstream rock bands such as Santana and Pink Floyd, and of course African music, ranging from Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba to Oliver Mtukudzi and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.” Keita dismisses those reviewers who’ve criticised the slick production of some of his albums and the reliance on synthesizers as naïve and ill-informed. As he retorts: “Working with producers such as Joe Zawinul and Jean-Philippe Rykiel, for example, it’s inevitable that keyboards and synthesizers would be used extensively.” Reportedly, Keïta took a while to accept the fact that he was a vocalist out of the ordinary. “I started singing hoping for the best. Today, when people tell me I have an exceptional voice, I have come to believe it.” Being classified as ‘The Golden Voice of Africa’ now makes him feel honoured and flattered, though, as he points out, “I do not really have control over the names and titles that the media come up with.” While Salif thinks his voice may have grown deeper over the years, he says that when he recently recorded a new version of ‘Soro’ with Michael League of Snarky Puppy, he sang it in the original key of
25 years earlier. “So I don’t think my range has changed that much.” The artist’s biographer, Dr Cherif Keita, a professor in the US, put his cousin’s accomplishments in perspective when he said: “When some people sing, they create social change. Salif changed the old ways in Mali, our relationship to musicianship, to classifying people. Because of his condition, he had to latch on to what he could do to survive in a harsh environment in Bamako. Music became his salvation.” In 2004, Salif Keita returned to Mali on a permanent basis, following several decades of living in Paris. Despite the instability and threat posed by terrorist activity during the Tuareg rebellion in the north, a military coup and the government’s chequered record, he has stayed put in his homeland. “Mali is the land of my ancestors … I love this country, no matter what. I could move a thousand times, but I will still belong to only one land on earth, Mali.” Keita reports that the political situation is still an area of great concern to him and fellow Malians. “It is clear that the current strategy is not working, and in fact, the situation has worsened dramatically in 2018 and 2019. I believe that we need to see a Malian army that is well trained and equipped in order to take care of this problem, and eliminate foreign interference in Malian internal politics.” Musically, the outlook is brighter for Mali. As Keita indicates: “We have an incredibly rich cultural heritage here, and we have had many very talented musicians. Artists such as Tidiane Kone, Ali Farka Touré, Oumou Sangare, Amadou & Miriam, Cheick Tidiane Seck and Habib Koité have contributed significantly to the stature of Malian music internationally. There are a number of talented musicians in my band pursuing solo careers, including kora player Mamadou Diabaté, vocalist Bah Kouyaté and percussionist Molobaly Kone. At home in Mali, there are many talented young artists coming up, including rappers Mylmo and Ami Yerewolo.” Salif Keita has fond memories of previous visits to Australia, where he says audiences have been incredibly supportive and appreciative. “WOMAD festivals are among the most well-organised that I have had the pleasure of performing at.” For his farewell appearance at WOMADelaide, he’ll have in tow what he describes as a very exciting band of young Malian musicians. “I have both old and new songs in the current repertoire, so the audience can expect an action-packed show.” It promises to be a suitably stirring swansong from the West African superstar. Salif Keita plays WOMADelaide on Saturday March 7.
Patty Griffin finally returns to Australia after more than a decade with a selftitled album that also tells her story. By Brian Wise Meeting Patty Griffin for the first time is something I will always remember though she hadn’t even recorded an album as yet and I hadn’t seen her perform. It has been a long journey for both of us since then. It was April 1995 and we were at Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway Studio on Esplanade in New Orleans when I found myself sitting next to the thirty-one year old flamed haired Griffin in the huge downstairs room which was operating as a studio adjacent to a massive staircase in the centre of the historic building. The Italianate structure of Kingsway was just one of the many grand old plantation houses that line the streets of the city and hint at much better times more than a century ago. Lanois and his offsider Malcolm Burn had been working with Emmylou Harris, in a daring move for the singer, on a new album that was still six months away from release. Griffin was there to record some demos with Burn, after she decided to finally pursue a music career following the breakup of her six-year marriage. She was as shy as you imagine someone just setting out in professional music and maybe as overawed as I was at being in the studio that had not only seen U2 and Bob Dylan through the doors but also spawned the Neville Brothers’ greatest album Yellow Moon. Griffin and I had a very pleasant conversation before Malcolm Burn appeared and asked if we wanted to hear what they were working on. He popped a DAT into a deck and the music cascaded out from huge speakers into the cavernous room, washing us in an incredible sound the likes of which I had never previously heard. Later, when I left Kingsway, I immediately rang a friend to tell them that I thought I had just heard the best album of my life. (Nearly
a quarter of a century on, with a little more perspective, it still ranks in my favourite five). As Griffin and I listened to the music for a few minutes I looked over at her and she quickly said, ‘It’s Emmylou’, in case I thought I had suddenly discovered one of the greatest new talents of the era. The album Wrecking Ball was to be a landmark in Harris’s career and still stuns with its power and beauty. Griffin’s recording career was a little slower to take off but those demos, which got her a record deal, were never released. I had, in fact, inadvertently discovered a great new talent and have followed her career assiduously ever since. “No way. Wow! ” says Griffin on the phone from Austin, Texas, when I remind her of the time we met at Kingsway. (I obviously made a lasting impression!). A year after our meeting at Kingsway, Griffin released her debut album – Living With Ghosts - which was also another set of demos with a different engineer. In the years since, as her reputation has burgeoned, she has released nine more studio and two live albums and become one of the outstanding writers and singers of her generation. Along the way, Griffin has collected a Grammy, for Best Traditional Gospel Album (Downtown Church, 2011) and garnered six other nominations. Her latest album has been nominated for Best Folk Album at next year’s Grammys. In 2007 she received the Artist of the Year Award from the Americana Music Association and her album Children Running Through won Album of The Year. Griffin has also had her songs performed by Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke, The Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson & Jeff Beck and many more and her songs have also been showcased in film, TV, and theatre projects. A couple of years ago we saw her performing with Steve Earle and Emmylou on the Lampedusa tours, which she helped to create, and which was supporting the Jesuit Refugee Service. As I talk to Griffin, I am also reminded that we have seen her there with Robert Plant, who moved there in 2011 after Buddy Miller had suggested he enlist Griffin to sing backup and she ended up touring with him. Plant moved back to England but still visits. He added backing vocals to her album American Kid in 2013 and to two songs on the
latest album, which is Griffin’s first since Servant of Love in 2015. “I had a lot going on for a while and I just couldn’t make the trip,” says Griffin when I tell her that we are looking forward to seeing her back in Australia, this time with a small ensemble. David Pulkingham, her long-time accompanist, will be on guitar, along with drummer Conrad Choucroun, who is also a multi-instrumentalist. “I like small bands,” says Griffin. “I like it quiet.” Over the past few years Griffin has been recovering from breast cancer, which has had a profound effect on her life. But last March she returned with Patty Griffin, an album that ranks amongst her best. “I really like it a lot. I still do,” says Griffin of her latest album. “I’m not tired of it yet, and we’ve been touring for quite a while with it. So, I’ll definitely be bringing some of that into the set. Hadn’t really thought about it. I imagine I’ll dig into the past a little bit too.” Patty Griffin is co-produced with Craig Ross, who also plays a variety of instruments. There is an array of local Austin musicians including her touring colleagues. There is also an Australian connection in Dave Boyle, who engineered some of the album at his Church House Studio in East Austin and also worked on Servant of Love. Griffin laughs when I suggest that the album is self-titled, “ I guess because is it all about you?” “It’s all, all about me,” she says, “and any of my exes.” “Actually, I had a working title,” she explains after I apologise for my ill-chosen phrasing in perhaps suggesting that she was self-centred. Griffin says that she discovered that a British pop singer had just released an album of the same title so Craig Ross, her producer, suggested she use the eponymous title for the first time. “But it is appropriate, isn’t it?” I ask. “I think it is,” she responds. “I mean it is sort of a turning point record for me as far as my work goes. I feel as though Servant of Love is sort of the end of a road of a pile of work that probably began with Malcolm Burn, began in that studio. That was a path and definitely I’m on a different one now. I’m older, I’m 55. I was 55 when this record came out, and everything about why I do this has changed then. So, yeah, it seems brand new in a lot of ways to be working.”
“And speaking of brand new, it was post being ill for a while,” she continues, “and I did lose my voice and I had to sort of figure out that again. So, it is brand new in a lot of ways. So, it might as well start with a selftitled record.” “Well, anybody who’s a singer can tell you that,” replies Griffin when I mention that such a serious illness can be traumatic and require a long recovery. “ I guess for anybody who has any job. Sometimes something comes along where they lose their ability to do their job and it makes me think of professional athletes actually. I have a lot more empathy for them as they wind down their careers. I know why Muhammad Ali kept on coming back, because your identity is really involved in the work. “I think that I have more miles in me on this and I keep sort of putting it out there. Should I keep going? Then something comes up where I’m very interested in keeping going. So, as long as that’s happening, I will.
“I was really kind of just finding my way this time more than any other set of songs that I’ve come up with,” explains Griffin. “Through my guitar, mainly, and a little bit on piano. But my voice was not able...... and I didn’t really have the same access at all. So, I did spend a lot of time playing the guitar because it was a great outlet for me while my voice was not really working. “So, I had a lot of time. I think I’ve improved as a guitar player as a result of losing my voice. So, those songs in particular were exploring the guitar and those are the things that came out. I really was hoping to do a record that had a single focus, as in can we just do something that sounds like it’s influenced by jazz? No, you can’t. Just the things that I wanted to write ended up being, as always, sort of all over the map stylistically.”
“It’s just a little more challenging. It was a little more challenging to do that on this last record.” Griffin admits that Craig Ross had a vital role in ensuring the completion of the latest album. Ross spent 13 years with Lenny Kravitz - touring, recording and writing (he co-wrote ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way?’). he has also recorded with Sheryl Crow, Wynton Marsalis, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and The Black Crowed. Ross has been vitally involved in Griffin’s work since American Kid in 2013. He also has relatives in Australia and lived here for a while, working with local musicians such as the late Karl Broadie and Angie Hart. “He’s one of Austin’s best kept secrets, really,” says Griffin. “He likes to be under the radar. He’s very choosy about what he works on. And I think if he ever found himself in the spotlight, he would lose his mind and run away forever. But he’s just so talented and he’s one of my best friends. I just really love him.” The music on Patty Griffin is perhaps the most diverse to appear on any of her albums, from the Celtic-influenced ‘The Boys of Tralee’ to the country blues of ‘The Wheel.’ 45
Will Kimbrough has not only played with some of country music’s greats and is also an accomplished songwriter. ..It’s definitely changed,” replies Griffin when I ask her if she has to now use her voice differently. “I still have things to recover from physically. The treatments took a little bit out of me physically, and I’m still making my way back from. So, it’s a different world of singing. But it’s definitely in there. You know, the thing that makes me want to do it is still in there. “And I keep listening to singers who are a lot older than me. I don’t know if you know about this Brazilian singer, Rosa Passos. I think she’s like 67 and she still tours. I can’t imagine anyone singing better than her ever. She sits at her guitar and leans over her guitar and sings. This is one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard now. So, I’m pretty inspired. There’s all kinds of ways to go about this. “So, I’m not a hot rod with my voice anymore. You know, hot rodding to me was when I had a pretty major range: probably, I would guess, three octaves if I had to - or plus. That’s probably not going to come back in the same way with the same flexibility.” “Please don’t print all this, right? Nobody’s going to come to the show,” laughs Griffin. “They’re going to go, Oh my God, she can’t sing anymore!” I tell her that anyone who has heard Patty Griffin will agree that she is singing as well as ever. “But anyway, there’s different stuff you can do,” she adds, “and I’m learning all about it now. For some reason this was the
hand that was dealt me and I think it’s not a bad hand. There’s all kinds of things I’m learning.” While Griffin didn’t get to make a jazz influenced album, the song ‘Hourglass’ definitely has a little bit of a New Orleans influence in the instrumentation. “It’s really an ode to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” she notes. “I was listening to him one night. I was in a really bad mood. There’s nothing like Screamin’ Jay to pull your head out of your rear end. I mean, he really is wow, right? I mean, operatically trained, classically trained, just a phenomenal musician, and the theatricality. It’s just inspiring. I’m really amazed at how broken-hearted he can be within something that also hilarious. That’s a neat trick and it’s a really amazing thing too. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, listen to Screamin’ Jay. You know what I mean? It sort of does something on a cellular level to me. “So, I think while I was listening to him one night and actually watching him on YouTube perform ‘Constipation Blues’, I just shut off the computer and I started writing that song. The song is sort of like me getting over myself. A little bit. It’s a fun song to perform and David’s playing on it is insane.” Actually, the song reminds me a little bit of Tom Waits, who could do a great interpretation. “I think Tom Waits,” she agrees. “I’m discovering ……this is so funny….. I’ve been listening to Sun Ra, Screamin’ Jay, all of these things. I go, man, Tom Waits spent a lot of time with those because you can hear them. He definitely spent some time with Screamin’ Jay. You can tell. And that’s a beautiful thing.” Griffin performs a luminous version of ‘Ruby’s Arms’ on the recent Waits tribute Come On Up To The House: Women Sing Tom Waits. “One of the things that’s cool about him to me that people are missing right now, especially in pop music, is contrast,” says Griffin when I ask her about the Waits song. “Like you have a beautiful melody, incredible string section, and you contrast it with some kind of vocal that is not that at all. It’s so powerful because the song just pops out and it has this life that when everything’s pretty in lined up and perfect, it flattens everything out. So, I felt like the challenge of singing that is that I don’t have that kind of gruffness. So, you don’t want it to be too flat. I think that it forces you into being really there and real as you know how to be.” “Heartattack and Vine was my first Tom Waits record in my life,” continues Griffin.
“It came into my house when I was a kid, when my brother brought it home one day. I love that song.” ‘The Wheel’ certainly channels some of the country blues that Tom Waits would have listened to over the years. “I was listening to Mississippi Fred McDowell, and that’s sort of where it started, and also Junior Kimbrough,” says Griffin. “I had seen North Mississippi Allstars do an acoustic set, and Luther’s playing, and he talks a little bit about Junior Kimbrough and Mississippi Fred McDowell. So, I spent a little time listening to them. I love that purity of just a nice guitar riff, which you can’t really hear anymore because it inspired a beautiful bass riff. So, it became the lead riff of the song. But it’s all drum based, and I love the drums. It just started coming out. You know, it’s a song that’s very specific to the borders that I live within. But it’s also, I think, some of the more universal themes. “I think right now we are, as humans, we really have to be pushing our brains to think outside of what we believe can only be. But the first thing you have to do is acknowledge that things are not going well for us as a species. Then you have to sort of go through the list of where we can start. ‘The Wheel’, for me, is something I can sing every night that I’m on tour that sort of helps me to stay on that track a little bit.” ‘River’, which was released as the first single was inspired by listening to Leon Russell’s ‘A Song For You,’ and especially Donny Hathaway’s version. “It’s so majestic,” observes Griffin of Russell’s song. “It was the last song I wrote for the record. I felt like I had a nice little batch of songs, but it just pushed me to write’River’ and push a little harder, find something a little deeper. And that’s sort of about Leon Russell, that place that he wrote that song from, it’s pretty far down in there. He’s really digging into something and it required persistence with yourself. I think that it was the last mile of the record, and that song kind of came out through listening to that and going, ‘That’s how high the bar is.’ You could really try to write one more song and see what you can do.” Does Griffin think she might be setting the bar a little bit too high? “Well, there are certain songs the bar is so high. But I think that it helped me to get ‘River’ out, and I think I needed to write ‘River’. And for women, that song, especially for women for some reason, has gotten to be, they like it. Women like the song.” Patty Griffin is touring Australia and appearing at The Port Fairy Folk Festival in March.
By Steve Bell Alabama-bred singer-songwriter Will Kimbrough is about to hit Australia for his first ever solo tour but he’s certainly no stranger to our shores, having played here previously in his guise as guitar-toting sideman to both Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. But despite having collaborated with – and produced records for – a vast cast of well-known musicians in a disparate array of fields, it’s creating and performing his own music that really continues to provide the fuel for the musical career he’s been crafting since the ‘80s. “I’ve put out 20 records now of either solo records or bands I’m in, that pretty much speaks volumes,” he smiles. “I mean I’ve played with a lot of people and that’s great – I’ve been fortunate enough to work with great people and I love doing it – and I learn and have great joy playing with Emmylou or Rodney or Todd Snider or Jimmy Buffett or Mavis Staples or whoever. “There’s tons of good people – I work a lot on people’s records – but the reason I do this is because I write songs and like to play and sing them, that’s what gets me out of bed each day. “That’s why I moved to Nashville – I didn’t move to Nashville to be a guitarist, I moved to Nashville to sing my songs. That’s why I’ve kept putting out records and touring on my own, I’ve never stopped. I just haven’t been to Australia yet on my own, but I’m happy to be coming back.” The timing is perfect as the tour follows hot on the heels of Kimbrough’s acclaimed new solo album I Like It Down Here, a strong collection of folk tunes with the focus firmly on songcraft and musicianship rather than production bells and whistles. “The way I make my own records now its intense, but I try not to produce it too much – once we’ve performed the songs a few times we’ll probably have a take in there and that’s what it’s going to be,” he explains. “I just try to let a performance happen and say, ‘Okay, that’s what I sound like singing this song now’ – it’s going to sound a little different in six months, but if I wait six months then the record’s pushed back by six months! “Then we did a few things – added some horns on a song and had some friends sing some things – but I tried not to be too fussy about it and let the
songs dictate what they should be, and how they should sound.” Kimbrough also proves a powerful lyricist, with I Like It Down Here a nuanced, warts and all look at his Deep South homeland via a slew of arresting narratives, some socially-conscious and some light-hearted. But the cornerstone is undoubtedly ‘Alabama (for Michael Donald)’, a commanding examination of the 1981 lynching of a young black man – who incredibly had been a couple of years above Kimbrough in high school – and the ensuing landmark legal case. “That happened in my hometown,” he reflects solemnly. “I had to think about the approach, and I decided ultimately when I wrote down the bones of the story that in the end the crux is the lawsuit that bankrupts that chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. “The story’s about Michael but it’s about his mother just as much, the way she sat through that five-year civil lawsuit that bankrupted the United Klans Of America. Those proceedings took five years and she had to just live
in that moment of her son’s murder all that time and she stuck with it – it’s not a happy story and you can’t say it’s a happy ending, but at the very least some semblance of justice was found. “I had somebody say to me the other day, ‘It must be horrible in Alabama’ and I said, ‘No, no it’s not. It’s just a place’. It’s not now like it was then, although the Klan was not mainstream in 1981 and that’s a shockingly modern date for something like that to happen during our lifetime. “That’s why I wanted to put that on the record because in the current political climate it feels like we could slip back into that headspace really easily, any minute here in this country right now. “It’s not that there’s people marching down the street threatening that kinda thing, but you can feel it in the air and feel it in the rhetoric. Plus, I wanted to tell Michael’s story in a song, because it’s a folk song and we need to keep that story alive.” Will Kimbrough appears at the Port Fairy Folk Festival and other venues in March. 47
As CW Stoneking contemplates his next album, it’s in the solo guise – just him and his shadow – where you’ll see him next.
guess [the old guys], they would do that – imitate pianos and things like that, that’s sort of how I learnt to played anyway.” Back to his roots, in a way. “Yeah, sorta,” he muses. ***
By Samuel J. Fell hristopher William Stoneking is reclining on the bed of a non-descript hotel room. The lights are off and, save for the flickering of the television set which washes his face bright one second and returns it to shadow the next, he’s hard to see; an eerie setting which seems, in equal measure, both odd and fitting for a man who’s never been one to do things by the book. Stoneking is in Sweden, in the town of Lund to be precise. It’s late on a Friday evening for him, a travel day, no gigs, he’s just come in from Germany, having already played shows in Berlin and Hamburg, Switzerland before that, Belgium before that, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Greece. He has a few shows in Sweden over the coming days, then a couple in Norway to round off a grinding European tour. Then he’s on a break for a while, before hitting the road in North America in late January, through most of February, before returning home to Australia for a run of shows in March. CW Stoneking & His Own Shadow is how this tour is billed, and it’s in this guise – solo, just the man, a guitar and his clutch of songs – 48
that he’s been seen over the past couple of years. These days based in Nashville (after a couple of years in the UK in the late 2000s, coinciding with Britain’s mini blues boom), Stoneking has been looking to crack the American market – notoriously fickle when it comes to outsiders playing ‘their’ music – and so has pared things back, taking to it mostly on his own. “That’s pretty much all I’ve been doing the last couple of years,” he concurs, on playing solo. “It was my manager’s idea to do a couple of [solo] shows in Australia, and the first one I did I fucking hated it, I hadn’t played solo in, I don’t know, five or six years. “And so, I scared the shit out of myself so much on the first one, that I practised really full-on over the next couple of days, then the second show I liked, and just got into it.” “I’m very confortable with it now,” he says, when I venture that, as a solo player, there’s nowhere to hide, but that perhaps that’s become part of the appeal; the stripped back necessity of it all. “Some of the things that were a challenge at the start, feel pretty natural now. “At the start, I had to make a lot of new arrangements to the tunes… Yeah, but I
Stoneking – known as CW, as much for brevity I suppose, as anything else – came to prominence in 2005 with the release of his first long-player, King Hokum. He’d been playing about for a number of years prior to this, his fascination with pre-war blues and jug band music, along with his knack for storytelling and a somewhat odd persona, endearing him to a growing audience around Melbourne for the most part, the occasional dalliance further afield. King Hokum brought to life something old and dusty, brushed it off, spun it on its head and released it afresh to an audience who found something new within it all. Stoneking, with his mumbling way of singing, his slicked back hair and black preacher suit and hat, tattooed and prone to pepper his banter with casual expletives, seemed a little uncomfortable with the attention but carried on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Something extraordinary was happening though, albeit on a small scale, as far from the epicentre of this most American of musics as is almost possible. As has been noted in the American press, here was “a fine purveyor of American roots music who also happens to be a towering, youthfulfaced white Australian man,” a man who, in reference to the way he talks and sings, carried an accent that “isn’t quite his own… but when he speaks, it is in that same soft, slow drawl that caresses his music. With another musician, it could all come across as tacky and distasteful, but not with Stoneking. “He is so deeply immersed in the world that his music conjures that it’s hard to imagine him any other way.” Stoneking was doing something that was striking chords – not many players of the blues in this day and age are able to do this, and yet this most mysterious man from country Australia was doing just that. Something I’ve always admired about the man’s music is the possibility that it presents – while I’m listening, I too am fully immersed in the blues, the country, the elements of jazz and hokum, of New Orleans and the Congo, but I’m also thinking ahead somewhat,
wondering what else this fearless purveyor of all manner of rootsy sounds will come up with next. His second record, 2008’s Jungle Blues presented straight up what the possibilities were (a steaming melange of blues-inflected, calypso-stained sounds), as did his eventual third long-player, Gon’ Boogaloo (2014), which threw a further curveball, an allelectric affair, Stoneking hunched over his Fender Jazzmaster, dressed from head to toe in white, old rock ‘n’ roll the album’s sonic motif. Each album has offered something different, whilst building from the base which Stoneking has made his own; that of the blues. And so, what of his next offering? The gap between albums has been widening, the sounds contained within widening too. The possibilities are almost endless, and so the question must be asked then, what will CW Stoneking come out with next?
A return to playing with a band is perhaps the only thing Stoneking is sure of regarding his next album, an offering that is very much in the works, but again, there’s no rush – he’ll release when he’s ready, and indeed, it’s a slow process for him. “It takes me a long time to learn how to play what I wanna do,” he says. “I’m better at thinkin’ up shit, than actually knowing how to play it.” His initial thought was to “get a horn band, maybe down in New Orleans or somethin’,” but he’s moved past this idea. His current home in Nashville has offered up more of an enticing possibility, that of a string band, a stripped back version of the country combos that have plied their musical trade in the south of the US for decades.
“I like the idea of a small group, I might try and do as much as I can with a threepiece, like double bass, maybe mandolin or something… I hear some of these old Italian mandolin virtuosos, it sounds great. Cos they’re all playing amazing shit… sounds like an orchestra. So, I’m kinda into stuff like that.
“I’ve hardly been listening to any music for a while now,” he says languidly. We’re talking about what’s been inspiring him, sonically, and what he’s been toying with. There’s no hurry to release anything, and as he says, “I’d be perfectly fine to put out a record every year if I had good shit,” he shrugs. “But if I put that many tunes together in a year, they’d be shit, to be honest.” He laughs at the perceived absurdity of it. “I just can’t do it,” he laughs, “I don’t feel like I’m much of an instrumentalist, you know?”
“I’m thinking maybe a string band, get ahold of some bluegrass players or somebody,” he says. “Not to do bluegrass, but good harmony singers and there’s all these different places to go with that.
a tune is forming. Either way, his mind is slowly churning, the bits and bobs that will eventually come together to form whatever it is he releases into the world next, slowly building. As far as he’s concerned, this is life, and this is how he lives it. “I like it a lot, I really like touring. I like making tunes,” he says of it all. “I have a natural disposition to be a procrastinator, to be lazy, even with things I like. But I enjoy it, and once I’ve got ‘em done, I love playing them, I don’t get bored of my own songs.” “[And so] I’ll just keep making batches of tunes,” he smiles. “I’m gonna be bald-headed soon, so, whaddaya gonna do about it? It just goes like that, I don’t care… I’ve got some real nice guitars, I’ll get some records out, I get to travel ‘round and eat some tasty food. If I can keep on doing that, and everything is cool with my kids, then what else are you gonna do?” CW Stoneking plays the Port Fairy Folk Festival, March 6-9. For all other tour dates, see the Gig Guide.
“I feel like this long period playing solo again, has got me a bit more fulsome in my playing, so I’ll find a couple of guys.” Stoneking reclines further on the bed, thinks a little about what he’s just said, perhaps about how far off it is, perhaps an idea for
Diarmuid; it was always blues and rock’n’roll – it was Skip James and Robert Johnson. We even listened to a bunch of Hank Williams when we were kids for some reason. “But then when we started singing together, we’d already been into a lot of blues and a lot of American folk music, but then we started to get into anything that was harmonic, anything that had, like, harmony duos. We started singing together really only ten years ago, so we sang a lot of old American music – a pair of brothers called the Blue Sky Boys. Their surname was Bolick,” he chuckles again. “You can see why they didn’t call themselves the Bolick Brothers! Those guys and the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel and the Delmore Brothers – anything that we could get our hands on. In a way we went back to the beginning of American recorded music, we just used to listen to it all, to sing it all. When we were doing our gigs in bars when we were teenagers, it could be anything from the Rolling Stones to Bill Monroe or Irish – Sweeney’s Men or Planxty – it was all fair game.
By Michael Smith “Going backwards to go forwards,” is how Irish filmmaker Myles O’Reilly, who travels as Arbutus Yarns, describes brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn aka Ye Vagabonds, performing “music that honours timeless sincerity with acoustic fireside storytelling that will sound as current a hundred years from now as it has a hundred generations past.” Talking to the younger brother, Brían, it turns out that’s exactly how Ye Vagabonds came to be making the music they make today. Though their mother hails from Arranmore Island, up in northwest Donegal, the brothers grew up in the county town of Carlow in Ireland’s southeast, where their parents were then living – their parents are now both up on Arranmore Island. The brothers were “spotted” by O’Reilly a couple of years after they moved 50
to Dublin to develop their musical careers and through his videos, Ye Vagabonds began to build an international following. In October 2015 they released a debut EP, Rose & Briar, opened Glen Hansard on his European tour that same month and have since opened for Villagers, Roy Harper and Lisa Hannigan on their respective Irish, UK and European tours, even playing in Hannigan’s band for her June 2016 Irish tour. In October 2017 they released their self-titled debut album independently, and in March 2019 released their second – and first on Rough Trade’s River Lea imprint – album, The Hare’s Lament. It’d been quite a ride in just five or six years, and it turns out it all began with a light bulb moment, a Led Zeppelin tune and legendary guitarist Bert Jansch, very much that whole “going backwards to go forwards” business.
“I’ve always played traditional music,” Brían admits. “I grew up with it and we’re lucky, our sisters all played and our parents used to sing traditional songs and have sessions in the house when we were kids. We’d be left in the buggy in another room or put upstairs to bed while the music happened downstairs. But of course we were playin’ all kinds of music growing up. Diarmuid played in a funk band, which was really funny. They even kind of made a Zombie Apocalypse EP! Diarmuid’s voice is, like, a hundred per cent American on it. It’s funny to listen back to ourselves from ten years ago. We hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that our accents weren’t our own, singing, you know? “We were both really massive into Led Zeppelin. The music that I played and grew up with was traditional music and I listened to that all the time, but the music that I thought was cool was always rock’n’roll, and the same with
“We only really got more and more into traditional Irish music, as a straight path there in the past six years maybe. After we moved to Dublin, it kind of became more obvious to us it was something that we should do. Partly it was a weird path that led from Led Zeppelin to Bert Jansch through that song ‘Black Mountain Side’, from Led Zeppelin’s first album. Basically the guitar part is a Bert Jansch arrangement of an old Irish traditional song called ‘Black Waterside’. We discovered that through reading about it in some magazine and that’s how we discovered Bert Jansch and he became a huge hero of ours. We’d never heard music played that way, we’d never heard traditional music played that way. It was this kind of rock and blues-influenced guitar arrangements to songs that were informed by just the words themselves rather than a rhythm, a beat that had to exist. It was more like a rhythm that followed the words. He’d play rolls on the guitar and it was like he was fighting the instrument sometimes. It wasn’t pretty and polished; it was kind of brash and jangly but really powerful. And that led us onto the roots of what he was listening to, and to the Andy Irvine and Paul Brady album – that was kind of their Led Zeppelin album – and that completely blew my mind. So we ended up back at the beginning, listening to the recordings that would have informed Andy Irvine and Paul Brady’s album, and then really getting our teeth stuck into all those archival recordings. Now we spend a lot of time in the traditional music archives in Dublin.”
mostly from the Ulster tradition. It’s where our mother’s from so a lot of those songs had significance for us that way. Some of them we chose because we learned them from a specific singer, who is from the island – Róise na nAmhrán – so they’re particularly local songs, but most of them, if they stuck in our minds, in our memories; that was kind of the test more or less. If they stuck with us, obviously they were strong enough. And that’s why those songs have existed for so long, because they have stuck in those memories. They weren’t written down, most of them. One of the songs on the album we learned from our grandfather. We never knew our granddad but we found recordings of him by accident. It’s weird to be learning from a voice that you’ve heard a lot about – your own blood – but for me, it’s great.
that I’m inspired by at the moment, in terms of writers, people who are writing now, are writing in their own voices and writing in highly detailed ways about the world around us right now, people like Lisa O’Neill. She’s a good friend of ours too. You’ve got to write about things that are relevant now, that people will stop and hear.
“The hare pops up from when we were looking through all these old songs. I suppose the hare is a symbol of wild side of Ireland. It’s an amazin’ animal, and they’ve been hunted into the corners of Ireland in a lot of ways, and they’re hunted by people still. But we found a lot of hare references when we were listening and getting involved in these old songs and ‘The Hare’s Lament’ was one that stuck out in the end. There are a whole load of hare hunting songs and a lot of them are sympathetic with the hare.
“But I heard a great line recently about the definition of tradition. It’s from Lillis Ó Laoire – he’s a brilliant singer – he described tradition as the transfer of responsibility, which I thought was a really interesting way of putting it, because at the end of the day, what it comes down to is, like, if you pick up on the songs and you listen to them enough and you invest in them, without realising it you take on the responsibility of looking after those songs. And if you’ve actually learned them from somebody – and any of the songs that have actually been given to me, where a singer comes to me and says, ‘Oh, I’ve got another verse of that song for you,’ or I’ve got a dear old friend up on Arranmore who’s in his late eighties, who would have been a good friend of my grandfather and of Róise na nAmhrán, the singer that we learned a lot of the songs from for The Hare’s Lament, most of the Irish language songs – there’s a bunch of songs that he, Andrew sings that I’ve started singing now and it really does feel like he’s given me a precious thing to look after, you know. They’re songs that nobody’s recorded, they’re songs that he learned as a child from an old woman that he just picked up and then realised, after she was gone, that he’s the only one who has those songs now. It’s a weird thing, but it’s this transfer of responsibility, this passing over of the baton from one generation to another. It’s not something I fully expected to be doing with the music I perform.”
“We do still write a lot of songs – it’s something that we’re constantly working on. The people
Ye Vagabonds play the Port Fairy Festival March 6-9, 2020
“I suppose a lot of the songs are telling romantic stories in one way or another. They cover a very broad spectrum,” he chuckles, “of that part of life. One of the songs in Irish, ‘Tuirse mo Chroí’ is about a very young lad who’s tired of people telling him he should get married. He thinks that single people have all the fun. On the other hand, ‘Siún Ní Dhuibhir’ is about a fella who asks a girl to marry him, tells her how much he loves her for so much time, then says ‘but you know what? If you threw in a bit of tackle, it’d be all the better,’ and of course she refuses him.
That debut EP, Rose & Briar, and first album presented Ye Vagabonds as songwriters working within the tradition, the latter winning the brothers the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Traditional Track and Ireland’s RTE Radio One Best Group, Best Album and Best Traditional Track Awards in 2018, but for The Hare’s Lament, they chose to present songs directly from the tradition itself. “Yeah, we’ve been singing those songs for a long time,” Brían explains. “The songs are 51
Referring to Chuck Berry, he says: “I think he was an influence on everybody at that time, especially guitar players. He was so unique. There was nobody quite like him. He was very sparse. He didn’t play a lot of things but what he played was very significant and it was very rhythmic and it had a great effect on the style of music that was there.’’ His playing put him “in a place by himself.’’
By Andra Jackson While guitarist George Benson was still in his teens, he was sounded out to join New Orleans great Fats Domino’s road band. The offer came from members of the pianist’s band. Benson said no. “I was very much afraid of leaving my hometown and venturing out on the road because I still didn’t know what that meant,’’ he says. “I was just too young for that and I had some experience to go through, so I turned them down at that time.’’ Benson, who went on to establish a career as one of the biggest record selling artists in jazz, never did get to meet the flamboyant and legendary R&B artist. But ironically, he pays tribute to him, along with rock giant Chuck Berry, on his latest album Walking to New Orleans. The title comes from one of the Domino songs featured on the album that has Australian singer Mahalia Barnes on back-up vocals. Benson explains the idea to pay tribute to the two influential musicians from the rock and R&B era came not from him but from the president of his record company, Provogue. At first Benson, who had previously recorded a tribute album to Nat King Cole, didn’t think this tribute was a good idea. That was until, “I began to recall all the wonderful things that happened with these gentlemen. They were on the jukeboxes, the radio stations, everywhere in my country. Their contribution to music is immense so yeah, I owe it to them to do something in remembrance of those great musical moments.’’ The husky voiced Benson was speaking from Paradise Valley, in Arizona where he and his band were playing. He spoke to Rhythms ahead of his return visit to Australia early this year. He estimates he has toured here seven or more times. He is performing for the first time at the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival as well as elsewhere. Benson is laid back and expansive as he talks of his music and his latest album. Domino, who died in 2017, was a very big crossover artist because he had to compete with Elvis Presley and Dean Martin who were the biggest record sellers of that time, he says. ``And he would sell millions of singles.’’ 52
Although Benson shared the bill with Berry on tours of Europe, he only ever met him once in a brief encounter in the 70s. Benson recounts that he was in a music store where he was being interviewed for a video recording when Berry walked in to buy some strings. The crew suggested he introduce himself but when he did, Berry “turned around and said “yes, hello’’ and went right back to what he was doing. “To try and kick-start a conversation, Benson came up with: “I’d like to put your duck walk in my show. I was wondering would you mind if I did the duck walk in my show?’’ Berry turned and said: “Can you?’’ That was all he said. Songs by both Berry and Domino are reworked on the album with some given an orchestral treatment – usually not associated with rock and roll or R&B. That idea came from his producer Kevin Shirley. Orchestral arrangements were not thought of back then as they were working on shoestring budgets, Benson says. “When I heard the final mixes with horns and strings, I thought it was done very tastefully.’’ The multiple Grammy winning Benson is largely self-taught. He started on the ukulele at seven and switched to the guitar at nine. “My stepfather taught me at the very beginning, the first few chords but he wasn’t a great guitar player, he just loved the instrument.’’ By ten, Benson had made his first record as a singer, but it was in his later teens that he became sought after as a guitarist. I was hired to go out on the road at 19 and I met everyone in the instrumental world, Count Basie, Duke Ellington. I played with Benny Goodman’s band and I met (guitarists) Barney Kessel, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery.’’ His guitar skills were honed by listening to these guitar greats. “They all would be speaking things you couldn’t get elsewhere, like going to the greatest music school in the world. Where else could you go and be taught by a Wes Montgomery except to go straight to Wes Montgomery?’’ He hung out with Barney Kessel, “said to be called the king of the guitar’’. But Benson says there were other guitarist who were great too – “Tal Farlow, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, B B King and lots of other players that I associated with over the years. I learnt something from them all.’’ Benson went on to play with some of the most influential jazz musicians of the time such as organist Jack McDuff, and trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis. Asked what it was
like playing with Davis, his first response is “phew’’, followed by a laugh. “He lived up to all the reputation that preceded him. People told me a lot of things about him and they were all true.’’ But he also recognized that Davis had a lot of knowledge about the music industry and had a goal. While hits were happening elsewhere, “we were busy trying to outdo each other musically. Benson felt “we were trying to please the critics.’’ Benson says “when I found out that my goal was different to his (Davis’) and it taught me something. Back in 1965 Davis’ albums were averaging sales of 20,000 while a group like the Chipmunks sold more records than any jazz musician. Benson decided: “If you put out an album that people want to hear, they will buy it.’’ So, he sang the popular tune ‘On Broadway’ for the double album Weekend in LA and it sold two million albums at the time. He had never heard of Leon Russell – “they never played him on black station - when his producer suggested he cover Russell’s ‘This Masquerade’ for the album Breezin. “Since then, I’ve sold 80 million records because of that one song.’’ Producer Quincy Jones woke him to the realization that “we’re not playing to one audience; we’re playing to the world.’’ It was searching for material that would cut through to a wider audience, he realised the importance of finding the right song and contacted Michael Maser. He co-wrote and produced the single ‘Nothin’s Gonna Change My Love For You.’ Benson sings few lines down the phone. “Wherever I am in the world, people know that song.’’ The guitarist has won ten Grammys and been recognized as a Jazz Master. He has his star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame and most recently won the 2019 Downbeat magazine’s Readers’ Poll. But what means the most to him is ``being successful commercially because they told me I could never do it. Jazz music couldn’t sell records they told me’’ Benson is bringing his own band with him to Australia. It gives him the flexibility to play anything from his repertoire. It is possible Mahalia Barnes might join him on stage if she is around. ``I will see what’s going on. That would be nice.’’ It was his producer Kevin Shirley who organized the extra musicians and singers on Walking to New Orleans. ``I think he came up with great choices,’’ he says. ``I think it adds to the authenticity of the music. Everyone of the album seem to understand what we were trying to achieve.’’ George Benson appears at Bluesfest and other concert dates in April.
iOTA Of Truth
He appeared at the first Gumball in 2005 and iOTA heads back for a special return show.
By Brian Wise Walk Through Fire is not only the title of British singer Yola’s debut solo album it is also literal. Five years ago, the singer accidentally set her kitchen and herself alight in her Bristol apartment. Luckily, she lived to tell the tale and while she makes it seem amusing it could just have easily been tragic. “It was really not the way I saw myself going out,” she says when we catch up at Sound Stage Studios in Nashville during the Americana Festival. “I’d been in just this blissfully wonderful environment, enclave of loving friends, and really on my path finally. Certainly, just on a personal level and I was so happy.” “It dawned on me that I’d take my life plus fire any day of the week at that point,” she continues. “I saw this fire as something that I can control. What does it need? Oh, it needs oxygen. Stop, drop and roll.” After Yola managed to extinguish herself, she grabbed a hose, rushed back into her apartment and put the fire out before the fire brigade arrived. Perhaps that survival was symbolic of Yola’s determination. Three years later, after many years singing vocals for others, she was signed to Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye label and he was producing her debut solo album. We had also seen Yola Quartey a couple of years earlier at a Gospel Brunch at the City Winery when she was in Nashville as part of the British contingent to Americana. She was a knockout and everyone was wondering 54
where this amazing singer that no one had ever heard of came from and why she didn’t have an album out. It must have been around the same time that a friend of Auerbach’s also heard her and sent him a video of one of her performances. He was immediately converted and offered to produce. Auerbach then assembled a writing team that included Yola, long-time John Prine collaborator Pat McLaughlin, and the legendary Dan Penn (‘Dark End of the Street,’ ‘Cry Like A Baby,’ ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’), to write together over five days in Auerbach’s Nashville studio. The result is an album that is not only redolent of Southern soul but brings a contemporary twist to it with its easy transition across various styles. It is as if the spirit of Dusty Springfield’s classic Dusty In Memphis, where the British singer journey to America in 1968 to record with some renowned musicians and producers, is hanging over it. “An absolutely cracking album, and definitely mixing things,” agrees Yola when I mention Springfield’s album. “Again, I don’t think it’s a very new concept, this kind of mixing. I think if anything in that era mixing of genre was almost mandatory. If you wanted to cross over and be interesting, you put a few things in that everyone would like. So, you weren’t necessarily, completely in one genre, and isolating some other people from enjoying it. So, I think it was something that happened so much that we’ve almost untaught ourselves. I grew up in a lot of that kind of music. So, it seemed really normal to me.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” she continues, “and I think one of the things I love about music is that conversation. I think, from the Stones, Beatles. I think CSN, Graham Nash. The great exponents of when people from either side of the Atlantic collaborate, or are influenced by each other, lovely things happen. “And it’s so important to have people that are truly on your side, and also truly understand what it is that you are, even before what it is that you’re doing. I think certainly as being black and British, certainly just from outside. That feel of coming from outside. You need people to really be connecting with your vision of what you’re doing and also to try not to desperately pigeonhole you because you’re a woman of colour. Because in a world where white guys can rap, then black girls can sing country. Right?” Yola is looking forward to returning to Australia - she has visited as a backing singer for others – and fondly recalls the time she met James Brown here during the Good Vibrations Festival. Walk Through Fire was nominated in the Album of The Year category at the 2019 Americana Awards and Yola also received a nomination as an Emerging Artist. “Even at that time in it, this is probably towards the end of his life, and he was still just vital and just had this in a grasp of how to play a crowd, how to draw them in,” she recalls. “I think I learned a lot from watching him perform that whole tour, that went on for about three weeks. It was insane.” Yola will be appearing at Bluesfest. Walk Through Fire is available now via Nonesuch.
theatre industry, and it was an exciting time. I think all the things I’ve done are exciting and were kind of milestones in my life. I suppose the other one especially is being in Mad Max. I saw that film Mad Max 2 at the Drive-In with my dad when I was 11, and so being in Fury Road was a dream come true. Probably an even better highlight than that is being mates with Hugh Keays-Burn, who played the Toecutter in Mad Max 1. To have him phone me, just out of the blue, and ask me to come over and hang out with him and his wife is just a real joy, and it’s a friendship that I’m proud of.
Composer, singer, feature film and stage actor, writer, dancer, voice-over artist, visual artist, rock star and iconoclast. iOTA is all of these things. He also has six ARIA Award nominations, four Helpmann Awards, plus Green Room and Sydney Theatre Critics’ Awards. He appeared in Mad Max: Fury Road and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and has written, composed and starred in Average Joe (2016), and Slap and Tickle (2018) for Perth Fringe festival. He will also be at The Gumball next April, so Rhythms quizzed him about his career.
Stage, screen or music? Where do you see your career heading?
It’s 20 years since your first album? What did you envisage when you first set out on your musical path? Has it lived up to or exceeded expectations? I don’t think I really envisaged anything, I was just following an instinct to play music, to sing, to perform. I was kind of discovered I suppose, people found me and thought that it would be a good idea that I pursued music. All I really wanted was to make a career of it, to make money, to have a good time, to have fun and to be creative musically. How do you think your music has developed over the past two decades in terms of the sound? I don’t know how its developed, it’s a difficult question to answer. I imagine somebody who analyses things like that might be better at answering that question. Every album that I’ve ever released has been different, so it’s ever changing and obviously since I got into theatre I suppose it’s more that my live performance has changed and developed, it’s become more theatrical. It seems like
a natural progression to become better at creatively expressing one’s self onstage. Did that even answer the question, not sure? How do you react now when you hear your early records? I react to my music positively, each album has different memories attached to it. Basically I can enjoy them, there’s maybe one or two that I don’t listen to very much and there’s a couple that I listen to quite a lot and enjoy. When I say quite a lot, maybe once a year. You have won a number of awards, appeared on stage in theatre productions, cabaret and in films. Can you pick out a few highlights? One of the highlights would be receiving the first Helpmann Award for Best Male in a Musical. That was a great way to enter the
Stage, screen or music? I see my career heading in all of those directions, and I see all of those things could possibly work together. At the same time, or doing any of those at different times, just continuing to do better work, to stay creative and to make more money, and to just keep getting good jobs and enjoy being an artist. What sort of repertoire can we expect to hear at Gumball? What to expect at Gum Ball Festival? I’m not sure what I’m gonna do yet but hopefully it will be interesting. It will be anything from me playing my guitar, to me jumping around with a band behind me, to just singing to some tracks, to perhaps... performing an interpretive dance piece for an hour, naked. What is the best album you have heard this year? It’s a hard question to answer as there was so many but I’ll give you three: Mexico by GusGus, You Will Not Die by Nakhane and Diary of an Afro Warrior by Benga. “It’s an old album, but still really good”. iOTA will be at The Gumball, April 24-26, 2020. 55
It’s the little festival that became a summer sensation. Closing in on 500 shows, Jeff Jenkins celebrates two decades of A Day On The Green Australia Day, 2001. The rain is bucketing down. Michael Newton and his wife Anthea are driving to the Morning Star Estate in Mt Eliza. The windscreen wipers are struggling to do their job as the rain belts down. It’s not a great day to be visiting a winery. Nor is it a great day to be launching a concert event at a winery. Newton, a former booking agent at Premier Artists, arrives at the venue and sits with his head in his hands. “We’re fucked,” he thinks to himself. But then, half an hour before the gates open, the sun comes out. And 1800 people flock to
see the all-Aussie bill: Stephen Cummings, Renée Geyer, Shane O’Mara, Rebecca Barnard and James Morrison. The crowd is a mix of ages, and they sit on rugs and enjoy their picnics. “They seemed to get the concept,” Newton says, “that it was a day out – eating, drinking, hanging out with friends and enjoying the music. It was an indicator that we were onto something.” Mick and Anthea – who had worked as a publicist at Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group – started A Day On The Green out of their garage in Elwood, calling it a “Big Day Out for grown-ups”.
“When I was an agent, a lot of my artists were a little bit older and they couldn’t get on the Big Day Out or Homebake,” Newton explains. “The only destination was pretty much Bluesfest, and I felt there was a piece missing. I was also getting sick of seeing bands at 11 o’clock at night.” Today, Newton is chatting to Rhythms in his Roundhouse Entertainment office, which is now part of the Mushroom Group in Albert Park in Melbourne. Signed tour posters line the walls, while there’s also a pair of Speedos signed by Olympic gold medallist Mack Horton, who has attended a couple of A Day
On The Green events at Mt Duneed Estate in Geelong (“a really good guy,” Newton says). A Day On The Green did just one show in its first year; two in its second. But this year they will reach their 500th show milestone after huge tours by Elton John and Cold Chisel. Despite hosting some of the world’s biggest acts, A Day On The Green continues to support young Australian artists. “You’ve got to give the audience what they know and like, but it’s good to throw in a little surprise.” Emily Wurramara recently supported Rob Thomas, while Olympia will be on the James Blunt/Jason Mraz bill in 2020. And Newton recalls booking a teenager named Missy Higgins for $300. “I remember she went to the merchandise tent after the show and sold every single EP she had because she was so great.”
John Butler - Photo by Jackson
Stevie Nicks and ChryssieHynde - Photo by Kerry Kissell
Hoodoo Gurus 56
>>> Newton loves nothing more than standing with the Roundhouse team and watching a great gig. “That’s a good day in the office,” he smiles, though it’s not always easy being A Day On The Green. “The weather can be the best and the worst thing. I just hate it when it rains.” Roundhouse have been forced to cancel a dozen shows during the past two decades, including a John Mellencamp gig when it was snowing in the Yarra Valley hills – in the middle of November. “The absolute worst was the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. We had Simply Red booked at Rochford [in the Yarra Valley].” The show was cancelled when the area was declared an emergency zone. “It was a really awful and sad day.” Then there are the sleepless nights before a tour goes on sale. “It can be super-stressful. Every time we go on sale, we’ve got a lot of risk, and if a tour stiffs you just have to live with it. But we’re in it for the long haul, and we’re still having fun.” Newton says the vast majority of acts have been a joy to deal with, though he laughs when recounting the rider request of one legendary American artist, who wasn’t happy with the way his carrots were cut, so Newton had to go out and buy more carrots and ensure they were cut correctly. But for every carrot crisis, there’s a magical moment. For Newton, who grew up loving the Pretenders, chatting with Chrissie Hynde was a personal highlight. He also loved watching Elvis Costello chat for an hour with winemaker Peter Lehmann about wine, art and music. Then there was the show where he found himself sitting alone at the front of the stage before the gates opened, with Paul Simon onstage sound-checking ‘Mrs. Robinson’. “I just thought, ‘How did this happen … how did I get here?’” For more on the upcoming A Day On The Green shows, head to www.adayonthegreen.com.au
Dan Sultan 58
BryanFerry - Photo by Jackson
FOREVER YOUNG A Melbourne institution is on the move. According to Jeff Jenkins, it’s Melbourne’s version of CBGB
When Melbourne’s Corporation Lane was officially renamed ACDC Lane to honour AC/DC in 2004, the then Lord Mayor John So said: “As the song says, there is a highway to hell, but this is a laneway to heaven. Let us rock.” Fifteen years on, there has been a slight detour. At the end of 2018, rumours swept the Melbourne music scene that James Young was selling ACDC Lane’s most famous address, Cherry Bar. Young denied the chatter – “Over my dead body will Cherry close” – but at the start of 2019, he confirmed that Cherry was looking for a new home. 60
Unable to negotiate a long-term lease with the landlord, Young realised that to keep Cherry alive he had to relocate. So Cherry is picking up and moving around the corner to a new home, at the bar formerly known as Pony in Little Collins Street. Young dubbed ACDC Lane “the coolest address on the planet”, and Cherry became a pilgrimage for AC/DC fans. Indeed, Cherry was mecca for Melbourne’s rock community. It wasn’t always pretty – “the smell in the bathroom was a more difficult problem to solve than the Da Vinci Code” – but the Facebook post announcing the move attracted more than 1200 comments, with nostalgic patrons noting the many Cherry
marriages and babies. Young described Cherry as “a jewel in the junkheap or maybe an annoying boil on corporate arse cheeks”. You never knew who you’d see at Cherry. One night, drinking with Died Pretty’s Ron S. Peno, I turned around and bumped into the Red Wiggle, Murray Cook, while Eddie McGuire – contravening the venue’s “no suits” policy – was holding up the bar. Noel Gallagher loved Cherry so much, he offered to buy the venue. Guitarist Tom Morello dropped in every night during a Springsteen tour. Porn star Ron Jeremy fell asleep on the couch. The Exorcist’s Linda Blair spun the records one Halloween, opening with INXS’s ‘Devil Inside’. Axl Rose spent
hours at the bar, drinking Diet Sprite, while a member of his entourage pulled the plug on the jukebox when ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ was playing, explaining that “Axl doesn’t do Creedence.” And Lady Gaga famously wanted to have a 4th of July party at Cherry, but Young decided to honour a booking for a two-piece rock band from Mildura named Jackson Firebird. Showing she had no hard feelings, Gaga visited the venue two years later, dancing on the bar in lingerie and fishnet stockings. A lawyer and former host of Triple R’s breakfast show (he also served as the station’s program manager), Young became addicted to live rock ’n’ roll when he saw his first gig – Alice Cooper, on his Welcome To My Nightmare tour, at Melbourne’s Festival Hall in March 1977. The ticket cost $7. “My mother took me. We were in the 14th row, right in the middle. The curtains opened and there was the giant cyclops, the huge guillotine, the black widow spiders, with Vincent Price doing the voiceover. And then out comes Alice Cooper. I thought, ‘Bang, I think this is me sorted for the rest of my life.’” After selling his advertising agency, Young bought his favourite bar in the world – “just to make sure I could always get in”. Cherry was started by former Cosmic Psychos drummer Bill Walsh in 1999; Young took over in 2006. He turned the venue into a live powerhouse, booking bands every night of the week. As a booker, he has just one criterion: “Is this rock ’n’ roll?” Young never anticipated moving, but he called last drinks at AC/DC Lane on July 27, 2019 (coincidentally, the 40th anniversary of the release of Highway To Hell). “It is a new chapter,” he says of the new Cherry, which has a 24/7 licence and a 260-capacity band room. “And I think that chapter has to be written by a new generation. I love being patted on the back as a 50-year-old, being told that I’m saving rock ’n’ roll, but the new generation has to start making their own stories. I can tell you Cherry stories forever. The new venue will create its own history.” The new Cherry is perched on a lane, Westwood Place. “Obviously, we’ll have to change that name,” Young says only halfjokingly. “I’m in conversations with Lord Mayor Sally Capp. I believe that AC/DC Lane should come with me to the new location. I mean, I was the one who named it AC/DC Lane and I got the Bon Scott statue there, but the greatest feature of AC/DC Lane was that it wasn’t just a street sign, you could actually experience Australian rock ’n’ roll at the venue, so it makes sense that the Lane should follow me 400 metres up the road. “Some people might say, ‘How’s the audacity of this guy? The balls on someone saying that ACDC Lane must follow him.’ But, hey, my surname’s Young.”
Cherry old address
Fluff band at old Cherry 61
It had a mythical presence in Brisbane because it was high on the hill. You’d meet your mates there. – Phil Parker
Cloudland-Courier Mail image
HOW THE “QUEEN OF THE DANCE HALLS” BECAME A LEGENDARY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL VENUE By Ian McFarlane Thanks to Phil Parker, David Darling, Reuben Hillier The main focus of Sounds of the City, to date, has been Melbourne rock ’n’ roll landmarks such as the TF Much Ballroom, Bombay Rock, Armstrong Studios and Cherry Bar. For this issue I go interstate and investigate Brisbane’s iconic Cloudland Ballroom. Dubbed the “Queen of the Dance Halls” and playing host to ballroom dancing contests and high society events over the years, Cloudland was the epitome of romantic and social nostalgia for three generations of the city’s inhabitants. It was demolished in controversial 62
circumstances in November 1982. Fortunately, before that happened, it also had a long and storied connection with rock ’n’ roll, which is where we come in... You’ll need to look elsewhere for a definitive history but for some brief background details, here goes: Cloudland Ballroom was constructed 1939 to 1940 by designer / impresario T.H. Eslick. Perched high atop Montpelier Heights, in inner-city Bowen Hills (three kilometres from the Brisbane CBD), the 18 metre, parabolic, laminated arch entrance was visible across the city. It was lit up at night with red and green neon lights. An alpine (funicular) railway transported patrons up the steep hillside. The elaborate art deco interior featured perfect ventilation and
a sprung wooden dance floor capable of holding 2,500 people. There were thick columns supporting the high ceiling, domed skylight fittings, a domed stage setting, private alcoves, tiered seating balconies and a striking plaster lady holding up red fairy lights. The Grand Dame was indeed one of the very finest ballrooms of the age. With the 1942 escalation of fighting in the Pacific arena during World War II, thousands of American troops arrived in Brisbane. Cloudland was requisitioned by the US army as its headquarters until the war’s end in 1945. By the late 1940s it had reopened for dancing and other social events. The Billo Smith Orchestra held court on the stage from 1948 until 1957. ... >> 63
>>> I have a way-back family connection to Cloudland: my father, Lawrie, was born in Brisbane and spent many nights dancing there during his teenage years. He bought 78 RPM records by the likes of Joe Loss and His Orchestra, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Glenn Miller and The Andrews Sisters so swing dancing was his thing. By all accounts he was one of the best around and, having been dubbed the “social king of the Western suburbs” by his friends, was never short of dance partners. Debutante balls were the big social events of the day, where young ladies made their debut into society. My aunts, Joyce and Audrey, were among those presented at Cloudland. Rock ’n’ roll hit Australia in June 1955 when Richard Brooks’ juvenile delinquent film The Blackboard Jungle opened in cinemas across the land. With Bill Haley and His Comets’ ‘Rock Around the Clock’ as its theme song, the American film had a profound effect on popular culture. For a start, it ensured that rock ’n’ roll would forever be associated with teenage dropouts and hoodlums, which did wonders for its lexicon. As with kids right across the country, Brisbane’s youth took to rock ’n’ roll like fish to water. Expatriate American entrepreneur Lee Gordon was the first to exploit this with his cavalcade of stars, The Big Show. They toured nationally and in 1957 he staged Bill Haley and His Comets, LaVern Baker, Reggie Bell and the Bell Boys, Joe Turner and Johnny O’Keefe and the Dee Jays, then Little Richard, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, Eddie Cochran, Alis Lesley and J.O’K and the Dee Jays at the Brisbane Stadium. He scored his biggest coup when, on 3 February 1958, he presented Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Anka, Jodie Sands and J.O’K and the Dee Jays at Cloudland. The artists performed two shows that day, a 6:00pm and then an 8:45pm slot. With stringently arranged seating in place on the dance floor, a total of 8,000 enthusiastic fans witnessed the two shows. My uncle, dad’s youngest brother Gordon, was one of those fans. He says, “It was very exciting, I can still picture myself waiting to go inside that iconic building. I also remember that they put the artists up at the Broadbeach Hotel 64
Debutantes at Cloudland 1951 - Courtesy of McFarlane Family where they were kept away from the crowds. At that time the hotel was miles from anyway, just a hotel in the middle of the sand.” The Big Show ran to a total of 12 concerts over seven dates on that Australian tour. Tragically, exactly one year to the day from his Cloudland appearance, Buddy Holly died in a light plane crash at Clear Lake, Iowa, which also claimed the lives of Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. Holly was only 22 years old and his career had spanned a mere 18 months. At least some lucky Australian fans got to hear ‘Maybe Baby’, ‘That’ll be the Day’, ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘Oh Boy’ and ‘Rave On’ first-hand.
By 1968, Dayman had moved on and throughout the late ’60s / early ’70s bands such as The Sounds of Seven, The Highmarks and Season of the Witch held court. They’d run 60/40 nights, delivering jazz and swing standards, Beatles covers, current pop hits, barn dancing tunes, the Gypsy Tap – anything to keep the dance floor full. You’d think that pounding jive dancers might have gone through the floor, but it was one night in the mid-’70s when thousands of overexcited revellers were stamping out the Gypsy Tap that the floor collapsed! Having taken a beating for over 30 years, it had to be rebuilt from the steel supports up with new Canadian redwood floorboards laid at a cost of $100,000 to new owner Peter Kurts.
With Brisbane bodgies and widgies hot for the jive, the city’s rock ’n’ roll bands took up the challenge at Cloudland. The Dominoes, The Blue Jeans, The Rockettes, The Planets, The Gold Tones and Huck Berry and The Hucklebucks kept the kids happy. The likes of the young Bee Gees (Barry still only about 14 years old, the twins Robin and Maurice a mere 10) and Little Rock Allen (aka Billy Thorpe) also performed there. By the early 1960s, rock ’n’ roll jive had given way to the Twist, the Frug, the Mashed Potato, the Swim, the Pony and the Stomp. Dance promoter Ivan Dayman
took over the Cloudland lease in February 1964. The Swinging Sixties were underway and with beat music all the rage, Dayman ran his Dance Promotions events in a chain of venues along the east coast. Under the guidance of producers Nat Kipner and Pat Aulton he also launched the Sunshine Records label. All of Dayman’s Sunshine acts – including Normie Rowe and the Playboys, The Purple Hearts, Marcie Jones, Tony Worsley and the Blue Jays, Toni McCann, The 5, Mike Furber and the Bowery Boys and Peter Doyle – appeared at Cloudland dances.
Swing dancing at Cloudland 1950 - Courtesy of McFarlane Family
Rock and pop music during the Countdown era meant that Cloudland became popular again with the likes of Air Supply, Hush
milestone ‘(I’m) Stranded’ single to back them, they soon left Brisbane behind, headed for Sydney and Melbourne on their way to London.
and Brisbane’s biggest band Railroad Gin entertaining the kids. AC/DC played there on 30 November 1975 to a rapturous response. On the other hand, The Saints ran afoul of the corporate rock machine in late 1976 when they were banned for their supposedly “unprofessional behaviour” and told they’d “never play in Brisbane again”. Ed Kuepper explained to me, “We’d only played about four shows in our life and we got banned by the Graham Hutchinson Agency because we’d upset Mother Goose. We supported them at Cloudland and they were very offended by our act and so we couldn’t get work, couldn’t play anywhere but then suddenly we were getting rave reviews in the UK for ‘(I’m) Stranded’.” Ed, Chris Bailey and crew couldn’t have cared less and with the authority of the
By the late 1970s cracks were starting to appear within Cloudland’s exterior and interior timbers and walls. The owner spent money in an effort to refurbish and renovate various areas of the facility but it was only a temporary measure. Nevertheless, it was almost a new golden era for Cloudland. Management actively promoted the venue as an important entertainment centre. The post-punk era also brought a wave of new bands onto the stage, which coincided with a whole range of problems as Queensland entered its police state epoch under the auspices of National Party demagogue Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Public demonstrations were banned (are we going to see this again with the current rise of climate change activism?). The police Task Force had been formed in 1978 and, being a law unto themselves, began to harass gig punters across the city. Community radio station 4ZZZ had been running the popular Joint Efforts gigs at Queensland University for a time. That came to an end when the issue of liquor licensing prevented further gigs there. The organisers had to come up with a new venue and Cloudland was the obvious >> location. 65
>>> Promoter David Darling recalls his involvement: “I’d started out in Melbourne, helping Laurie Richards a couple of nights a week at the Station Hotel and then I did weekends at the Tiger Lounge. He showed me how to set things up and do the door, I just fell into it because I was asked to do it. Then I met Peter Williamson who was the promotions person at 4ZZZ in Brisbane and I moved up there in February 1978 to work in promotions. The ZZZ Joint Effort gigs had become really popular but in 1979 when we couldn’t get the Refectory at the uni anymore, someone suggested Cloudland.
“Madness attracted an odd mix of skinheads and funloving popsters, and at the night’s end the lead singer Suggs sidled up to me: ‘For old blokes you’re a pretty good band, mate’.” – Stephen Cummings, The Sports. “The first Joint Effort there was No. 4 with Richard Clapton and Western Flyer (18 May 1979). We were wondering how that would go but because the Joint Effort banner had a lot of legs by then we got 1,800 people. So, apart from a few teething problems, we realised that Cloudland could work.” Other Joint Effort Cloudland gigs included No. 6 with The Angels, Razar and The Humans (30 June 1979), No. 8 with Split Enz, The Riptides and Dr. Feelgood (13 July 1979), No. 11 with Lobby Loyde, The Riptides and Mental As Anything (10 August 1979), No. 12 with The Sports, The Aliens and Richard Clapton (18 August 1979) and No. 13 with The Angels and Fat City (24 August 1979). “By that stage we were also getting offers for international acts by Michael Chugg and Michael Coppel,” Darling elaborates. 66
“So, that’s when we branched off with our own business, Piranha Brothers Promotions. We called it that because Peter and I had an obsession with Monty Python at the time. We were doing them for ZZZ and our business became part of that. We put on XTC, Graham Parker and the Rumour, The Stray Cats, Rockpile, Dr. Feelgood, Ramones, Madness, Ian Dury and the Blockheads and The Clash. We took our eyes off the local bands, so Graham Hutchinson, who was the big local booking agent at the time, continued with the local bills.” This was the era when Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, The Angels, Australian Crawl, Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, INXS, Jimmy and the Boys etc were able to pull huge crowds in their own right. Cold Chisel played a riotous gig at Cloudland on 19 July 1980 which Jimmy Barnes has cited as one of the best they ever did. Australian Crawl set a record in January 1982 when they grossed a then staggering $50,000 in door takings from 5,000 fans. Local supports for the international acts were also evident: Flowers and The Numbers with XTC (28 July 1979); The GoBetweens and The Sports with Madness (2 May 1981); Scrap Metal with The Clash (20 February 1982). In a local/international switcharoonie, Simple Minds supported Icehouse – with Divinyls opening the night – on 28 November 1981. Singer for The Sports, Stephen Cummings, wrote in his book Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy? (2009): “Cloudland had a beautiful archway and entrance area. One memorable night there in 1981 we played with London ska band Madness and local heroes The Go-Betweens. I think we were on the bill to drag in more punters. Madness attracted an odd mix of skinheads and fun-loving popsters, and at the night’s end the lead singer Suggs sidled up to me: ‘For old blokes you’re a pretty good band, mate’.” 4ZZZ presenter Phil Parker has vivid memories of those days in Brisbane: “I’d moved up from Melbourne to Brisbane in 1978 and I was listening to 4ZZZ. The Saints had already left town but there was still this aura about the place. By 1979 I’d got involved in the Brisbane punk scene. I was friends with The Upsets, The Toy Watches. If you talk to Ed Wreckage from The Leftovers he’d say there were about 400 people in the Brisbane punk scene and if you ask Brad Shepherd he’d tell you there were about 250 punks in Brisbane. I knew about half of them. Even though these bands had started putting out singles, they were hard to come by because there was no distribution. They
Back to Cloudland might sell a few copies at gigs but the chances of getting gigs was pretty low. So, the Joint Effort gigs at the uni and Cloudland, plus the ones at the Queens Hotel, were a godsend. “By 1981 I was presenting shows on 4ZZZ. I was very Brisbane-centric, I wanted to play local bands. I went to many of the gigs at Cloudland. I saw Madness, Simple Minds, Rory Gallagher, Graham Parker, The Clash and all the various Australian bands. It had a mythical presence in Brisbane because it was high on the hill. You’d meet your mates there. I see it as a gathering of the tribes, a gathering of likeminded people, a real social event. “And there was the sprung floor. The punks worked out that while doing the pogo, if you got the rhythm right, you could bounce up really high. It was just physics, like when you’re on a trampoline and someone jumps down and you hit it on the upstroke you bounce up higher. People would have competitions to see who could bounce the highest, like taking a speckie in Aussie Rules footy but they’d have their hands by their sides. It looked amazing. People don’t realise that Brisbane punk was fun. But then after the gigs, people might hang around outside, often they’d had too much to drink; alcohol was so cheap then, so there’d be fights or other trouble. Of course, the Task Force were always harassing people coming out.”
Cloudland-Joint Efforts August 1979 - Design Terry Murphy Courtesy of David Darling Cloudland-Split Enz Skylab July 1979-Design Alan Martin Courtesy of David Darling
Cloudland-XTC July 1979 - Design John Willsteed Courtesy of David Darling
“We’d only played about four shows in our life and we got banned…..because we’d upset Mother Goose. We supported them at Cloudland and they were very offended by our act and so we couldn’t get work, couldn’t play anywhere but then suddenly we were getting rave reviews in the UK for ‘(I’m) Stranded’.” - Ed Kuepper, The Saints.
David Darling is philosophical when I ask him to nominate any highlight shows at Cloudland: “I get asked that a lot but the way I answer it is there were some particular moments that were up there from a punter point of view, but for me because I was working those nights I had a totally different view. Everyone will have their own memories. There was always a general excitement of going to see a band with your friends. The gigs themselves were quite unique in their own right. I guess the one that everyone remembers is The Clash.” By February 1982 The Clash were on a roll and set to hit further heights with the upcoming Combat Rock album and ‘Rock the Casbah’ single. Singer/guitarist Joe Strummer tapped into the current political climate by making a reference to ‘Pig City’ in regard to Brisbane being a police state. The band invited Aboriginal activist Bob Weatherall on stage and he delivered a lengthy rave about the land rights movement and protests over the upcoming Brisbane Commonwealth
Games while the musicians laid down a slow reggae groove behind him. In perhaps a rather short-sighted lack of solidarity, certain sections of the audience grew bored then started to boo. Strummer berated the audience before leading the band through a particularly vicious version of ‘White Riot’. With hundreds of police present Strummer continued to taunt them. After the concert, many punters were harassed outside the venue and there were numerous arrests. In a subsequent interview with the NME, he described Brisbane’s citizens as “racists”. The concert had attracted over 6,000 fans, all jam-packed shoulder to shoulder. This was three times over the legal maximum for such an event and led to the local council revoking the owner and promoters’ licenses to hold rock concerts. In 1983 The Parameters released a single called ‘Pig City’ which became a 4ZZZ anthem. Rock writer Andrew Stafford called his compelling book on the history of Brisbane rock music Pig City: From The >> Saints to Savage Garden (2006). 67
“The demolition was devastating to me,” says Parker. “I heard the news on ZZZ. It was like when we’d heard that Keith Moon had died. So many people felt an affinity, a relationship with the place. It represented freedom, where you’d meet up with your friends and see great bands. It had been like a sanctuary.” Various small time bands still played but there’s conjecture as to the very last band to appear at Cloudland; some sources cite a band called The Rhythmaires while Phil Parker says it was The Truck Driving Gurus who were the country/rockabilly alter ego of Ninja Skill. Towards the end of 1982, owner Peter Kurts lamented that “the improvements needed to make the building safe are simply not cost effective” (James G. Lergessner from his book Cloudland: Queen of the Dancehalls) and that a developer was waiting in the wings. Hundreds and thousands of dollars were needed to bring the building up to a suitable standard for the future. Cloudland had been heritage listed in 1977. All the same, at 4.00am on 7 November 1982, the wrecking crew of the infamous, ask-no-questions Deen Brothers moved in, “like thieves in the night” (Lergessner) with police acting as armed guards, and demolished the building. Brisbane woke up to a pile of twisted metal and rubble instead of their Grand Old Dame on the hill. The site remained empty until the early 1990s when the Cloudland apartments were finally built.
It was a symptom of the times that, as part of his “progress at all costs”, BjelkePetersen signed off the demolition of Cloudland. Brisbane’s citizens went into mourning, there were protests. Some saw it as a “pure act of bastardry”, others as a “sheer act of political vandalism”. Yet in the wash-up the Deen Brothers were only fined “the desultory small sum” of $125.00 for not possessing a relevant permit, while the new owner/developer was fined a total of $180.67 including court costs.
“So many people felt an affinity, a relationship with the place. It represented freedom, where you’d meet up with your friends and see great bands. It had been like a sanctuary.” – Phil Parker.
Ol’ Joh had governed the state with an iron hand since 1968, so what did he care what the people wanted or of the city’s cultural heritage? It was a time of the “deep north”. Demolitions of various public buildings continued apace. The Deen Brothers, whose motto was “all we leave behind are the memories”, had already destroyed the grand Bellevue Hotel in 1979; Her Majesty’s Theatre, The Regent Theatre, Festival Hall and others fell one by one to their wrecking ball. Is it any wonder that Brisbane was dubbed the “demolition capital of Australia”. Joh’s luck ran out when his own party dumped him at the end of 1987. In the ensuing years, Cloudland has continued to remain in the hearts of many Brisbanites and its memory has permeated popular culture. It’s been mentioned in novels, it’s been eulogised in poems. There’s been Cloudland: The Musical and Cloudland: The Ballet. Various documentaries have focused on the ballroom and a film musical called Cloudland was announced in 2001 but never seems to have gotten off the ground. In November 2008, ABC radio staged the nostalgic Back to Cloudland event, headlined by Normie Rowe. I’ll leave the last word to Midnight Oil whose song ‘Dreamworld’ (from Diesel and Dust) best captures the devastation of land speculation and cultural damage: “Sign says honeymoon to rent / Cloudland into dreamland turns / The sun comes up and we all learn / Those wheels must turn”.
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68 A LS O A PPEA R I N G AT P O RT FA I RY F O L K F E S T I VA L
A L SO A P P E A R I N G AT P O RT FA I RY F OLK F ESTIVA L
SUCKING THE MARROW:
Experience New Orleans and the South and you will never forget it. By Michael Mackenzie
I’m home. It was just 3 weeks in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Like all of us who’ve gone somewhere we find profound, I’m determined to never let go of the abiding feelings these parts of the South evoke. The South. As I ride my train to work, I still glide through swamps of half submerged trees, guarded, motionless, by great herons and basking gators wearing green tiaras of water weed. I’m breaking open the angry red carapace of steamed crawfish under 300-year-old oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. A multi-generational Cajun family plays the French Celtic scales of their musician forebears. We travel by rail up through the Mississippi Delta to visit long gone blues guitarist Robert Johnson at his gravesite on the outskirts of a dying cotton town called Greenwood.
Robert’s body lies poisoned in the ground, having been murdered by a jealous husband, and then dragged across the fields to his resting place in the quiet shade of a roadside Baptist church.
There’s other supposed sites for Johnson’s bones but this one carries the weight of witness accounts. Beads, bottles and a broken 45rpm record litter the dirt around the gravesite. Lucky money and guitar picks adorn the headstone. We are the only people here. Just us. And Robert. Then North, letting the music of the Delta stream through our vehicle, seeing the light bounce off laser levelled rice fields and crawfish ponds. Clarkesdale awaits, then Memphis and Nashville. Stories for another time.
REFLECTIONS ON THE SOUTH Back south though, down Highway 61, New Orleans is the place. Fractured in its birth, corrupted by politics, Catholicism, slavery and voodoo. Distorted with swollen wood, and Katrina flood peaks. Partisan negligence and desperate divisions. Yet, daily, the city rises to celebrate its pig-headed success. Every day, New Orleans purses its mouth and blows a horn, pauses to lift a drink, toast a legend, dance with a ghost. Generations of jazz, blues, funk, and zydeco roll out through its French Quarter, into the shotgun shacks of the Ninth Ward and across the old cotton plantations where those first hollers sent hidden messages across the fields of torment, into the juke joints near the levees and from porch to porch of long dead Spiritualists. It’s not a museum, it’s a pulsing thing, a dark animal of egalitarian hedonism borne out of suffering and a reverence for what matters. Now, young people still play that music at home and in the streets, black and white, sitting on milk crates, anchored by tradition under lacy cast iron balconies, but twisting old forms and fresh aesthetics to craft something which creeps new into your heart and feet. As a first timer, New Orleans treats you as a guest to be courted, wooed, showered with slow winks and unexpected generosity. Come into me, it says, and feel 300 years. We coped, you can too. Let us show you how to put everything into place. We know what counts. We’ll slow down time, raise your rate of absorption.
Talk to strangers, find that common ground. Sway to the great swathes of brass and beaten skin. Steel and catgut. Then, when you can’t take any more of that hard-won joy, you stagger, finally, back to yourself, grinning lopsidedly, having danced, and tripped, and loved, and sung to your own full skinned survival.
The city closes its eyes, a mist rises off the river, just for an hour, before it begins to suck, boisterously, the newly replenished marrow from a grand old bone. Once felt, never forgotten.
ans New Orle
Robe French Quarter Buskers
t s i r u o T l a t n e d i c c A The Musician Jules Boult also leads blues tours to the USA
Liz Martin, one of Australia’s most versatile talents, releases a new EP.
Liz Martin – singer-songwriter, guitarist and front lady of the eponymous Liz Martin Band – is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most versatile talents. If you trawl through her back catalogue, you’ll find certifiable electro-pop bangers (take ‘Words’ from her 2016 Without You EP, for example). Heck, even Paul Mac, one of the country’s leading electronica proponents hails her voice as required listening. However, with her band in tow, Martin’s released an entirely different beast – her new five-track EP Led Me Down is a dark, atmospheric platter owing more to Nick Cave and Tom Waits than anyone in the synth-pop camp. Not that this will come as a surprise to anyone who’s kept an eye on Martin’s career – her output’s always been diverse. For instance, in her previous role with Sounds of the Street, Mission Australia’s music program for young people, Martin collaborated on everything from metal to hip hop. The sound also reflects the fact that Martin’s enjoying the community of a band and the possibilities it opens up. “Electronic music lets you sit there and do so much, but when it comes to playing live, I’ve always found it restrictive,” Martin says. “I never really found a way to do it so you can soar in the moment. Playing with real people regularly creates a fuller and more cohesive sound, because you’ve got all that input from all of those different, wonderful players. Plus, I think I’ve lost my tolerance for sitting at a computer.” 72
The band in this case is a five-piece collective of kindred spirits, comprising Martin, Michael Bridges (musical saw and violin), Dirk Kruithof (electric guitar), Michaela Davies (bass) and Reuben Alexander (drums), some of whom Martin’s played with for donkey’s. Bridge’s dates back the furthest, working with Martin on just about everything she’s ever recorded. Kruithof was next up, making a trio together with Martin and Bridges that’s played in various configurations for many a moon. Davies joined about two years ago, which makes Alexander the most recent addition, coming on board only a few months prior to recording the EP. “It was actually a really lovely way to go,” Martin notes. “It meant that the four of us had been playing lots of gigs around Sydney, but without drums, and it meant that we solidified our arrangements and had plenty of space to figure out who was playing where and when and what was going on. Then, when Rueben came into the picture, it was like, ‘oh, now we’ve got arrangements and this huge range of dynamics that we can play with’. It just locked it all in without getting too lost in the drums too early.” A period of playing intensively, including a residency at Sydney’s art-deco gem the Hollywood, only served to bed the sound in further, ultimately tipping the band in favour of recording the EP. “It was really a very organic process,” Martin explains. “I went overseas at about this time last year and came back
refreshed, and totally, ‘yeah, this is what I want to be doing’. Around the same time, we were invited to play the residency and we did that without drums for maybe six, seven months and then we had a hunger for a drummer. Rueben is one of the most gorgeous drummers and super sensitive to lyrics and what a singer’s doing, in a way that not all drummers are. So, he was the perfect fit. Once we had him on board and had done a couple of gigs, it was like, ‘oh, wow, now is the time to lay it down’.” Going in with the intention of capturing the band’s sound with minimal intervention, Led Me Down was recorded over two days at Harvest Recordings. It turns out that the EP is indeed a pretty unadulterated transcription of what the band does live. The songs were all played live in the studio, with two or three takes, leaving the band with the option of choosing that magic one. That said, Martin had intended to re-record the vocals, but the plan went out the window. “I redid one of them and it was so beautiful. I nailed the pitch. I nailed the length of each note. It was perfect and I was so stoked when I left. Then, a couple of days later I listened back and compared the original vocal take with this perfect one and the vibe wasn’t there. So, what we ended up with was really just how we play. It’s honest.” Led Me Down is available now at https://www. lizmartin.com.au/music 73
STRANGER THAN FICTION
By Nick Charles
Former Split Enz member Mike Chunn has published a fascinating autobiography By Jonathan Alley
New Zealand’s storied music landscape would look totally different without Mike Chunn. After playing bass in Split Enz until 1977, he managed bands, then headed up Mushroom Records’ New Zealand operation for several years. Later, he worked music publishing for C.B.S, and was CEO of A.P.R.A in New Zealand, until 2003. In 2004 he founded Play it Strange charitable trust, an organisation fostering songwriting in New Zealand. In 2016, his advocacy achieved something he suspects is a world first: songwriting is now an official subject on NZ’s secondary school curriculum. All these yarns are tied together in Chunn’s fourth outing as an author, A Sharp Left Turn (his Split Enz bio Stranger Than Fiction is also authoritative, hilarious and affecting). But A Sharp Left Turn is autobiographical. Chunn’s formative years were a far cry from the diverse, inclusive New Zealand of today. His formative days meant a single black and white TV channel, dry Sundays and compulsory Rugby. Meeting an eccentric young singer/songwriter named Tim Finn and his friend Phil Judd at boarding school, Chunn turfed his Engineering degree to immerse himself in music. “New Zealand was plain, grey, dull… everyone wore a grey suit, white shirt and black shoes. As ex-boarding school weirdoes, that set us up as capable, and wanting, to establish a band way outside the times.” Chunn says of the New Zealand of his youth – a post-war colony still looking to Britain for resources and cultural cues. “We had been raised on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, The Goons, Monty Python…. We really allied to that English absurdity”. Split Ends – Beatles obsessed talent quest winners having a laugh – morphed into Split Enz (glam rock meets Commedia del’Arteon-acid), Chunn knew he’d stumbled across a rare originality. Their under-rated debut, Mental Notes was full of Finn-Judd gems, including the classic Time for a Change. “Song after song came. It was like living on another planet. A beautiful, inventive, imaginative planet: I’ll never forget it” he says. ‘When we 74
flew across in 1975, we found Australia to be a completely different, exciting, insane, rabid, multi-coloured, multi-textured world’. This era also saw the beginning of serious touring: for Chunn; that turned out to be hell. Agoraphobia – an anxiety disorder causing fear of places perceived to lack safety – turned his life upside down. The stage remained a sanctuary: playing with Split Enz all over New Zealand, Australia, and the US was a joy. It was the life between – soundchecks, buses, airports, motels, jetlag – that made it intolerable. ‘I thought I was insane.’ he reflects “I always thought they’d ask me to leave the band, so I just hid it. I should have been in the KGB.’ After the third Enz album Dizrhythmia, Chunn reluctantly left the band he loved. But, he was prescient enough to recommend Neil Finn replace the also departing Phil Judd – a rather epoch defining suggestion it turns out – and he remains both fond and close to his former bandmates, forty years on.
play a sport quite well? Two thirds put their hands up. Then I said, ‘How many of you think you can write a song?’ It was two, out of 250! Later, my daughter’s teacher asked me to bring a guitar in – show them it’s not rocket science. Again, I said ‘how many of you play a sport well?’ The response was probably half. When I asked ‘how many of you could write a song?’, every single one put their hands up! What happens from 8 to 18? Their imagination dies in that education environment where the pressure comes on. In 2004 we held the first National songwriting competition, and one entrant was a young woman named Kimbra (who later sang on the Gotye smash Somebody that I Used to Know). The songs were fantastic: I knew we were on a winning ticket”. So for Chunn, after nearly 50 years in the music business, the possibilities of the next songs remain intriguing.
Chunn had no concept his condition had a name, or affected others. “The realisation that it had a name, happened about eight years after I got it. You fall back on things. Was it LSD? Was it that terrible rotting Thai marijuana that came down on the boats? Was it stress? I just thought I was insane, and that I’d just have to be insane for the rest of my life. It was an overwhelming sense of terror that you might be able to get back to where you feel safe”. As it turns out Auckland felt safe, and it’s there Chunn has largely stayed, rarely seen on stage; but always passionately pushing NZ music. It was this ongoing sense of mission that lead to Play it Strange (the foundation named after an obscure Enz song, penned by Phil Judd). “I did a school talk on New Zealand’s pop tradition. I asked 250 kids ‘how many of you
A Sharp Left Turn: Notes on Life in Music from Split Enz to Play it Strange by Mike Chunn is available now via Allen and Unwin.
Rod is the very definition of class. In a live situation either solo or with others his playing is impeccable. In the studio his myriad productions have the focus of a gifted ear. He’s played with and produced the best in the land for decades and he’s a brilliantly versatile flatpicker and fingerpicker as well as a consummate singer songwriter. His new bluegrass album is a must hear. Why has it taken so long to produce a solo album? I’ve made records as a duo, and as a group as well as playing on thousands of albums as well as producing heaps, but last year I felt the need to record a bunch of my songs in a way that I’d like to hear them, as opposed to interpreting a sound for an artist – and that was the beginning of what became Fingerprints. I’m amazed at your ability to not only play so wonderfully but be so on top of technology. Have you always had a mind for technical detail? As a young kid I was recording myself on twin cassette decks – bouncing from one to the other so I could stack guitar parts. Over the years that turned into a studio. I’ve always been obsessed with making things sound as good as possible. I’ve been lucky enough to work with talented people always observing and learning. Eventually self-engineering and
mixing became the best way to get to the end result that I could hear in my head. You quoted Tony Rice at one show and he’s obviously a bluegrass god but to the uninitiated who would be some of your other major influences in that genre? I grew up listening to folk music – Pete Seeger, Gordon Lightfoot, and Don McLean etc. When I was 12 my parents bought me a banjo and that turned me on to a bunch of bluegrass musicians. Tony Rice is a huge influence. His approach on albums like Native American and Cold on the Shoulder hit home for me and I’ve tried to emulate. In the 80s I got into New Grass Revival and when Bela Fleck joined the band it became perfect to my ears. They were part of a new wave of great players who had a respect for tradition, with the skills and sense of musical adventure to push the boundaries and players like Jerry Douglass and Bela Fleck pretty much redefined their instruments! Fingerprints has a clarity that’s compelling to my ear and a sound that’s right there with US recordings. Do you have some benchmark sounds that you constantly use as references? I’ve spent years collecting great mics, preamps and gear, but Fingerprints was pretty organic. I first put down one guitar track, sometimes with a vocal, and then
we all played to that, all live at The Sound Emporium, Studio A in Nashville. It took three three hour sessions. Then I mixed it at my studio on the Central Coast. My go to sonic references were ‘Ghost In This House’ – Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Punch Bros – ‘Blind Leaving The Blind’ and I love the feel of Darrell Scott’s Modern Hymns. I’m also listening to I’m With Her - they are making incredible music. You’re a musician who’s been able to adapt, survive and thrive with all the challenges facing the industry. Are there some words of advice you could give older performers and players? I’m constantly listening to new music, and artists that I’m working with are always turning me on to great new records. This keeps me fresh and chasing new sounds! But as far as industry challenges, I think they have always been there, they just change from time to time, and we need to adjust. I like to keep it simple - just be the best you can and deliver a quality product, whether it’s playing on a session, or mixing a record, or playing at a gig. I still love what I do, and can’t imagine not writing, recording and performing music! I feel totally musically reinvigorated, so this has been a really important and fun album to make. 75
33 1/3 REVELATIONS PER MINUTE By Martin Jones FREDDIE HUBBARD POLAR AC CTI Creed Taylor did a convincing job of presenting Polar AC as a legitimate, considered project. The artwork is striking. The list of contributors impressive. The choice of material intriguing. Few would have guessed at the time that this last of Hubbard’s CTI albums was a compilation put together by Taylor to fulfil a contractual obligation. By the time the album was released in 1975, Hubbard had already moved on to Columbia records. Under such circumstances, Taylor took liberties with production, employing Don Sebesky and Bob James to assist with lush string arrangements. But for those caring more about interesting sounds, beautiful arrangements and tasteful playing, Polar AC makes for an album that might appeal to those who aren’t particularly jazz specialists. In other words, it’s accessible (a scathing criticism if delivered by a jazz police recruit). Trumpet player Hubbard was unquestionably a jazz giant, playing with Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman early in his career, before becoming best known as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Hubbard began leading his own groups in the late ‘60s and his work with CTI in the ‘70s is regarded as some of his best. Emerging from specialising in hard bop playing, Hubbard began to experiment more with electric instrumentation and funk rhythms. 1971’s First Light saw the introduction of Don Sebesky’s strings, earning a Grammy and leading to the 1972 follow-up Sky Dive. Though Hubbard had already moved to Columbia and released two harder funkfocused albums inspired by Miles Davis’ ‘70s work, Polar AC was essentially the final work of the trilogy begun by First Light and Sky Dive. Indeed, the final track on Polar AC, is titled ‘Son of Sky Dive’ and the material was reportedly recorded at various sessions between 1971 and 1973 so that makes sense. The cover proudly drops the names Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Lennie White, George Benson, Hubert Laws… etc. Flautist Hubert Laws features 76
BY KEITH GLASS
prominently, duetting side by side with Hubbard on many of the melodies and improvisations.
the rhythm lays back to a walking swing and Hubert Laws takes over. It’s a really pretty track with enough improvisational meat.
The centre-piece is the slinky Philly soul song ‘People Make The World Go Round’, recorded by The Stylistics only a few years earlier. The melody is insidious and Hubbard renders it with restrained emotion and deft touch. The song is backed up by ‘Betcha By Golly, Wow’, another hit for The Stylistics also written by Linda Creed and Thom Bell. This pair of songs was arranged by Bob James and you can hear how his sense of space and rhythm would come to have an influence on hip hop. Indeed, both these recordings come across as modern but timeless.
Side B is comprised of just two songs; a version of Nat Adderley’s ‘Naturally’ and the 13-minute ‘Son of Sky Dive’. The former, arranged by Sebesky and featuring Benson on guitar again and Billy Cobham on drums, is lyrical, breezy, a real sunny spot, but again Hubbard and Laws both get to stretch their improvisational legs. Benson’s solo is all class.
These two recordings close out Side A preceded by the title track, composed by Art Blakey pianist Cedar Walton. It opens with Ron Carter’s nimble-like-a-cat double bass and Jack DeJohnette’s equally agile drumming, perhaps offering a more ‘traditional’ promise. Hubbard quickly takes centre stage, an elevating melody buoyed by a chorus of strings and guitar chords by George Benson. About two-thirds through,
‘Son of Sky Dive’ features just a sextet; Hubbard, Carter, Laws, pianist George Cables, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook and drummer Lennie White. While a very different recording, sounding more like a live session (and Cook’s sax playing is like nothing else on the album), it fits the melodic tone of the album and turns out to be an inspired inclusion. Polar AC was reissued in a remastered blue vinyl format a few years ago in Japan only (I WANT ONE!). Besides that it seems it’s been out of print since 1980! Well worth tracking down a copy.
In the 60’s/70’s/80’s major record labels worldwide maintained a massive album release schedule. Only a comparatively few artists scored a hit, others became ‘cult’ classics. Beyond that exists an underbelly of almost totally ignored work, (much never reissued) that time has been kind to. This is a page for the crate diggers.
S/T ATCO SD33-346 1970/71 Jesse Edwin Davis III was born in Norman, Oklahoma 1944. Of Native American heritage; his father was a well known painter in the “flat-style” tradition with works exhibited in the state capitol as well as adorning his sons debut solo album. Jesse Ed Davis (as he became known) played in local bands whilst completing a degree in English Literature at the University Of Oklahoma before leaving to go on tour with Conway Twitty. Eventually he ended up in the band of roots musician Taj Mahal, playing on Taj’s first three albums, touring Europe and appearing on the made for TV film The Rolling Stones Rock n’ Roll Circus. Viewing that film now, it is fairly evident that the only group that really ‘cooks’ is Taj’s – Jesse Ed displaying tasty lead/ rhythm guitar that is timelessly precise. His talent led to session work and moving to Venice, California. A lifestyle choice at
once wonderful for a working musician, yet dangerous for those susceptible to substance abuse. At the time, with a faithful companion and the world seemingly at his feet Davis must have felt bulletproof and the fact that Jerry Wexler and Co. at Atlantic let him produce his own album says much for the respect this young musician already had from his peers. Many of them played on it (Eric Clapton, Leon Russell to name but two) but for the most the songs are fairly stripped down with Jesse’s earthy vocals and funky guitar prominently featured. Recorded in both London and Los Angeles with Glyn Johns engineering at the former and Dave Bridges the latter, the belief was certainly there. Lead off track, ‘Reno Street Incident’ is a ‘coming of age’ seedy saga that is at once rootsy, funny and endearing – not to mention authentically seemingly real. It sets the scene for a series of songs that seem kin to what The Band was doing – Americana before there was such a thing. His tale of youthful sexual endeavor was not much later (1972) covered by singer/songwriter Jim Pulte as the only outside song on an album Jesse produced for him, although neither version would prove suitable for airplay. Track three, ‘Washita Love Child’ takes a ‘pow-wow’ beat to once again shed light on Jesse’s upbringing. Indeed the ‘hey ya hey’ vocal refrain (reportedly supplied by Merry Clayton, Clydie King and Gram Parsons) is also derived from native lore. The song
was released as the single, Jesse stepping back from lead guitar to allow Eric Clapton to shine on a real Blues Rocker that sounds perhaps more current today than it did then – at least to radio not yet attuned to FM. A couple more good Davis originals are to be found on side two. ‘You Belladonna You’ and ‘Golden Sun Goddess’ could both be construed as being about his lover Patti and they are punctuated by the songs ‘Rock N Roll Gypsies’ (written by Roger Tillison who’s only album, Jesse would go on to produce in 1971) and the finale, ‘Crazy Love’ by Van Morrison – now totally identified with Van but at the time fairly brand new and (I imagine) another song Jesse could relate totally to. He had the world at his feet. Two more solo albums were released for different labels and although there were peaks and valleys they were solid efforts that frankly failed to sell many copies at all. Within a short period he would provide jaw-dropping contributions to a slew of artists. An amazing guitar lick for Jackson Browne on ‘Doctor My Eyes’, key contributions to Concert For Bangladesh with George Harrison, work with Gene Clark, John Lennon and so many more. By the early 80’s things were not looking so good for Jesse. Mostly he was dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. In 1988 he died at the age of 42. His work for other artists remains visible but Jesse’s own formidable talent as songwriter/singer and instrumentalist is more or less totally unavailable. 77
UNDERWATER IS WHERE THE ACTION IS By Christopher Hollow
By Trevor J. Leeden JOSH ROUSE
THE SOUL REBELS
THE HOLIDAY SOUNDS OF
POETRY IN MOTION
SHOW OF HANDS BATTLEFIELD DANCE FLOOR Proper/Planet
The Yuletide season may be in the rear vision mirror, however that should have no bearing on listening to this set of festive originals from the Nashville troubadour. Blessed with one of Americana’s more evocative voices, the nine songs are joyous postcards, and yet imbued with an acute sense of melancholy and loneliness; several songs, like ‘Mediterranean X-Mas’, ‘New York Holiday’, and ‘Letters In The Mailbox’ swing with jazzy undertones. Using the same core Nashville hotshots from his landmark album ‘1972’, Rouse has made an album for all seasons, truly delightful listening.
It’s difficult to comprehend that at just 23 years of age, the Alabama crooner has grasped the aesthetics of Classic Country and its offshoots so completely. White’s sweetsounding Southern drawl brings pathos to his songs in a manner that echo the undisputed king of heartbreak, George Jones. After helming Yola’s stunning album, Dan Auerbach has again shown that he is a producer of rare quality (and judgement), cajoling White to bare his soul and serve up his heart on a plate of soaring country licks. Dee White drills into the subconscious and once heard, will not be forgotten. File under STAR!
LIVE AT GILLEY’S
New Orleans has been, and still is, the crucible where American popular music has been incubated, from jazz to rock’n’roll, from r&b to funk and soul. It’s been seven years since their last album, but the eight-piece brass ensemble’s latest release will appeal to a whole new (and younger) audience. The introduction of hip-hop, bounce, soul and funk into their traditional brass band framework continues to stretch the boundaries, enhanced by collaborations with New Orleans heavyweights like Trombone Shorty, Big Freedia, Branford Marsalis and Robert Glasper; the evolution continues.
Steve Knightley and Phil Beer have plied folk/roots craft for over 30 years and the magic shows no sign of abating on their 18th studio album. Now embracing long-time associates Miranda Sykes and Cormac Byrne as cardholding members, and with the Bridge Hill Shandy Men augmenting proceedings, Battlefield is a more exuberant and contemporary sounding album than previous. Amongst the Knightley originals are scattered several stunning interpretations, including Cohen’s ‘First We Take Manhattan’ and Richard Shindell’s cinematic ‘Next Best Western’; British folk music remains in very good hands.
THIS GUITAR AND TONIGHT (VizzTone/Planet)
John Coltrane has been dead for over 50 years, yet the saxophonist’s influence and inspiration is still keenly felt in the jazz community. Instead of extended improvisations, the Mexican-American conguero and his crack band take the spirit of Coltrane and enrich each track with intoxicating Latin rhythms. There are re-imaginings of several Coltrane and Ellington standards like ‘Blue Train’ and ‘The Feeling Of Jazz’, as well as a brace of originals composed by bandmember/pianist Andy Langham that pay homage to the tenor sax titan. It’s been seven years since Sanchez’s last album, it’s been well worth the wait. 78
He’s a Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Famer whose notoriety was arguably at its zenith during Joe Cocker’s shambolic Mad Dogs & Englishmen musical circus. With backing from his red-hot New Grass Revival Band, this 1981 show at the iconic Pasadena, Texas music hall sees Russell stepping out in similar sounding mould. The crowd response borders on hysteria as he pounds out rollicking renditions of classic favourites like ‘A Song For You’, ‘Lady Blue’, ‘Cajun Love Song’, ‘In The Pines’ and the totally unhinged bluegrass stomper ‘Uncle Pen’. Wish I’d been there; can’t praise a live album higher than that.
The opening track on Hiromi’s second solo album is, appropriately, called ‘Kaleidoscope’, and what follows is a sonic potpourri of vastly differing piano styles. The music ranges from the ragtime jazz of ‘Mr. CC’, through McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’, to the album’s tour de force ‘Rhapsody In Various Shades Of Blue (Medley)’ that deconstructs and reassembles Gershwin with injections of Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train’ and Pete Townshend’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’; it is a truly breathtaking listening experience.
The veteran bluesman has racked up numerous Blues Music Awards, all earnt courtesy of his electric guitar prowess. Seventyyear-old Margolin’s latest finds him playing acoustic blues for the first time, and it begs the question “what took him so long?”. There’re no histrionics here, just Margolin, his battered Gibson L-00, and sandpaper vocals getting back to the gritty source of the blues; don’t count against another BMA coming his way in May. 79
the Rollin g
Festivals in Australia with an Americana, alt-country and folk music bent were again huge successes in curation and performance. The aforementioned Out On The Weekend was hailed by many as the best yet, as was Dashville Skyline in the Hunter Valley of NSW, boasting its finest lineup to date with 45 sets over 2.5 days, workshops, market stalls and more. Particular highlights of that festival included Skyscraper Stan, Tami Neilson and Wagons.
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Despite these losses, music yet again provided solace and celebration over another wonderful year of new music. The Sadly, we again lost some of the finest songwriters and musicians in our scene. Locally, the passing of musician and producer Glen Hannah sent shock waves through our music community when he took his own life in May. Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter left us, as did manager Elliot Roberts (Neil Young), guitarist Dick Dale, drummer Hal Blaine, Little Feat guitarist Paul Barrere, Roky Erickson, Scott Walker, Pegi Young, bluegrass star Mac Wiseman and New Orleans legend Dr John. David Berman of Silver Jews/ Purple Mountains was another particularly tragic loss when he committed suicide only weeks after the release of his critically acclaimed new album. It was another year of live highlights from local and touring artists., beginning with Lucero and ending with the likes of The Felice Brothers, Jim Lauderdale and Pokey LaFarge. In-between we were treated to a long overdue and magnificent tour by Alejandro Escovedo and shows by Lukas Nelson, John Prine and Jeff Tweedy. 2020 is looking strong already with shows by Patty Griffin, John Prine, Eilen Jewell, Orville Peck, William Tyler, Brandi Carlile, Jenny Lewis and more.
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Available now at rhythms.com.au recorded live at the Caravan Music Club. Nick Barker, Gimme Shelter - Lisa Miller, You Got The Silver - Raised By Eagles, I Got The Blues - Linda Bull, Factory Girl - Sal Kimber, Miss You - Simon Bailey, Salt Of The Earth - Dan Lethbridge, Silver Train - Nick Barker, Little Red Rooster Loretta Miller, Star Star - Justin Garner. Bonus Track: Midnight Rambler by Nick Barker, Under My Thumb - Tracy McNeil, Hip Shake - Chris Wilson, Hide Your Love -
Featuring unique interpretations of Stones classics by some of Melbourne’s greatest musicians. Produced by Shane O’Mara and recorded at Yikesville. STONED -
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81 2019 was another year where the Australian Americana, country and folk community continued to grow – coming together to support others in times of need, celebrating each other’s successes and above all, producing world class music and song. Locally there were also a number of exceptional releases with Skyscraper Stan’s Golden Boy Vol. I & II, Lost Ragas’ This Is Not A Dream, Mark Moldre’s Fever Dreams, Sean McMahon’s You Will Know When You’re There and Dan Brodie’s Funerária Do Vale all standing out as the best work they’ve done. aforementioned Purple Mountains’ album is our personal pick for the best of the year. A stunning combination of humour and pathos backed by beautiful and catchy country music. Other releases of particular note for us were by The Delines who continue to mine heartache and melancholy so brilliantly on The Imperial, newcomer Ian Noe’s excellent folk album Between The Country, Bill Callahan’s long-awaited return with Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest, Colorado, the fine new record from Neil Young with Crazy Horse (now including Nils Lofgren), Eilen Jewell’s Gypsy and Jake Xerxes Fussell’s magical reimagining of traditional folk songs on Out Of Sight. David Berman of Purple Mountains
STONED - Celebrating the music of the Ro
Looking back was a big theme in 2019, given it was the 50th anniversary of events such as Woodstock and seminal albums from artists such as Young, Townes Van Zandt, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cohen, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, The Band and The Rolling Stones. Tribute shows for albums such as The Flying Burrito Brothers’ The Gilded Palace of Sin and Dylan’s Nashville Skyline were performed at the Out On The Weekend festival in Melbourne, while in New Zealand, a 40th anniversary tribute concert to Neil Young’s Live Rust, with an allstar cast, received rave reviews. 2019 was another very strong year, bookmarked by historical occasions and sad losses. The first of those was the double bill of two of the totemic figures in Americana music – Bob Dylan and Neil Young. They joined up to play separate headline sets over two shows at London’s Hyde Park and Kilkenny, Ireland. It was the first time the pair had performed together since New York’s Roseland Ballroom in 1994. At the second of the shows, fans were treated to the pair duetting together on the standard “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?’. As a new year (and decade) dawns, we pause for a moment to reflect on another 365 days of new releases, reissues and live performances in the world of Americana music. BY CHRIS FAMILTON
FRANK ZAPPA HOT RATS
BY JEFF JENKINS
the only survivor from the Mothers. Underwood plays the parts of approximately eight to ten musicians often simultaneously, layering complicated sections of piano and organ as well as multiple flutes, clarinets and saxophones.
was an interesting year for Frank Zappa. After the Mothers Of Invention had completed a tour with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Gary Burton and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Zappa announced to his band that he was breaking them up. They’d been together in one configuration or another for five years and at this point paying a weekly salary of two hundred dollars all year round to ten musicians - whether they were working or not along with all hotel and travel expenses when they did get work - had drained the coffers. Having moved from MGM Records to Warner/Reprise the year before where he formed his own Straight and Bizarre labels, Zappa would record his first solo album Hot Rats. Focusing on instrumental jazz-like compositions with extensive soloing, the music sounded different from earlier Zappa albums that had featured satirical vocal performances and music that was often complex and impossible to categorise. No longer having to write for a large aggregation and with an opportunity to record on 16-track equipment for the first time allowed Zappa much more flexibility in multitracking and overdubbing. Composing, arranging and producing the album himself also gave him the freedom to select musicians from varied musical backgrounds. Four of the six tracks on Hot Rats have intricately arranged charts featuring multiple overdubs by Ian Underwood
Zappa was also among the first to record drums on multiple tracks. He also pioneered the use of tape speed manipulation to produce unusual timbres and tonal colours. The song ‘Peaches En Regalia’ widely recognised as a modern jazz fusion standard is one of Zappa’s bestknown compositions. On the track he plays a short solo on an ‘octave bass’ which is a conventional bass guitar recorded at half speed, so it sounds an octave higher at normal speed playback. Also, on bass guitar is 15-yearold Shuggie Otis, better known at the time as a guitar prodigy. That same year Al Kooper asked Otis to be the featured guest on the second instalment (Kooper Session) of the Super Session series that had previously included Michael Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. Otis also performed on the album Cold Shot in 1969 with his father Johnny Otis and singer Delmar ‘Mighty Mouth’ Evans. The drummer on ‘Peaches En Regalia’ was Ron Selico who’d already been playing with James Brown for a couple of years and at the time of the Hot Rats sessions was in Shuggie Otis’ band. The bass guitarist on the remaining tracks was Max Bennett who’d played with the Terry Gibbs, Charlie Ventura and Stan Kenton bands. He would subsequently play on four other Zappa albums. ‘Son Of Mr.Green Genes’ is an instrumental rearrangement of the song ‘Mr.Green Genes’ from the Mothers’ album Uncle Meat released earlier in 1969. The track features jazz/R&B drummer Paul Humphrey who’d previously backed Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery. He’s also on ‘The Gumbo Variations’ with violin player
CD: Feature BLOOD MOON
Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris who shares solos with Zappa’s guitar. The track opens with a brief spoken segment where Zappa’s voice is heard instructing the musicians on how he wants them to start the song. ‘It Must Be a Camel’ features a violin solo from Jean-Luc Ponty for whom Zappa had composed the music for King Kong, Ponty’s 1969 release. Ponty would soon join John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. The track also features the sound of a hard plastic comb being stroked sounding like a jerky slow motion bell tree or wind chime. It’s also one of three tracks that feature drummer John Guerin who’d played with Gabor Szabo and Thelonious Monk. Guerin also appears on ‘Little Umbrellas’ arranged in similar style to ‘Peaches’ and the nine-minute track ‘Willie The Pimp’ one of the more arranged pieces on the album during which Zappa pulls off some of his most memorable and innovative guitar solos duelling with Harris’ wild free-form electric violin. Harris had appeared on the Mother’s albums Burnt Weenie Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh and was an inspired inclusion on Hot Rats. Zappa’s long-time friend and collaborator Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart supplied the album’s only vocal on ‘Willie The Pimp.’ Announcing himself as ‘the little pimp with my hair gassed back’ he relates his story over Zappa’s guitar and Harris’ violin with a gnarled Howlin’ Wolf-like sneer before scat-singing in the background and disappearing after only a couple of minutes. Zappa also ‘plays’ a ratchet wrench as percussion on ‘Willie The Pimp’. Among many outstanding Zappa releases, Hot Rats remains as one of his most enduring. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Hot Rats has been reissued as The Hot Rats Sessions, a 6 CD Box Set full of alternate takes and previously unreleased sessions.
COLD CHISEL Music/ Universal
You’re putting the band back together and about to go on the road. Do you spend time and money writing and recording new songs, when you know that most of your fans just want to hear the classics? Indeed, what is the point of the album in 2020? Fleetwood Mac tour regularly but haven’t bothered to make a new album since 2003. In 2017, Stevie Nicks explained: “I don’t think there’s any reason to spend a year and an amazing amount of money on a record that, even if it has great things, isn’t going to sell.” But for Cold Chisel, the creative fires still burn. Blood Moon – Chisel’s ninth studio album, and first since 2015’s The Perfect Crime – burns with an intensity that young bands would kill for, exhibiting an energy that remarkably hasn’t dimmed in 40 years. Blood Moon is undeniably Chisel, but there have been some changes. The album features the first songwriting collaboration between Don Walker and Charley Drayton, who replaced Steve Prestwich after the drummer died in 2011. And the record showcases the band’s new songwriting approach, with four of the 10 songs – ‘Land of Hope’, ‘Drive’, ‘Killing Time’ and ‘Someday’ – credited to Barnes/Walker, with Barnesy responsible for the lyrics. “In the past, when we’d write, I’ve written music and Don’s written lyrics,” Barnesy explains. “It’s only in the last two years that the process has turned around. I think particularly since writing the two autobiographies I’ve found my voice as a writer and I think I’ve had the confidence to write and then to say, ‘Hey Don, I’ve sent you some lyrics.’ I would send lyrics to Don and he’d say, ‘It’s so great to have lyrics that I don’t have to anguish over.’” Anyone who has seen Barnesy on Q&A will be aware that he’s not afraid to voice his political opinions. When the tour was announced, I was bemused to read the comments section at The Australian’s website (not something I’d recommend to any sane person). Barnesy’s “lecturing” and “hectoring” had raised the ire of the readers. “I won’t be going,” Darrell snapped. “Sick of Jimmy’s PC diatribe.” “Won’t waste my cash,” Kim said. “Turn off the Labor leftie every time he is on the radio these days. Am so over his moralising.” “That’s great,” Casper added. “As long as Barnesy leaves his ‘soft left’ politics at home.” As Barnesy notes in ‘Land of Hope’, it’s a “land of hate”. Barnesy’s lyrics might lack the poetic touch of Walker’s work, but they certainly pack a punch. “The venom flies,” with Chisel
delivering their most politically charged record yet. I doubt that the chilling ‘Killing Time’ will find a place alongside Tina Arena on Scott Morrison’s holiday playlist. “It’s killing time,” Barnesy sings. “Too late to pray … we made our choice, we have no voice, it’s killing time.” But even readers of The Australian would acknowledge that this is a truly great band. It’s a team with no weaknesses. Barnesy and Ian Moss share the vocal duties in ‘Getting The Band Back Together’ and ‘Buried Treasure’, while Walker’s piano playing shines all over the record. Two “old” songs, ‘Boundary Street’ (which reminds of ‘Minnie the Moocher’) and ‘Accident Prone’, were unearthed when Walker was working on his Songs book. “They call me lucky,” Barnesy sings in ‘Accident Prone’. “It may be true.” Yep, he was lucky to find a songwriter such as Walker, but Walker, too, was fortunate to find a singer such as Barnesy to sing his songs. And after all the ranting and the raging, Mossy chimes in with the gorgeous soulful pop of ‘You Are So Beautiful’. Cold Chisel is a magical combination. “Baby,can’t go on pretending there’ll ever be a happy ending,” Barnesy declares in ‘Boundary Street’. But Chisel’s legacy is assured. And Blood Moon shows they’re not afraid to change things up. After the first listen, I pondered: How many of these new songs will end up on the next instalment of the Chisel best-of? But then I realised that really wasn’t the point. In the end, it’s about a bunch of mates making music together. The joy of creating and the joy of playing. Getting the band back together. And that is a truly beautiful thing. 83
BY BRIAN WISE
BY ANDRA JACKSON
BROADS STAY CONNECTED INDEPENDENT Taking a track from the second Broads album for the latest Rhythms sampler was almost a mandatory choice and certainly a no-brainer. With their second album, Kelly Day and Jane Hendry have made an immediately compelling and addictive work, that rewards detailed exploration. The fact that it is an independent release might mean that the album does not get the attention that it deserves which would be a pity because it is one of the best sounding albums of the year from a duo who have enormous potential both here and abroad. Like another favourite duo, Oh Pep!, I suspect that Broads are going to be like prophets in their own land and that audiences in the USA will love them if they can get over there.
Stay Connected comprises eleven songs that seem simple with their dream harmonies but are, in fact, deceptively complex and layered. While some songs veer close to pop sensibilities, such as the gorgeous ‘Velvet Paradise,’ (a nod to the ‘60s) there are also many darker, more introspective songs that suggest that there is a lot happening below the surface. Listen at normal volume and the recording sounds attractive, turn up the volume and it reveals a much more elaborate and multi-faceted sound (The song ‘Mushies’ might have come off a Pink Floyd album!). Then there is ‘The One,’ ostensibly sweet but with a surprising sting in the tail. In fact, while you might initially think that these are gentle voices that float across the album so blithely, they both contain a strength that allows a range of emotions to be clearly heard. Broads recorded Stay Connected at Newmarket Studios in Melbourne with Callum Barter (who has worked with
Courtney Barnett and Big Scary) but the background star of the show might be Nick Batterham who mixed the album so sympathetically that there is a perfect balance between music and vocals. All eleven songs were written by Day, who not only produced as well (neglecting to credit herself) but also played many of the instruments, including saxophone. Hendry adds vocals and percussion while the small studio ensemble includes Ben Wiesner on drums, Tristan Courtney on bass with Matt Dixon and Tim Baker on guitars. “I’ve noticed that, as well, once we released it,” says Day when I mention that you need to listen to the album loud to get the full impact. “I think there’s a lot of music these days that just pushes and loses a lot of detail and because you do that, it’s just got this flat, loud sound. With ours, we like to really keep dynamic range and because of that, you have to take the two seconds to maybe turn up your dial a bit, but then you will get the whole dynamic range.” “He’s amazing to work with,” says Hendry when I mention the great job Nick Batterham (who has his own solo recordings out) did with the mixing. “You know, just helping us work through all of the things that we needed to work through and think about exactly how we wanted it to sound and not being satisfied until we were all very happy.” “There’s such a grey area between an engineer and a producer,” adds Day, “and when you want to produce your own album, you need an engineer as well who really helps you. Nick, as we were recording would say, ‘We could try that, or we could try that. Whatever you want. I have this other instrument.’ He has so many instruments in his house that is so convenient to say, ‘Look, I want to try this. I have this kind of vague keyboard-y kind of idea and I’ve got a line that I want to do’.” “But other than that, I think I really am quite stubborn and I have a very particular idea in my head usually of how my music wants to sounds,” continues Day when I note that she did not credit herself on the album cover and that humility can be a drawback in the entertainment industry. (On the evidence of this one effort you suspect she also has a great future as a producer). “So, yes, okay, I will take full responsibility and say I produced the album.” Stay Connected is not only a fine album but a great example of putting a singular vision into action with stunning effect.
We Have Come to Testify There Is So Much We Want The World to Know The words of West Papuan musicians and survivors of a 1998 massacre have been recorded together to tell the world how 200 people lost their lives. The unusual move presents music from West Papua alongside spoken testimony from victims of one of the worst atrocities carried out by Indonesian forces in the troubled province. The musicians still live in West Papua while most of the survivors testifying live in exile in Australia. The recording is called We Have Come to Testify –There Is So Much We Want The World to Know. It is accompanied by an animated book and can be downloaded free on line making it accessible anywhere in the world. Hard copies of the CD and book are also available with target markets including Ireland and Europe. The ambitious project involved an enormous geographic exercise to get the musicians out of West Papua and to a safe place to record. David Bridie, musician and artistic director of Wantok Musik which released the recording, says it was not possible to enter West Papua to record. Instead the recording was made in Vanuatu and mixed in Melbourne .
while that wouldn’t it be great to use these really powerful words about a very significant and atrocious incident and give them another life through song and spoken word, but over music.’’ A Citizen’s Forum had taken evidence about the Byak massacre in Sydney in 2013. Its findings had been reported in Australia but have not really received international attention. “It links into what is going on at the moment, ‘’he says referring to dozen of deaths recently of West Papuan protestors opposing Indonesian rule. Performers retell testimony from that Citizen’s Forum on the recording. Yudha Korwa, 39, whose testimony is heard told Rhythms: “It is still in my head right now.’’ He and friends went to a water tower on Byak where the West Papuan flag, the Morning Star had been raised. Indonesia bans its displays in the province they took over from the Dutch in 1962. A plebiscite in 1968 allegedly backed Indonesian rule amid claims it was rigged. People gathered for days below the water tower, in celebration, the then 17-year-old recounts. “On the morning of the 6th of July,
4.30pm, they (Indonesian forces) opened fire, with some from different places, some from the ocean, from the north, the east, but the crazy one, the bullets came from the air.’’ Trying in vain to flee, soldiers cornered him. “They cracked my skull, my head (he shows the scar on his head) and not only that, they took out a big gun, an army knife and stabbed my stomach.’’ He didn’t have enough energy to immediately pull out the knife and pretended he was dead because “if I look like people still alive, maybe they will shoot me.’’ He managed to crawl to nearby bushes and hide as people all around him including children were crying out for help. There was an Indonesian Navy boat offshore where bodies were taken he recounts. Paula (surname withheld) from a West Papuan human rights organisation that collected evidence from survivors says: “The toll of people who died is around 200.’’ Women and children were also brought to a detention center and tortured and sexually abused. At the time it was difficult to get out information because there was no social media. To this day, there has been no official investigation, no Indonesian soldiers have been charged and no bodies returned for burial, the book highlights. Bridie says there was a wonderful collaborative spirit and energy to the album. Artists included Tio Bang, Radical Son, Mama Tineke (also a survivor), and Black Paradise’s Ferry Marisan, leader of Black Paradise. Marisan sings key songs on the album but has since died. “We put out this album to honour the survivors of the massacre and those killed in Byak but also for ferry who was from near Byak.
The 4019ks journey involved the musicians driving from Jayapura, in West Papua to Vanimo in Papua New Guinea and then to Port Moresby and flying to Honiara in the Solomons and to Port Vila in Vanuatu. Vanuatu was chosen because of support from organization Further Arts. Funding and support also came from the Australian Government Research Council an independent advisory body; the Dulwich Centre Foundation working with communities affected by mental health issues; Pasifika, a New Zealand education center for Pacific peoples; and lobby group, Make West Papua Safe. The grant was to look at Melanesian music. Bridie, the album’s producer, points out having the details of the massacre alongside music was an obvious nexus. “Melanesian musicians always sing about social issues. It was something we talked about for a long 85
CD: Feature RUTH HAZLETON DAISYWHEEL
BY SUE BARRETT An informal session at Cobargo Folk Festival was the catalyst for the then young Canberra musicians Ruth Hazleton and Kate Burke teaming up as a traditional music duo. Kate and Ruth’s debut album, The Bee-Loud Glade (where they played guitar, bodhrán, button accordion, mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, whistle), included traditional songs and tunes. At the time, Ruth Hazleton was a member of Closet Klezmer and Kate Burke was a member of Trouble in the Kitchen (and a former member of Cooking for Brides). Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton have continued performing and recording – together and with other people (including on Judy Small’s Live at The Artery). Now Ruth Hazleton has recorded her debut solo album, Daisywheel, with traditional folk songs; Henry Lawson’s poem, Past Carin’ (set to music written by Hazleton); and four of her own songs (‘The Killing Times’, ‘Messiahs of Hate’, ‘State of the World’, ‘Shackled’). How’s the music industry changed since you started? When I started, if you had a CD, that was a badge of professionalism. Whereas recording these days is much more widely available to anybody who wants to record. The digital age has had a massive impact – the folk and roots scene is one of the last bastions of music where you can still fairly confidently pay to manufacture CDs with the knowledge that they will actually sell. Streaming services have impacted the way musicians are discovered and make a living. When I started playing music, there was no social media, no mobile phones and very few did video clips. Now you have to be multi-skilled to run a music business. Mailing lists, databases and credit cards have all changed since I started. Other things haven’t changed – there are the same festivals, similar venues, similar standards and rates of pay! Why is it important to value different types of music, with different origins and/or from different times? There is a part of me that almost inexplicably just recognises the cultural value and importance of music and tradition. When I was in Closet Klezmer, we played Jewish folk music and Hungarian music. Watching the film, Latcho Drum, really, really changed my attitude to music and to performance. Valuing the traditions that come with people who live in this country is a real key to discovering who we are – they’re our stories or the stories of the person next to us or the person down the road. A lot of traditional songs still have something to say. And there’s something really beautiful about taking custody of a song for a short period of time that’s already been through the hands of hundreds or thousands of other people over centuries. As a folk musician/folklorist, do you feel we haven’t learnt from history and/or we’re ignoring the lessons of history? Absolutely! It’s a real shame that we’re not in touch more with our history. We tend to think of history as being a long time ago and of being horribly irrelevant. But when we talk about women’s rights, the rights of Indigenous people or of war, history is a lot closer than we think. We are also living in an age when people are not listening to the science. Why Daisywheel? And what’s it taught you? I have always wanted to do a solo album and the timing was finally right. I’d been talking about it with Luke [producer, Luke Plumb] for a few years and he became available. The album was terrifying to do, but I’m so glad that I’ve done it. It’s given me a lot more confidence. It put me in touch with my core musical values and affirmed my connection to traditional music. It’s taught me a lot about song writing and pushing artistic boundaries – Luke was important in this – and challenged my technical ability and my writing. And I’ve learnt to be more honest artistically.
When did you begin writing songs? I’ve written songs over the years, but never really played them live. Usually, the songs have been a response to something difficult or traumatic in my life. The first song of mine to be recorded [‘Hearts of Sorrow’] was on the Kate and Ruth album, Declaration, and that felt like a monumental step. The songs on Daisywheel tend to be more deliberate, less reactionary – issues that have been stewing in my head. For example, I’ve been watching Nûdem Durak’s plight [‘Shackled’] for a number of years. It’s a bit frightening – it feels like everything I’ve written about on Daisywheel is bursting out at the moment. What would you like people to gain from listening to Daisywheel? Hope. A renewed energy (through engaging with music and politics). Seeing traditional music in a slightly different light…seeing something new in the old. What’s coming up in 2020? Launching Daisywheel. Playing festivals. And touring.
RUTH HAZLETON (2001) – on music… I grew up with a lot of political ’60s folk and American folk on my Mum’s side (Peter, Paul and Mary, Donovan, Bob Dylan) and also they were into the English music (loads of Steeleye Span, Pentangle, June Tabor, Planxty). When I was in primary school – at the time that Thriller and Michael Jackson and Madonna were happening – someone asked me, “What’s your favourite band?” and I said, “Peter, Paul and Mary”. I got laughed at, so I avoided folk for a few years, but then came back to it when I was about fifteen. Traditional music’s great – you research it, you change it. It’s something that’s been going for hundreds of years and you feel very special being able to continue it…Ballads were pieces of paper on a street corner and then they became part of music hall tradition and now these days it’s part of an industry…Some people play around with traditional music and don’t do it with the right respect or approach. Playing Eastern European music for many years [with Closet Klezmer], we were apologetic because we weren’t Jewish…then it came back to us that because we’d done our…research, most people from those Jewish traditions actually were really happy that we were bringing it out again. RUTH HAZLETON (2008) – on making live recordings… Judy Small’s album, Live at the Artery, was my first experience recording in front of a live audience…As a performing artist, I found the atmosphere familiar and comfortable, although it was difficult in terms of having only one chance to get it right and do a good job…Usually in the studio, you can record segments of each track separately and can re-record if a take isn’t as good as it should be. Thus, there is more pressure involved in recording a live concert…When you perform live, the audience expects a solid performance, but there is much more room for error and spontaneity within that space. A live album is a record of one event…[and people] will be listening to it repeatedly, out of a live performance context…In all cases, but particularly with live recordings, the key is familiarity with the material, the other musicians and also lots of rehearsal! [When thinking about recording a live album], rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Hire a great sound engineer. And perform in a comfortable and relatively small performance space where you know you can draw a crowd over two or three nights. RUTH HAZLETON (2019) – on people from whom she’s learnt about music and the music industry… Some of the musicians from whom I’ve learnt key things include: Andy Irvine; James Keelaghan; Dave O’Neill; Judy Small; Lindsay Martin; Luke [Plumb] & Kate [Burke]; James [Fagan] & Nancy [Kerr]; Trouble in the Kitchen; Danny Spooner; Louisa Wise; Martyn Wyndham-Read; John McAuslan; Bill Jackson. The older musicians took the time to answer the millions of questions that we had about nervousness and stage craft and running a business. RUTH HAZLETON (2019) – On the daisy wheel… The daisy wheel (also known as a ‘hexafoil’) is a compassdrawn circle with six petals within it. The symbol seems to have originated as a solar icon. Daisy wheels have been found etched into mantlepieces, door frames, window frames and furniture for centuries in Britian and more recently, in Australia. A folk superstition or ritual without any recorded written or oral explanation, scholars now agree that the daisy wheel symbol served the purpose of protecting a household by warding away bad spirits and dispelling ‘darkness’.
DISCOVERING CARL PERKINS Eastview, Tennessee, 1952-53 10“ LP (+ CD) with 16-page booklet • 9 tracks • BEAR FAMILY BAF 14007 ● Historic early recordings by rockabilly pioneer Carl Perkins – discovered after 70 years! ● Remastered for best possible sound. ● The booklet includes previously unseen pictures and detailed liner notes.
BILLY FURY WONDROUS PLACE THE BRITS ARE ROCKING VOL. 2
CD with 36-page booklet • 34 tracks • BEAR FAMILY BCD 17583 ● 1958-1964 DECCA recordings, incl. eight tracks from the iconic ”The Sound Of Fury“ album, spotlighting his upbeat and self-composed material. ● A slightly different sound of Billy Fury!
FATS DOMINO I’VE BEEN AROUND THE COMPLETE IMPERIAL & ABC RECORDINGS 12-CD/1 DVD Box Set (clothbound slipcase) • 240-page hardcover book • 312 tracks • DVD: region-free • BEAR FAMILY BCD 17579 ● The complete studio recordings 1949-1965 – all the hits, all the album tracks, B-sides, outtakes & more! ● Includes original studio versions of previously speeded-up tracks. ● The accompanying book features extensive liner notes, detailed discographies, many unseen pictures and hundreds of ads, posters and record covers!
w w w. b e a r- f a m i l y. c o m
BY CHRIS LAMBIE
BY SAMUEL J. FELL
ANDY BAYLOR & THE BANKSIA BAND The Old Southern Line, Independent Songwriting inspiration visits Andy Baylor at every turn. Whether driving up the highway, riding the rails or sitting in communion with a backyard feathered friend. The multiinstrumentalist enjoys elder statesman classification after decades making - and studying - all manner of roots music styles. His last album honoured the bluesman in him. The Old Southern Line takes us along the winding road of Folk from the Mississippi to the Yarra. Original love song ‘Joelene’ is set by Melbourne’s wide brown waterway. “Because that’s where it happened,” Baylor says. “I’ve had a long history of swapping between Americana styles and what I would term an Australiana style that I’ve cooked up. I play the Blues, Cajun music, western swing and various other styles, so it’s been a long development and study of American music. I can do a whole night of Bob Wills or Hank Williams songs, but there’s something
in me that wants to talk about who I am and who we all are here. And I have to get it out. Since my album The Bush Is Full Of Ghosts (1996), I’ve written songs about where I live and things that have happened to me personally.” “I’ve had to really work hard to learn what I do. It’s nothing for me to do an hour’s Bach at 6:30 in the morning - on guitar usually because the fiddle wakes people up,” he laughs. “I’ve done that my whole life. I’ve taken lessons in harmony and in classical music... I have an intense curiosity and I’ve learnt how people do things. From the humblest guitar picker through to big stars and colleagues. I’m always proud to acknowledge where ideas come from. I’ve always been a student of history. When you know where everything comes from, you have the power to make something new. Like where the Beatles got their ideas from or Bill Monroe got his style. What did
they listen to? It’s great to see many young musicians these days know a lot about the history.” Alongside narrative tunes are a selection of instrumental tracks, ‘Andy’s Dream’ features Baylor on fiddle. It came to him while sleeping, in the heart of Appalachian music. “I woke up in a motel room in West Virginia while I was there studying and playing. I’d been hearing a lot of fiddle music. I woke (from the dream) and started writing the music down. It’s a happy tune - slightly Cajun, slightly old time Appalachian.” The title track is about regular trips along the Melbourne-Sydney train line. “It chronicles just one journey of our protagonist.” ‘Travelling the Newel’ comes from Baylor’s annual commute to the Tamworth country festival since 81 or 82. “A huge part of my musical life has been travelling out there on the western plains. [Another instrumental] ‘The Black Spur’ refers to the road leading out of Healesville to the mountains, the route local Aborigines showed the explorers.” Further expression of the musician’s love of landscape is evidence in his artwork. His watercolour impression of the Australian bush is depicted on the album’s cover art. The Banksia Band will join Baylor on the road with the album. “The band has quite a particular sound, “ he says. “This album has a mixture of styles with a strong rhythmic pulse - some Brazilian, some Cajun, Country shuffle...” Album producer and band member Denis Close introduced Brazilian Choro music to Australian audiences in the 70s with his band Pipoca. The Portuguese cavaquino is one of the instruments he plays on TOSL. Baylor says, “Denis has played all sorts of percussion around Melbourne for many years. There’s a strong percussive groove going on with Denis, drummer Sharkey Ramos and bass player Kain Borlaise. And Sophie Dunn and Kate Connor play the violin so beautifully.” “Fiddlers have always made bird tunes and bird noises,” Baylor points out. ‘Black Currawong’ follows the tradition. “An old Currawong used to sit in my small backyard and I’d throw him some bits of food. He became a pal of mine in a way. He had an eye missing, so he had a whole story of his own. ‘Willy Wagtail’ is about another bird character, which comes down from Indigenous history via Troy Cassar-Daley and others, about the little birds being a gossip, with their chit chit chittering, low flying, how they hang around the houses. It’s about gossip in the bush and about people.”
Having just released his debut long-player, Ghost Heroin, Fenn Wilson continues the family tradition, albeit in his own fashion. By Samuel J. Fell It’s been a slow burn for the Melbourne-based Fenn Wilson. His recently released debut LP, Ghost Heroin, comes a good five years after his maiden release, an EP, Tales Of The Black Dog (2014), but time is of little consequence, and the results speak for themselves. Wilson – son of legendary Australian bluesman Chris and country chanteuse Sarah Carroll – showcased songs from the new album at Australian Music Week in Sydney last November, a few weeks before its official release, the resulting strong reviews testament to the fact that there’s no hurry – it’s what comes out at the end that matters. “It’s a more contained and complete story,” Wilson says of Ghost Heroin. “I did a draft copy a few years ago, recorded it in Adelaide, but just didn’t really follow through with it, you know? “And then at the end of last year, I rerecorded a lot of the songs and added more… and that’s what we have now.” The catalyst to return to the album was one many a songwriter over the years has experienced – a period of grief, and the dealing with same, which allowed the young Wilson to really look at where this music was going. “[The album] was written from my perspective during a particularly hard time,” he concurs. “It was written in the midst of that time. But as time went on, I guess I’d moved through a lot of what I was writing about then… and I was writing from the perspective of someone slightly more healed. Going through the harder times and coming through the other side… [has made it what it is today].” The album is, much like its creator, a slow burner. Singles ‘Eye On You’, which places the spotlight firmly on Wilson’s deep and resonating voice, and ‘Lost My Way’, a dark and enveloping folk number reminiscent of Chris Whitley, are the marks of an artist who, despite his youth, has quite obviously grown as a person, an artist, a songwriter. The album too, sees Wilson backed by a full band, something he’s only incorporated into his music in the past 12 months. It’s given him the much-needed space to bring these songs back to life. “It was something I’d been considering for ages,” he tells. “I’d be playing a show, and
as I was playing, I could hear where a… song would benefit from more players; it was just the right time. My chief concern with adding players, was that I wasn’t sure that the intention behind the music would be understood by the other players, but within the first run-through of the songs, it just clicked. It was wonderful.” Wilson’s band – which for the album include Anita Quayle on cello; Tim Neal and Bruce Haymes on keys and piano; Ben Franz playing bass; Shannon Bourne lead guitar; with backing vocals from mother Sarah, brother George (who also plays bass in the live setting, along with Jack Meredith on keys) and Hollie Joyce – have truly helped him not only bring these songs, this album, back from the brink of obscurity, but they’ve helped him flesh it out and make it real. It’s folk music, dark and strong aided so much by the power of Wilson’s voice, it’s a sound he’s definitely coming to grips with, and indeed, it’s not particularly a sound one would associate with the name of Wilson in Melbourne. “It was an influence on me, but it wasn’t something I was aware of,” he says on the
music of his father, who’s untimely death in January 2019 brought into sharp focus just how influential a musician he was. “It was osmosis of a sort. It wasn’t until the past few years that I started to listen to, particularly his lyrics, and it was like, oh god, you know? He’s not just my daggy dad… but absolutely, his lyric writing was something I adore, and also his vocal control and projection is something I really aspire to as well.” It was also his father who encouraged him to record Tales Of The Black Dog back in 2014, an EP that wasn’t meant to be an official release, but rather, “it was more my dad saying to me, you’re going to do some recording, here are the dates that you’re going to do some recording,” Wilson laughs. I say to Wilson that it’s both surprising and not, that he’s not a bluesman too. “Yeah, exactly,” he says with a self-conscious laugh. He’s not a blues player, Ghost Heroin the calling card which will leave you in no doubt, that Fenn Wilson is very much his own artist. Ghost Heroin is available now independently. 89
BY CHRIS FAMILTON
BY BRIAN WISE
THE ALT-COUNTRY ENIGMA THAT IS FALLON CUSH
A strange name and an intriguing album title to match. Songwriter Steve Smith leads us into the shadows of Fallon Cush’s new album where its mysterious themes are matched a colourful sonic palette and infectious melodies. Fallon Cush – It’s a name that rolls off the tongue but doesn’t throw up any immediate associated imagery or indication of what a band with that moniker might sound like. Talking with the Sydney group’s head honcho Steve Smith, it quickly becomes clear that that’s how he likes it. He’s been around the Australian music scene for a number of decades, releasing a solo single ‘Don’t You Wish’ / ‘Tears’ in 1988 and playing with jangly indie band Catherine Wheel before taking a break for an extended period. “I earned a reputation in his early years for abrupt disappearances at inopportune times,” says Smith.
Smith has made up for any lost time with Fallon Cush. Five albums in eight years and the latest, Stranger Things Have Happened may well be the finest example of his and the band’s ability to fuse alt-country, power pop and indie rock (think Wilco and The Jayhawks) into one seamless, kaleidoscopic mix of melody and verve. The way the sound and styles sit together so comfortably is, in Smith’s view, a result of the band’s time together. “For the first time Fallon Cush was a functioning band with this line-up of me, Suzy [Goodwin, backing vocals], Casey [Atkins, guitar) Tim, Pete [Marley, bass] & Russ [Crawford, drums] having played quite a few shows over the past couple of years. Just having a settled and quite formidable rhythm section in Pete and Russ makes such a difference to the cohesiveness and vibe of the record.” That title, Stranger Things Have Happened, is another element that ties into themes of mystery and weird occurrences and it was real life which dictated to Smith how the subject matter of the record came together. “I thought I’d been through ‘strange’ before but the things that were happening and the situations I was finding myself in felt
stranger than ever,” he explains ominously. “Everything felt off kilter there for a while and I started to think inter-connected in some mysterious way that I couldn’t get a grip on. It felt like it was all heading off a cliff. As a way of sort of running up the white flag to it all I decided as we got towards the end of the record to rewrite a lot of the lyrics I had, whole songs in some instances and the record essentially ended up being based on or inspired by some of the things that were going on and my feelings or reaction to them.” Heading into this new album, Smith tried a few different things in terms of both songwriting and recording. “Lots, too much probably.” he laughs. “In terms of songwriting I decided to ditch the “songwriter chords”. If one of those bizzarro things crept in I’d work out what the chord was in its simplest form and go with that, even if it sounded less interesting played on an acoustic,” he reveals. “I wasn’t 100% successful in getting them all out but stripping that part of the equation back feels like it gave the songs a stronger base or foundation and a degree of simplicity which I was looking for.” When the quintet hit Endomusia Studios in the Blue Mountains of NSW they’d done more work than ever before in getting the songs match fit and ready to record. “All the other Fallon Cush records were pieced together from the ground up in the studio which was fun and I couldn’t have done this record unless I’d done the others in that way but realistically you’re probably always going to be a little short on vibe no matter how good everyone is doing things that way. It’s hard to beat playing in a room together.,” Smith emphasises. “This time we were able to rehearse the songs and played a couple live before going into the studio and it’s a more energetic record as a result!” “It was also a pretty laid back record to make,” says Smith, reflecting on the experience working primarily with engineer and mixer Josh Schuberth plus additional recording with Michael Carpenter at Love HZ Studio. “We all know each other pretty well so there was no “studio-fright”. That combined with being up the mountains, able to see the outside world from Josh’s studio contributed to a very relaxed and creative environment.” Stranger things may have indeed happened but this album finds the band unlocking the secret of how to most effectively combine their influences and abilities, with quite wonderful results.
UP AND ROLLING THE NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS NEW WEST It was a forgotten roll of film from 1996 that inspired the music for the latest album by the North Mississippi Allstars, the collective headed by Luther and Cody Dickinson, sons of the late and legendary producer Jim Dickinson. Texan photographer Wyatt McSpadden travelled to north Mississippi where he was shown around the local community and introduced to many of its musicians, such as Othar Turner and RL Burnside. Just a month after his visit back then the North Mississippi Allstars made their Memphis debut and four years later released their first album Shake Hands With Shorty. Two years ago, after McSpadden reconnected with them and showed them the archival prints, Luther and Cody decided to record music to get back to the roots of the music that the band was making when the photographs were taken. The 12-songs on Up And Rolling were produced by Luther and Cody Dickinson and recorded at The Zebra Ranch (the family studio established by their father). Jesse Williams has replaced the long-serving Chris Chew on bass and the album features guest appearances from Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, Cedric Burnside (who played on their first show), Duane Betts, and Sharde Thomas (who has appeared many times over the years with the brothers and recently in the Sisters of The Strawberry Moon project that Luther put together). The album captures the essence of the Hill Country Blues sound that the Dickinsons have been playing for more than two decades and helping to keep the blues alive and vital. “It’s always been a loose collective,” says Luther on the phone from Mississippi on a brief break from touring. “I always took the Parliament Funkadelic MO and it’s a good thing too because that was the original idea and it definitely lived up to it.” Perhaps the most notable guest on the album is the great Mavis Staples who sings on her family’s classic ‘What You Gonna Do?’ “We met her in 2000, when we recorded the song ‘Freedom Highway’,” recalls Luther. “I grew up with the ‘Freedom Highway’ record from my dad’s collection and then we recorded the song. We reached out to the family because there was a lyric I couldn’t understand, and Yvonne faxed us a lyric sheet
and that was the seed of our friendship. We’ve been on tour together and recorded together. Man, I always declare every night, that Mavis is my queen of this humble nation. She represents it all, man. She tells stories of her father telling stories of Charlie Patton, and that’s as far back as we can go, as far as guitar playing. She talks about Howlin’ Wolf and Mahalia Jackson coming to visit the family. She’s experienced the whole, gospel, civil rights, soul music. She’s the living embodiment of the American dream and soul music. I adore her so much.” “I feel like too many artists are keeping quiet too much,” he continues when I mention that Mavis is not shy in offering her opinions on US politics. “I applaud Mavis for speaking out and I try to as well. I find Mavis as an example that you have to speak out and let it be known. I don’t want to ever be guilty of not letting it be known how I feel or not protesting what wrongdoings that I see, that I feel are terribly wrong. So, I find her a great inspiration for speaking out. You got to stand up for one another. It’s the golden rule. You can’t stand by and watch other people get beaten down.” Jason Isbell appears on ‘Mean Old World’, a song that has been in the Dickinson
family since their father recorded with Duane Allman and Eric Clapton during the Layla sessions. “We’ve grown up ever since the Layla box set with the piano mix of that version came out, that we’d been playing that song off and on,” says Luther. “Jason instigated it. A couple of years ago, he invited me to record an acoustic version of that song with that in mind. “Jason is fully aware of rock and roll history and culture and we did a nice acoustic version. It was really fun. But when we came time to make this record, we invited Jason to record an election version. We’d been playing it with Derek Trucks, on tour with Derek and Susan. But then Cody put the outro, one chord outro groove, in tributes to Butch Trucks, who was a dear friend of ours from the Allman Brothers, and he taught us so much. We lost Butch, he’s not with us anymore. So, we wanted to record that and we recorded it in Nashville with Jason and then Duane overdubbed in Hollywood. Duane Betts. Man. I would say, Derek Trucks is of the angel race, but Duane Betts is king of the mortal men.” Up And Rolling is available now through New West Records. 91
BY MICHAEL SMITH, CHRIS LAMBIE , SAMUEL J. FELL, TREVOR J. LEEDEN
BY MICHAEL SMITH, CHRIS LAMBIE , SAMUEL J. FELL, TREVOR J. LEEDEN
AMERICAN UTOPIA ON BROADWAY – ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING Nonesuch/Footstomp Music
I imagine the better way to experience this, apart from actually sitting in the theatre on Broadway in NYC, would be on a big screen, cinema (best) or television, so that you see rather than just hear the extraordinary vibrancy of the live performance evident on this original cast recording. After all, you’ve got six percussionists – Jacqueline Acevedo, Gustavo di Dalva, Daniel Freeman, Tim Keiper, Stéphanie San Juan and Mauro Refosco, who is also the production’s Musical Director, two backing singers Chris Giarmo and Tendayi Kuumba, guitarist Angie Swan, keyboards player Karl Mansfield and bass player Bobby Wooten III. More importantly in terms of the theatrical experience is that Byrne has the entire 11-piece ensemble dressed in matching and very sharp grey suits, barefoot and standing – well, standing, dancing, marching about and generally doing the whole jollying about thing, the various parts of a regular drum kit carted about in appropriate complimentary sections by the aforementioned percussionists. In that sense, American Utopia on Broadway is a logical descendant of Talking Heads’ 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. While there are, inevitably, half a dozen Talking Heads songs included in this 21-song 2CD set, Byrne includes them only where they help develop the arc of the loose, openended story of the production, which is pretty much the age-old question of trying to make sense of it all. Byrne admits that he’s 92
still trying to figure it out, but, like the 2018 solo album from which the production takes its title and which ten songs, scattered across this record, are the core of the show, it’s about presenting reasons for being happy and optimistic in a world that seems increasingly overwhelmed by political strife and environmental problems. Whatever Byrne’s manifesto might ultimately be is presented in the opening song, ‘Here’, which closes the American Utopia album. In the production, the only stage prop, an image of the brain, is where the journey begins, the show, his songs, gradually taking us out from within our minds into the world with which we must interact/respond/survive. Most of us won’t be able to afford to fly to New York City to experience American Utopia on Broadway, so this is as close as we’ll ever get, so thank goodness we have this remarkable artifact, yet another extraordinary piece of art-rock insight from a true musical genius. Let’s hope a film will/has been made that might see general release sometime soon. MICHAEL SMITH
INNER OUTLAW Checked Label Services
man calls it murder, rich man calls it war /Any way the barrel points, the poor man takes the fall.” The consummate story-teller weaves blues and folk through Americana styles. His unmistakable baritone unfurls to sing of love in all its complexities, coming to terms with the passage of time and working life on the road. Under the spotlight or on the fringes, the drive to make music endures nine albums into Ellis’ career. Second single ‘Fadin’ debuted at #1 on the My Country Australia charts. Lauded but not so richly rewarded, like others, he’d happily embrace ‘The Next Shipwreck’; one mighty mega-hit would be sweet even if never repeated. His inner rebel lays it on the line. ‘What Happened To That Man’ laments a lost regard for the gents of old. Country without hayseed twang, it’s more the Waylon Jennings western outlaw attitude. Still, it’s as Australian a story as ever you’ll hear. Ellis’ lonely ‘Bitumen Cowboys’ replace Stetson and Old Glory with flannelette and the Eureka flag. On acoustic guitar and mandola, he’s joined by Chris Haigh (electric guitar, bass, Dobro, bvs), Peter White (keyboards) and Scott Hills (drums, percussion). Even the cheeky ‘ting’ of the latter’s triangle seasons the mix. Wry and romantic, it’s another toe-tapping delight. CHRIS LAMBIE
EL DORADO FANTASY RECORDS
musical knowledge is his, which bodes well; he’s got a lot of gas left in the tank. Possessed of a rasping, passionately soulful voice and guitar chops players three times his age would kill for, King brings this, along with his already finely-honed sense of song, to his debut solo record, El Dorado, a bubbling mix of southern tunes, running the gamut from blues to soul, rock to roll, soft and gentle one minute, blistering the next – this is the calling card of a very strong talent, one not to be casually dismissed, make no mistake. Having already released three albums with The Marcus King Band, El Dorado is King’s solo debut, helmed by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who not only produced the album, but who also sat and cowrote with King, the pair penning all twelve of the album’s tracks in only three days. While jumping from one rootsy sound to the next (often within the same song), it’s soul and the blues where King is at his most potent – on the soul side, it’s his voice which shines (‘Beautiful Stranger’); in the blues vein, it’s his guitar, rough and powerful which paints the backdrop from which the song builds (‘The Well’). Marcus King is the real deal, El Dorado notice that you need to pay attention. King and his band will be appearing at Bluesfest over Easter. SAMUEL J. FELL
Silver Birch (which, incidentally, took out a Best Debut Release nod in that year’s Rhythms writer’s poll), a more mature and adventurous offering that sees singer-songwriter Sophie Klein and band hit new heights. Where Silver Birch was a down and down folk release, Want It All sees Klein, bassist Rosie Burgess and drummer Pam Zaharias extend their musical partnership in myriad ways, the sum of all necessary parts being an album that shimmers with an electric, pop twang, that carries with it a certain swagger, albeit in a refined, quiet sort of way. Klein’s songwriting, along with her soft and emotive vocal, take centre-stage, building a soft base from which most of these ten tracks build, instrumentation sparse behind her, before the song then grows – this is the album’s motif; a slow start, that then morphs slowly into something you weren’t really expecting, but that with each track, fits nicely. Added verve from Josh Barber (percussion), Brendan McMahon (Hammond), and Fraser Montgomery and Nick Edin adding guitars, percussion and keys, fleshes out these tracks to the point they need to be. This is a fine exercise in musical experimentation – Klein and band don’t go too far, they don’t add extras for extras’ sake; Want It All is just right. SAMUEL J. FELL
WANT IT ALL Independent
In 1940, two men stuck a letter in a bottle and buried it in concrete under the Church Street bridge where they laboured. Thinkers and dreamers, leaving a message for those who might one day listen. In 2017, the grandson of one learned of the 21st century unearthing of this missive. Rory Ellis now shares the message left by his grandfather, who served on The Somme. “The Letter’ tells the poignant tale, while global peace still eludes us: “Poor
and made for the nearest French territory. With them they brought their music and their culture, both still abundantly evident in contemporary New Orleans. After a barnstorming appearance at 2018’s Jazzfest, the next logical step for Lakou Mizik was to collaborate with the musicians of the Crescent City; the result is a joyous celebration where the traditions of Kanaval and Mardi Gras meld into an irresistible sonic gumbo. A Who’s-Who of the New Orleans scene line up to contribute to the project, and every track is its own highlights reel. On the exhilarating ‘Renmen (Love)’ the percussive Calypso swing of the eight-piece ensemble is joined by the blazing brass of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Trombone Shorty joins in on the jaunty ‘Pistach Griye (Grille Peanuts)’, and Jon Cleary’s (who appears on numerous tracks) distinctive piano beautifully embellishes the bittersweet ‘La Fanmi (The Family)’. There are cameos from Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, The Lost Bayou Ramblers, Soul Rebels, Leyla McCalla and many more, all fully embracing the dynamism of the wonderful rhythms and massed voices of the Haitian maestros. Haiti and New Orleans are intertwined culturally and, in more recent years, have both suffered more than their share of tragedy. With a little help from their friends, Lakou Mizik show that music is a mighty powerful elixir. TREVOR J. LEEDEN
The first time I heard Fenn Wilson perform solo, his extraordinary bass-baritone knocked me for a six. He felled the big bustling room into silence. Possessing the voice of an old soul, he knows how to use it and it will likely become even richer over time. His song writing skill has grown since well-received 2014 EP Tales of The Black Dog. Interpreting personal demons, doubts and desire, he sings as though no-one is listening. Yet his immersive delivery opens the door for connection. Like Wainwrights Rufus and Martha, Wilson was raised by two renowned musicians. He’s no doubt prepared for comparisons. Perhaps his involvement with community choirs led by his parents (Sarah Carroll and the late Chris Wilson) helped hone his vocal delivery skills. Modulating between whisper and roar, from yowl to tender crooning, he can hit the high notes where appropriate. But unlike an ensemble voice, he’s free to play. This lends the dark folk mood a stream-of-consciousness ‘freestyle’ feel. I doubt he sings the same notes the same way twice. However, he’s recently embraced the added power of a band format. With production by Melbourne guitar ace Shannon Bourne, romantic strings and rhythm guitar provide a subtly nuanced backdrop to songs about low times and the promise of brighter beginnings. CHRIS LAMBIE
SUNNYBOYS 40 ROCKET
GHOST HEROIN Independent
At only 23 years of age, Marcus King is already an old hand. A professional musician since he was 11, the man has been there and done it, seen it, written about it and played behind it – a wealth of
In Want It All, Melbourne’s Little Wise release their second effort, a step up and above their 2016 debut,
Since the early 19th century, the history and culture of the tiny Caribbean nation and New Orleans have been intrinsically linked, when persecuted Haitians fled
Considering the gap of some 38 years and the trials and tribulations of those intervening years, the matching of the four songs, recorded in November 1980,
featured on the eponymous debut EP that make up the first half of this celebratory 40th anniversary release and the four recorded between tour commitments in 2018 at Airlock Studios in Brisbane with producer Konstantine Kerstin is remarkably seamless. It’s also remarkable how fresh those four songs from 1980 still sound. In hindsight, some of the lyrics also give pause – “I keep getting up, but the weight of my thoughts makes me drop” (‘Love To Rule’). The signs of singer-songwriter Jeremy Oxley’s ultimately debilitating psychological condition now seem obvious, but no one really could have guessed at the time. His songs merely seemed the sort of bouncy fare borne of youthful angst with its attendant romantic confusions – “I don’t want love to rule me now” (‘Love To Rule’ again) or “We can lock away the bad memories together/Close the doors to the past, forever” (‘Alone with You’). Jeremy Oxley’s gift as a songwriter still resonates across these 40 years in the freshness of those songs off that debut EP. Innocent, yes, derivative in some ways, inevitably, drawing as it does from the best of ‘60s Beat Pop, from The Kinks in particular, to the resurgence of the late ‘70s, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and their ilk, if less sophisticated. As for the other four tracks, ‘Lovers (On Another Planet’s Hell)’ is a reworking of the version recorded for the third Sunnyboys album, Get Some Fun, with additional keyboards courtesy Alister Spence and brass parts from Eamon Dilworth and Peter Oxley’s son Nico. A live version of ‘Strange Cohesion’ featured on the band’s final album, 1984’s Real Life, so this is the first studio recording. ‘Can’t You Stop’ was originally recorded by Oxley’s short-lived post-Sunnyboys three-piece The Fishermen and is extensively rearranged here in a much punchier rendition though still very much of a piece with his classic period, the verse melody pretty much a rerun of his bestloved songs, as is the verse melody of ‘Strange Cohesion’, while ‘Way After Five’ was released by the solo Jeremy “Ponytail’ Oxley in 1991. MICHAEL SMITH 93
dig it BOoK EARLY aND
SAVE What’s better than an Americana Music Tours adventure in the World’s Greatest Music Destination? Taking $1,000*off the cost! Book by 29 February 2020 and take a cool grand off our trip to the Americana Music Triangle — the birthplace of nine different genres of roots music. We’ll take you there with our highly personalised, in-depth, local knowledge, off-the-beaten track adventures. First and foremost — we’re music fans like you — you’ll love the places we go.
15-DAY TOURS DEPARTING THROUGHOUT 2020!
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CD: World Music & Folk BY T O N Y H I L L I E R
SADIE AND JAY
A PASSING OF SEASONS Sadie & Jay Music
As excellent as they undoubtedly are as singers and players, pianist/ double bassist Sadie Gwynn Jones and guitarist/banjoist David ‘Jay’ Penman truly excel as composers that take inspiration from Australian history, both sociopolitical and sporting. Quality oozes from their third album as the Brisbane duo paint vivid pictures of a range of characters and stories of tragedy and triumph from our front and back pages with brushstrokes that are simultaneously subtle and bold. Outback mining figures from the get-go, with a hard driving opening representation of Queensland’s worst mining disaster (at Mount Mulligan in 1921, which claimed the lives of 75 workers), followed later by female stories of love and redemption set in Coober Pedy and Lightning Ridge. The story of Sydney swimming queen Fanny Durack, the Dawn Fraser of the 1910s, is condensed into a suitably sassy sepia-tinted 3-minute homage. The duet-rendered tragedy of lovers torn apart by war is contrastingly and suitably sad. Well-thought-out string arrangements that include cello and fiddle add colour and depth to a well-produced set.
JON BODEN & THE REMNANT KINGS
ROSE IN JUNE Hudson/Planet
For more information, call Garry Smith on +61 400 269 653 or visit americanamusictours.com *Conditions apply. Bookings must be made before midnight on the 29th of February 2020 to qualify. $1000 (AUD) per person discount is applicable for any 15-day tour in 2020 and is based on our standard tour price as advertised on our website. A deposit is required at the time of booking with full payment of the discounted rate per our standard booking terms and conditions. Subject to availability. For more details visit www.americanamusictours.com ©Americana Music Tours. All rights reserved.
Jon Boden of the good ship Bellowhead that ruled Britannia for a decade has found a buoyant new vessel in The Remnant Kings. Singer and band cast off boldly with an epic nigh 10-minute telling of the tragic title track tale of lives lost at sea, over an evocative symphonic backdrop created by his fiddle and the strings of his inventive sidemen. The 11-piece crew breathe fresh life into another traditional standard, ‘All Hang Down’, rocking out with brass and electric guitar a la Bellowhead. A take of ‘Rigs Of The Time’, which appeared on the Heads’ 2006 album Burlesque, invites further comparison with Boden’s erstwhile behemoth. Ewan MacColl’s poetic ‘Sweet Thames Flow Softly’ gets a funky uptempo makeover that flies in the face of the song’s sentiments. The squeezebox-driven version of ‘Hounds Of Love’, conversely, seems a tad timid compared to Kate Bush’s original recording. Three hard-hitting and wellarranged instrumentals provide an alternative to Boden’s rustic singing.
THE MILK CARTON KIDS
THE ONLY ONES Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl
Fans of The Milk Carton Kids, seduced by the exquisite vocal harmonies and elegant and intricate acoustic guitar fingerpicking of their Grammynominated breakthrough albums, will be delighted to hear that Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, after the expansive and somewhat experimental band groove of their last release, have returned to the American folk roots/contemporary songcraft that earned them comparisons with early Simon & Garfunkel. While the duo’s new works retain
a trademark melancholic and ethereal ring, they’re rich in melody and poetic imagery. The only disappointing aspect is that there are only seven tracks.
While her focus remains fixed on her ancestral home of Western Sahara and the sad plight of the Saharawi people, Aziza Brahim takes more of a global gaze with her third album in five years, both in terms of her musical direction and her concern with the world refugee situation. The singer-songwriter, who lives in exile in Barcelona, opens with a short passionate solo song, backed only by her customary tabal kettledrum, and follows with a familiar desert blues vibe. Elsewhere, though, there’s evidence of a wider musical perspective, courtesy of her recent alliance with Amparo Sánchez, of the band Amparanoia. Sánchez’s production fingerprints — and soaring voice — are all over the duet ‘Las Huelas’, a funky Latincum-reggae groove propelled by electronic keys and bubbling electric bass. The set peaks with ‘Ard El Hub’, a power ballad, in which Brahim addresses geopolitical prejudices over a hypnotic groove.
8 REMEDIOS Dr Hernández
It might have been made in Melbourne with local musicians but Dr Hernández’s debut album could easily have been recorded in Havana, Bogotá or any other hotbed of Latin music. 8 Remedios fuses Colombian cumbia, Cuban son and NuYoRican boogaloo via clav-driven grooves and soulful horns while adding a soupçon of reggae, pop and electronica to the elixir. With four cocompositions, alto saxophonist, flautist and singer Sally Ford and trumpeter Patrick Cronin (bandmates in the Melbourne Ska Orchestra) are responsible for half of the writing credits. A funked-up rendition of José Barros’s classic rumba ‘El Pescador’ is the sole cover.
The 21-piece La Répétition orchestra unites what, on paper at least, might seem an unlikely combination: that of musicians from Salento in southern Italy and traditional West African music sourced in Senegal, Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso. The result is a surprisingly cogent and vibrant hybrid sound, even if the accent is on the latter element. A percussion section that includes djembé, ngoma and dundun works wonderfully well with drum-kit and tambourine to provide a powerful pulse. A blazing horn section adds funk feel and jazz breaks, while organetto/accordion and other manifestations of Salento’s rich musical heritage afford a bridge to the Mediterranean in general and the deep south of Italy in particular.
CD: JAZZ AL HENSLEY
COMING IN HOT Alligator/Only Blues Music
World-renowned southpaw guitarist Coco Montoya straddles the frontier between Southern rock and contemporary blues. But when the songs call for a vocal ability of soulful proportions Montoya always delivers in spades. And the selections on this title, his eleventh since his solo career began over 25 years ago, are ideal vehicles for the California native to turn up the intensity of his impassioned baritone voice. A seasoned performer who served his apprenticeship as a sideman playing drums in Albert Collins’ Icebreakers and later guitar in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Montoya favours clean, twangy Stratocaster tones despite honing his torrid chops under the tutelage of the Texas Telecaster master. Montoya’s A-list backing band here includes members of the Phantom Blues Band whose drummer Tony Braunagel produced the disc. Often Montoya pays respects to Collins by covering one of his songs in the set. Wrenching searing intonation from his axe, this time Montoya makes a good fist of ‘Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home’. Drawing material from such disparate sources as Bobby Bland, Reba McEntire, Frankie Miller, Warren Haynes and David Egan, Montoya’s eclectic musical gumbo is distilled into a full-bodied soul blues flavoured brew. 96
MATTY T WALL
TRANSPACIFIC BLUES VOL. 1 Only Blues Music Having established his credentials as a firebrand songwriter on previous outings Matty T Wall’s third CD in as many years gives eight timeless blues classics a fresh veneer. The West Australian artist’s clear-toned voice and fiery guitar expertise - modelled on the rock-infused school of blues playing - indicate a talented musician who stands out from the pack. For a novel approach to his craft, Wall reached out across the globe inviting some of his fretboard heroes to trade licks with him on an amped-up guitar extravaganza which resulted in plenty of creative twists. Fellow Perthbased guitar slinger Dave Hole performs on John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’, Eric Gales appears on Tommy Tucker’s ‘Hi Heel Sneakers’ and Walter Trout bends the strings on Muddy Waters’ ‘She’s Into Something’. Churning out clusters of notes in rapid succession, one thing they all have in common is a preference for more rather than less. When it comes to credible blues gravitas US west coast guitarists Kid Ramos and Kirk Fletcher have few peers. Ramos adds lustre to Albert Collins’ ‘Quicksand’, Fletcher underscoring the Albert King staple ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ with a decidedly cool R&Bflavoured delivery.
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BLIND, BLACK & BLUE Rough Guides/Planet Co.
This remastered offering from the Rough Guides label’s extensive library of pre-war country blues recordings explores the vast contribution made between 1927 and 1940 by blind musicians whose legacy on the genre still resonates today. The poor social circumstances under which they existed deprived them of access to proper medical treatment for their conditions thus preventing them from earning a livelihood performing manual labouring jobs. For the 17 artists represented here the only avenue available to them to make a living was music. Due to varying degrees of visual impairment they developed a heightened sense of musicality and technical brilliance performing blues, folk songs, rags and spirituals on street corners, in juke joints and in labour camps. Texas blues pioneers Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie Johnson attained a level of celebrity status by virtue of waxings compiled here as did Delta musicians Sleepy John Estes and Bo Carter, likewise with Sonny Terry, Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Willie McTell from the Piedmont. While the era’s female blues singers mainly flourished on the vaudeville circuit, the set includes gospel singers Blind Gussie Nesbit and Blind Mamie Forehand.
STROLLIN’ WITH NOLEN Jasmine The name Jimmy Nolen isn’t one that’s bandied around a lot during conversations about the most influential guitarists of the 20th century. According to UK music magazine Mojo however, Nolen was rated 12th in their survey of the 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time. A quiet achiever, Nolen has rarely attracted the lofty exultation attributed to many of his more widely renowned counterparts. Today Nolen is best known for his innovative work as lead guitarist in James Brown’s bands from 1965 to his untimely death aged 49 in 1983. There he virtually defined the art of funk guitar leaving a massive imprint on the style for decades to come. This double CD set of 55 recordings takes the listener on a comprehensive musical journey through Nolen’s early career in California from 1953 to 1962. His incisive tone and flawless technique are deeply reminiscent of Pee Wee Crayton and T-Bone Walker. Also a commanding vocalist, Nolen is heard wailing the blues on several of his own singles. Equally compelling is his outstanding guitar work in the bands of west coast R&B luminaries like Monte Easter, Chuck Higgins, Johnny Otis and George ‘Harmonica’ Smith where he was in high demand.
TURNING POINT Birdland Records
When the awards for Australian jazz band and album of 2019 are handed out later this year, there’s a fair chance that Hammerhead’s name will loom large. The Sydney sextet’s second release, recorded in the wake of personnel changes and deep reflection on stylistic and compositional direction by the band’s leader, is pretty well what the title suggests. The record represents a significant turning point for both Hammerhead and its founder/ frontman, composer and tenor and soprano saxophonist Jason Bruer. Whereas 2014’s Mozaic was a genuflection to movers and shakers of the hard bop movement, the all-original Turning Point is coloured from an expanded palette, mirroring Bruer’s desire to inject more diversity into the group’s repertoire. Hammerhead trawls deep and wide — from a hard swinging starter to a closing waltz; from a breathtaking ballad to a blues-based eulogy; from a classically informed fugue to funk-jazz. The rich counterpoint created within the horn and rhythm sections, the diversity of styles within the jazz spectrum and the inordinately high quality of arranging and individual and collective playing brings to mind those Australian champions of yore Ten Part Invention.
CHICK COREA, CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE & BRIAN BLADE
TRILOGY 2 Concord Jazz/Planet As prodigious as he is as pianist and composer with a penchant
for Latin jazz, Chick Corea is seemingly somewhat reluctant to break with the past. On Trilogy, his brilliant double Grammy Award-winning live trio album of 2014 with master bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, Corea regurgitated ‘Spain’ and ‘Armando’s Rhumba’, pieces that he has recorded multi-times since writing them back in the 1970s. On Trilogy 2 — recorded on a more recent world tour — he has added a couple more numbers from his days with Return To Forever.
The latest renditions of ‘La Fiesta’ and ‘500 Miles High’ are, nevertheless, among the undoubted highlights of a stunning double-disc sequel that not only shows Corea is as virtuosic and inventive as ever at 78, but also confirms the sublime chemistry that exists between the keyboard maestro and his renowned partners-in-rhyme. Elsewhere on the set, this stellar trio also sinks its collective teeth into Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Joe Henderson standards, several works from the American songbook and a stunning version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’.
DAVE HOLLAND, CHRIS POTTER & ZAKIR HUSSAIN
GOOD HOPE Edition Records/Planet
Any album with Zakir Hussain’s moniker on it must intrinsically contain an element of traditional Indian music, but Good Hope is no Shakti, the master percussionist’s mid-1970s seminal record/band with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar. What we have here is a bona fide international jazz master class between East and West, with Hussain providing a hypnotic pulse (predominantly on tabla, but also on chanda, kanjira and madal), which the equally stellar English double bassist and Miles Davis sideman Dave Holland and the two-decades-younger American reeds’ ace Chris Potter, who’s widely recognised as one of the finest jazz saxophonists of his generation, work their magic. That the collaboration is built on mutual respect permeates every bar of eight masterfully crafted tracks. From the opener ‘Ziandi’ to the closing ‘Mazad’, a thoroughly engrossing set exudes spontaneous interaction, dialogue and harmony.
snugly as a fez, creating a smoky late-night Cairo jazz cellar cum cabaret vibe. The piano prowess of the London Jazz Orchestra’s Alcyona Mick, the subtle trumpet playing of Hayden Powell and Idris Rahman’s versatility on reeds combine to add jazz finesse and creativity. Away from her favoured Middle Eastern modal singing, Atlas shows Latin lilt on ‘Sunshine Day’ and interpretive skills with a dramatic reading of James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s World’.
With First Spring, pianist Florian Hoefner — among the headline artists at this year’s Melbourne international Jazz Festival bill — scales down from quartet to trio for the first time on record while fulfilling a growing interest in Americana inspired by roots music artists of the calibre of Chris Thile and Sam Amidon. The Canada-based German is very well served in this endeavour by the extraordinary con arco double bass playing of Andrew Downing and the subtle and versatile drumming of Nick Fraser, thus allowing the creation of jazz that’s significantly different from that featured on his previous albums. With bowed bass adopting the role of folk fiddle, there’s no lack of melodicism or harmony in the pianist’s six reimaginings of favourite works, and three original compositions. Mark you, not all the tracks are as successfully infused with the interplay and rhythmic language of a jazz trio as the evocative reading of Appalachian folk ballad ‘Rain and Snow’ or the up-tempo recasting of ‘The Maid On The Shore’, a Newfoundland song rooted in the Gaelic tradition.
STRANGE DAYS Whirlwind Recordings
Egyptian-British singer Natacha Atlas, the siren that fronted Transglobal Underground and Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart, might be moving sharply away from world music and dub and edging towards mainstream jazz, but she has not left her Arabic heritage behind. That’s what makes Strange Days so intriguing. The diva and her long-time cowriter, producer and violinist/ guitarist, Samy Bishai, have utilised a strong team of string players and a sterling rhythm section to build swirling Egyptesque orchestral backdrops while allowing space for lead players to stretch out. The arrangements fit Atlas’s sultry, oscillating vocals as
FIRST SPRING ALMA Records
VINYL: BY S T E V E B E L L
JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT Southeastern/Inertia
When Jason Isbell walked away from his plum job as third wheel singer-songwriter in beloved Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers back in 2007, despite his obvious talents no one was predicting his eventual rise to prominence. His breakthrough came with 2013’s acclaimed Southeastern – the first album he made after giving up his hard-drinking road warrior status to embrace sobriety – but before then he’d already released three solo albums, the latter two of which have just been given long-overdue vinyl reissues. Isbell’s first solo foray was 2007’s slightly lacklustre Sirens Of The Ditch, which he followed up with the 2009 eponymous release by the new outfit he’d assembled, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit. He and the new crew remain largely in the realms of country-tinged blues-rock (‘Good’, ‘Soldiers Get Strange’), but there are some deft forays into ‘60s Stax soul (‘No Choice In The Matter’), old country cliché (‘Cigarettes and Wine’) and heartfelt balladry (‘The Last Song I Shall Write’). There’s a premium on nuance and melody in most of the tracks – the same way his songs used to stand out against the other Truckers’ more fire and brimstone fare – and you can hear Isbell gradually developing the confidence that would soon take him to the top of the Americana pile. 98
ARTHUR (OR THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE)
THE MYTHIC PLANE
Warner Back in 1969 UK rock’n’roll chameleons The Kinks were in something of a career lull, their most recent 1968 opus The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society having failed to get traction on either side of The Atlantic (although it’s today considered something of a masterpiece). Instead of moping the brothers who led the band creatively – Ray and Dave Davies – doubled down on the conceptual premise of putting UK society under the lens, crafting a batch of songs loosely based around the life of their brother-in-law, who’d recently emigrated to Australia (it was originally envisaged as the soundtrack to an unproduced TV series co-written by Ray, before being repurposed for the band). Now for its 50th anniversary reissue Arthur (or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) has been given the 2-LP deluxe treatment, the album itself having been beautifully remastered and now abetted by another full platter of contemporary singles, alternate versions and some live radio recordings of songs from the record. The bonus tracks are routinely interesting but it’s the album itself which really shines under re-examination, showing why its one of the few concept albums of its age that seems to have weathered the ravages of time with its reputation intact.
WORDS OF LOVE: MARIANNE & LEONARD UNIVERSAL HOME ENTERTAINMENT Aussie singer-songwriter Ben Salter seems to have found a physical end to his southern life trajectory – having moved from Townsville to Brisbane to Melbourne before now settling down just outside Hobart – but his deft songwriting chops and emotive musicianship continue on their upwards trajectory. Having come to attention fronting a slew of bands (most notably Giants Of Science and The Gin Club) in recent years he’s been favouring the solo route, The Mythic Plane being the fourth album bearing his name since his acclaimed 2011 debut The Cat. Inspired by the near year-long solo tour through Europe and Japan that Salter undertook over 2018/19, it has a much looser feel than its predecessors due to being selfrecorded (some recordings were even made during the tour itself, evidenced by live track ‘Improvisation’ which was recorded in Iceland) but this no-frills production ends up serving the songs perfectly. Interesting arrangements and innovative instrumentation abound but its Salter’s relaxed knack for narrative imagery and trademark ultra-expressive vocals that make tunes like opener ‘Remember When We Went For A Swim’, the pop-culture drenched ‘The Golden Age Of Smoking’, self-scathing rocker ‘You Ain’t Been Good To Me Yet’, the hypnotising swell of ‘Power’, the jazz-infused title track and the beautifully-sculpted closer ‘Golden Axe’ so effortlessly compelling.
In his new film, veteran British documentarymaker Nick Broomfield offers a uniquely personal view on the lengthy relationship between Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen which began on the Greek island of Hydra in the ‘60s and endured for decades afterwards. As a poet and aspiring novelist, Cohen arrived in Hydra - a haven for writers, artists and musicians (including Australians George Johnston and Charmain Clift) - in 1960 and met Ihlen, who had come from Norway. It was an instant attraction and Marianne became the subject of some of Cohen’s most famous songs, including the 1967 classic ‘So Long, Marianne.’ In 2016 Cohen sent a letter to Ihlen as she lay on her deathbed (she died on July 28, 2016). “I’m just a little behind you, close enough to take your hand. This old body has given up, just as yours has too, and the eviction notice is on its way any day now. I’ve never forgotten your love and your beauty. But you know that. I don’t have to say any more. Safe travels old friend. See you down the road. Love and gratitude.” (Cohen died less than four months later). The letter emotionally bookends the film, which contains some remarkable archival footage and captures the life that the couple led; idyllic for a while but doomed by Cohen’s restlessness. “I think there was an enduring love between Leonard and Marianne, throughout their lives and it was a very unconventional love affair,” says Broomfield. “It wasn’t your normal happily ever after love where they all lived under the same roof. It was very different,
FILM BY S T E V E B E L L
and there were long periods where they didn’t see each other. But there remained this very, very strong connection between them, which I think is probably more normal than anything. I think one of the strengths of the film is that it reminds people of their own love affairs, and their own relationships, which very often occur in one part of your life and then you move on. It’s a film about enduring love.” Broomfield also met Marianne when he arrived on the island as a 20-year-old in 1968 and he developed a relationship with her and later met Leonard as well. “I went to the Island of Hydra at a time when I was kind of looking,” recalls Broomfield. “I was a 20-year-old adolescent and out of college. I was studying to be a barrister, not really loving it. So, I was wondering what I was going to do with myself, and I think they gave me the encouragement by example and by direct encouragement to make my first film, which was obviously a big step, and just gave me a lot more confidence to do something that wasn’t a regular job with a regular employment. While Cohen went to Hydra because he was running away from his life in Montreal, Broomfield ended up there for a completely different – and unusual – reason. He was on a cruise with his parents to visit archaeological
sites in Greece and the wife of the future Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Runcie), encouraged Broomfield to jump ship and go to Hydra. “She was a very wild woman,” he recalls. “It was completely by accident that I went there.” Broomfield says that the island had the same profound effect on him as it did on many others, including Marianne and Leonard. “It’s still intoxicatingly beautiful,” he says. “I think one of the wonderful things about it is it doesn’t have cars. So, it has remained very natural and there’s a magic about the island.” Marianne Ihlen was a muse to not only Leonard Cohen, but to others, including singer Julie Felix, and seemed to have an effect on all those with whom she came in contact. “She was really interested in people,” observes Broomfield, “and she was interested in people to the extent that she could spot what they were really great at, what their real talent was. I think for a lot of artists, they’re artistic, but they’re a bit unfocused. Leonard, for example, was playing the guitar but he was playing more old folk songs and stuff. Of course, he was a great writer, and he was doing poetry, but it hadn’t occurred to him to put the two together.” “I think Marianne encouraged him to experiment and put the two - the writing and the music - together in the same way that she also had encouraged Julie Felix to write her own songs rather than just doing Bob Dylan covers. With me, she encouraged me to make my own first film, which was something I was, really frightened of doing. So, I guess, if she was alive today, she’d be charging her 25% and living in a Beverly Hills mansion somewhere. But that wasn’t really what Marianne was interested in, I don’t think at that time. She was very interested in people and very giving and nurturing.” Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love opens in cinemas now. 99
Tell MeWhy: The Story of My Life and Music BY JOHN CORNELL
UPGRADING TO QUALITY CARTRIDGE CAN TRANSFORM YOUR TURNTABLE The cartridge – including the stylus, also referred to as the needle – makes up just a tiny portion of your turntable. Even the largest on the market barely tip the scales at 20 grams and are no bigger than a cherry.
• Stylus. The profile of the stylus
Despite their small size, cartridges are one of the most significant components of a record player. They have the all-important task of transforming the grooves of a vinyl record into an electrical signal. And that’s why swapping out a worn or sub-par cartridge (if your record player allows) for a high-quality one will have a tremendous impact on the sound your turntable can produce.
• Suspension. The suspension needs to be
Generally speaking, you should get about 500 to 1,000 hours of play time out of your needle. Keep an ear out for distortion, jumps, fuzziness, background noise, spitting, static, crackles, and blurring – these are all signs that it’s time for a replacement. Also, keep in mind that a worn needle could be damaging your beloved records. If you’re just looking for a quick-fix, it may be enough to pop in a new needle and call it a day. In fact, this is about as much customisation as many entry-level record players allow. If you are, however, wanting to breathe new life into your turntable’s audio quality, it’s worth taking this opportunity to switch out your old cartridge for a new, higher quality model. Let’s take a closer look at the key benefit of opting for a top-of-the-line cartridge: nextlevel sound. How your turntable cartridge affects sound quality Higher quality cartridges sound much, much better than lower quality models. Why? Well, there is a whole range of nuanced design elements involved:
• Cantilever. You want a cantilever that’s
light yet sturdy. That way, it allows the needle to glide effortlessly between the record walls without adding resonance to the signal.
determines how much of the record groove can be read and turned into an electrical signal. Round is the most basic, and most common, profile. just so to allow the needle to track the record grooves while maintaining close and constant contact.
• Magnets and coils inside the cartridge.
This is where electromagnetic induction occurs – in other words, where information from the record grooves is transformed into an electrical signal. Strong magnets and tight coils found in higher-end cartridges produce the clearest signals.
When these four design features work in harmony, you can expect a richer, deeper sound with a more secure, apparent bass. Sub-heading? Not a lot of people are aware that at one time Australia was home to two of the worlds most renowned cartridge and stylus experts, Brian and John Garrott. Lauded the world over for their expertise in revamping cartridges, the Garrott Brothers also produced a range of cartridges which are still available today despite the brothers passing away in 1992. The products that they so meticulously manufactured are still assembled in Australia and still have the legendary Garrott Brothers sound. There are six cartridges in the current Garrott Brothers line-up and whilst all are worthy upgrades, here are two that come especially highly recommended. Firstly, the K1 ($230.00) which is a great upgrade for any reasonable quality turntable. Secondly, and for those with more premium tastes, the P77i ($690.00) harmoniously combines the best features of the 3 major types of stereo cartridge design - that is, moving magnet (MM), moving coil (MC), and variable reluctance (Decca type) - for a price well below its competitors.
By Archie Roach (Simon & Schuster, h/b) Let me begin with an admission: nothing could have prepared me for this book. The disparity between its content, and the dignified voice through which it is told, so full of compassion, is cause for wonder. It begs the question: how could someone who lived this story tell it with such dignity, November 2019 without bitterness or resentment? Each reader will draw their own conclusions, but it surely speaks volumes about Archie Roach’s place within our culture: as a gentle and humble song man and storyteller, an elder whose wisdom is etched into the lines of his face. Roach begins his book by recounting the day at school in Lilydale, Melbourne, in 1970 when he was called out of class and handed a letter from his sister Myrtle (whose very existence he was unaware) telling him that his mother (about whom he knew nothing) had just died. In that moment, the life Roach knew collapsed around him: “The world started to spin with names and faces and thoughts and songs and feelings that were brand new and also old and familiar”. While the term ‘stolen generation’ is a familiar one today, we have to remind ourselves how recently this history was uncovered. It was only in 2008 that the Rudd Government delivered its historic apology to the Stolen Generations. Roach was scheduled to perform on stage at Federation Square that day, and as Rudd spoke his words “tears streamed down my face and my chest heaved”. When Roach first composed his song ‘Took the Children Away’, he believed he was writing about an incident in his own past. But when he performed it at the inaugural Survival Day protests in Sydney during the 1988 bi-centenary, he was stunned to discover that his story was the nation’s story: “People from all across this Aboriginal nation came up to me at the front of the stage to tell me that my story, my family’s story, was also their story”. Having been forcibly removed from his parent’s care when he was too young to remember, Roach was raised by two white folks he calls Mum Dulcie and Dad Alex, good people he now looks upon as victims of a system they little understood. While there have been numerous reports about the Stolen Generation, Roach’s searing account of his own experience provides a unique and painful insight for those of us who have long admired his music. His late teenage years, when he took off in search of his roots, were marred by homelessness, alcohol abuse, and prison time. Roach’s brutal honesty about this period of his life makes for genuinely shocking reading. At the same time, he finds community, a rag tag troop of drinkers in Fitzroy and St. Kilda, and one by one he re-finds the brothers and sisters from whom he was long ago separated. The extent to which Roach’s songs have plundered his own life is evidenced in the lyrics reproduced at the start of each chapter. To read Roach’s account of his brief time travelling with Billy Leach’s boxing troupe is to hear his song ‘Rally Round the Drum’, co-written with Paul Kelly, with new ears. In the same way, the lyrics to his song ‘Tell Me Why’, when set against the story of his parents, cut to the bone. Later, Roach would construct songs out of stories told to him by others, thereby giving voice to the voiceless.
At the centre of Tell Me Why is a love story. Roach met future life-partner and musical partner Ruby Hunter in Adelaide when she was just sixteen, beginning a journey that lasted until her death in 2010. Though they lived through hard times, raising an extended family, their love never faltered, and his book, if nothing else, is a paean to her strength and character. While fame came late for Roach, not until his early thirties, it arrived with unexpected suddenness. After Paul Kelly saw his 1989 performance of ‘Took the Children Away’ on the ABC TV series Blackout, he phoned Roach to invite him to open for the Messengers at the Concert Hall in Melbourne. When Kelly stopped by his dressing room to say hello, Roach – who hadn’t previously heard of him – assumed the little guy with the broken nose, dressed in black, was the bouncer. Roach’s performance was a resounding success, and soon after he found himself in a studio with Kelly recording Charcoal Lane, which went on to win two Aria awards. If the last third of Roach’s book falls away a little, it is largely because there is too much living to be squeezed into its pages: recordings, local and international tours, collaborations with choirs and orchestras, with the Bangarra Dance Theatre, with Paul Grabowsky’s Australian Art Orchestra. Throughout the telling, Roach maintains a measured pace, acknowledging those who have helped him, paying tribute to his forebears. Despite ill-health, he maintains a positive outlook. In the book’s final pages, he dwells upon the universality of experience, our longing for the spirit of place: “The heartbeat that connects us all goes way back to the very beginning of time itself”. Roach’s memoir is a timely and important work. As a nation, we are richer for this book and these words.
By Stuart Coupe
ooks. They’re like CDs and records. They multiply in the night. Insidiously they grow whilst you’re not looking and then they put their little heads up and go, ‘hey, what about me?’ And reading these creatures takes concentrated time. You can do a lot of things whilst listening to music. Dishes. Washing. Eating. Those sorts of things. There are very few other things you can do whilst reading.
JOHN McPHEE – LEVELS OF THE GAME. I love McPhee’s writing and have read a lot of it. My publisher suggested a few titles by him as inspiration for my current project, and I realised that I’d never read one of McPhee’s most famous books from back in 1969. How had I not read it? Levels Of The Game is a masterful re-telling of a tennis game between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner at Forest Hill in New York in 1968. It’s not even a final. The winner goes into that game. But in a short (150 pages) book McPhee manages to cover so much terrain – the match off course, ball-by-ball, but the backgrounds of the players, politics, race in America, psychology, physicality, and many other topics. It’s a classic. ALAN B. KRUEGER – ROCKONOMICS. This is a fascinating look at how the machinations of the music industry can show how markets change and how businesses will operate in the future. It sounds dry but is anything but that. And not every book comes with a cover endorsement from Barack Obama who says of the author, “A key voice on a vast array of economic issues.” CASEY RAE – WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS AND THE CULT OF ROCK’N’ROLL. This promises lots and delivers less. It’s not a
disaster at all but too much of it reads as if it’s a PHD that Rae has decided to turn into a book. Heaps (and heaps) of background primer info that most people know. It covers all the key aspects of Burroughs’ influence on rock’n’roll without telling you anything much that you won’t already know if WSB is an area of interest. And maybe I missed it but when Rae discusses the Velvet Underground and their Loaded album, I was waiting for the discussion about whether Lonesome Cowboy Bill is actually about Burroughs. MIKE KATZ AND CRISPIN KOTT – ROCK AND ROLL: EXPLORER GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY. I’m usually sus about these sorts of rock landmark guidebooks but I bought this in NYC a few months back and it is the absolute business. Incredibly detailed, nuanced….. and well, make sure you have it with you on your next trip to The City. GEOFF DYER – BUT BEAUTIFUL. I’m late to this one but I’m glad I got there in the end. Absolutely superb vignettes about the lives and music of artists like Chet Baker, Ben Webster, Charles Mingus and Bud Powell. Keith Jarrett calls this book “a little gem” and he’s right. Greil Marcus digs it too. And so do I.
And for every book you read another dozen will suggest themselves before you’ve finished the tome at hand. Some of them are new – others often years old. I spent 2019 doing what I always do. Hardly watching movies of television. I subscribe to Netflix, Stan and now Disney (thanks to the 12 year old in my life) but I don’t think I’ve watched anything on any of them all the way through. Like NOTHING at all. Oh yes, about a year after it came out I did watch that one about the music festival that went belly up. I’d forgotten what it was called but just Googled ‘music + festival + documentary + disaster’ and Fyre came up. That one. I watched that. But otherwise I read. Much of it in 2019 was pages and pages relating to the book I’m currently writing. The one about Paul Kelly that will be out in August 2020. I hope. Otherwise, I did delve into a bunch of new and old books – some of which I’ve already noted in these pages. Here are some of them that I haven’t mentioned: PETER LILLIE – SURFERS PARADISE LOST. This is a simply beautiful collection of words and music from the late Peter Lillee. Comes with a 20 song CD as well. This is the sort of publication that comes from a great love and respect for the subject. It’s full colour, sorta large format and an absolutely perfect tribute to the much loved Melbourne musician and songwriter. Published by Slimfit Press.
FRI 24 – SUN 26 APRIL 2020 · PLEASE�WELCOME�THE�FIRST�PORTION�OF�SUPREME�MUSIC�EXECUTANTS� ·
THE CHURCH · HARTS PLAYS HENDRIX
OTA · DYSON STRINGER CLOHER · FRAZEY FORD (CA) STEVE SMYTH · CASH SAVAGE & THE LAST DRINKS
OKENYO · LOST RAGAS · COUSIN TONY’S BRAND NEW FIREBIRD SON-SUSAN O’NEILL (IRL) · EAGLE EYE JONES · TORI FORSYTH LACHLAN X. MORRIS · CODA CHROMA · M.E. BAIRD JONES THE CAT · THE SOUL MOVERS · BUDDY DINGO PALOMINO · DASHVILLE PROGRESS SOCIETY + PLENTY MORE TO COME!
BELFORD, � HUNTER � VALLEY � NSW � � � � W W W.TH EGUMBALL .COM . AU �
F E S T I VA L
MONA FOMA Friday January 17 - Sunday 19 Where: Launceston, Tasmania Getting There: Launceston airport About: Some of Launceston’s iconic destinations feature 25 Venues and more than 400 artists. Line-Up: Amanda Palmer, Paul Kelly, Orville Peck, Holly Herndon, Flying Lotus etc. Tickets: Festival Pass $139/$11/ $99 (Tas resident)/$89 (Tas conc.) Some separately ticketed events. Website: mofo.net.au
THREDBO BLUES FESTIVAL Friday January 17 – Sunday 19 Where: Thredbo, NSW Getting There: Drive from Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne. About: Organised by volunteers from the Thredbo Business Community the objective of the event is to bring a party to Thredbo in the summer season. Line-Up: Tyrone Vaughan with Darren Jack Band, Ray Beadle Band, 8 Ball Aitken, Andrea Marr – McNaMarr Project, Charlie Bedford, Claude Hay, Foreday Riders, Shane Pacey Trio etc. Tickets: Full Weekend $169 / Full Day $85 Students 1/2Price/Children under 14 Free Website: thredboblues.com.au 104
NEWSTEAD LIVE Friday January 24 – Monday January 27 Where: Newstead, Victoria Getting There: Near Castlemaine, 1 ½ hours from Melbourne About: Newstead is a thriving, vibrant town on the Loddon River in Central Victoria, 15 minutes from Castlemaine. International and national artists perform in venues, concert spaces, workshops, impromptu sessions, blackboard spots and openmic sessions. Music for all ages and genres, view our performer page to find out more. Newstead Live is managed by a voluntary body of members working together to develop their community. Line-Up: Lucie Thorne, Eric Bogle, Michael Waugh, Ian Bland, The Ocelots, Rich Davies & The Low Road, Kerryn Fields, Lucy Wise & Stephen Taberne etc. Tickets: Adult Weekend: $130 Adult Weekend & 1 Youth: $135 Student Weekend: $80 Day Pass: Adult $70 (Saturday/Sunday), $35 (Friday/Monday) Student $40 (Saturday/Sunday), $20 (Friday/Monday) Website: newsteadlive.com
AUSTRALIAN BLUES MUSIC FESTIVAL Friday February 7 – Sunday 9 Where: Goulburn NSW Getting There: 2 hours from Sydney, 1 ½ hours from Wollongong, 1 ½ hours from Batemans Bay, 1 hour from Canberra, 7 hours from Melbourne. Check website for more options. About: The Australian Blues Music Festival is held on the second weekend of February every year in a variety of venues throughout the historic city of Goulburn in New South Wales. In 2020, the festival will be featuring over 25 blues acts at 7 pubs and clubs around Goulburn from midday through until 1am. You can also travel in style to all venues during festival in the free blues bus. Line-Up: Backsliders, Jan Preston’s Boogie Circus, Kate Lush Band, Liz Ohlback, Blues Exile, Brian Fraser, 500 Pounds of Joy, Julian James, Chris Harland Band, Tomcat Playground, Killwater, Frank Macias & Los Amigos, Love Child, Tramwreck, The Sunbears, Jarrod Shaw, Swamp Critters, Divine Devilles, Mark ‘N The Blues, Flynn Gurry and more australianbluesfestival. comTickets: $30 / Children Free Website: australianbluesfestival.com
MORNINGTON PENINSULA BLUES FESTIVAL Saturday February 8 11.30am – 9.00pm Where: Mornington Racecourse, Victoria Getting There: There will be shuttle buses running from Sorrento and Melbourne to the Mornington Racecourse for the event. (Check website for details). About: The Mornington Peninsula Blues Festival, which will be held at Mornington Racecourse on Saturday, February 8, is the brainchild of Peninsula resident Patrick Elliget, the man behind the highly successful Mornington Peninsula Blues Sessions. Peninsula music-lovers will be able to enjoy food and refreshments courtesy of the Mornington Racing Club providers while they listen to eight high-class blues acts. There will be various market stalls and displays in a celebration of what the Peninsula has to offer. There will be shuttle buses running from Sorrento and Melbourne to the Mornington Racecourse for the event. (Link to come shortly) Line-Up: Lloyd Spiegel, Ray Beadle & Darren Jack Band, Jimi Hocking’s Blues Machine, & Geoff Achison, Blues Arcadia, Kelly Auty Band, Nathan Beretta Band, Sammy Owen Band, Paul Winn Band, Matt Katsis. Tickets: $90 / Children (13-17): $30. Website: mornpenbluesfest.com
RIVERBOATS MUSIC FESTIVAL Friday February 14 – Sunday 16 Where: Echuca Getting There: Echuca is on the banks of the Murray River and is 212km (under 3 hours) from Melbourne. Trains run to Bendigo from Southern Cross Melbourne where there is coach transfer to Echuca. About: In 2020 the Riverboats Music Festival will celebrate its ninth anniversary. It is staged at the Aquatic Reserve, Echuca. Staged in the twin-towns of Echuca-Moama on the third weekend in February each year, Riverboats takes place under towering river red gums in a natural amphitheatre next to the mighty Murray. Line-Up: Bernard Fanning, Kate MillerHeidke, Troy Cassar-Daley, Something For Kate, Archie Roach, Dyson Stringer Cloher, Robert Forster, Bob Evans, Mama Kin Spender, Ainslie Wills, Horns of Leroy, Matt Joe Gow, Jess Locke. Tickets: Single Day tickets: Friday $60 (adult), $150 (Family)/ Saturday (sold out) / Sunday: $80/$200 (family) Website: riverboatsmusic.com.au
NANNUP MUSIC FESTIVAL Friday February 28 – Sunday March 2, Where: Nannup, WA Getting There: Nannup is located in the South West of Western Australia. Albany: 3 h 1 min (272.2 km) via Muir Hwy/State Route 102 / From Margaret River: 49 min (70.8 km) via Rosa Brook Rd and Mowen Rd / From Perth: 2 h 49 min (267.2 km) via State Route 2 About: Nannup Music Festival presents an eclectic mix of acts over the first weekend of March each year, set to the stunning bush backdrop of Australia’s South West and the small-town atmosphere of Nannup; a historic timber town on the banks of the Blackwood River. The festival is a colourful celebration of original music, art, nature, community and diversity. The festival highlights the best in new, emerging and indigenous music over free and ticketed venues, boasts an Emerging Artists Award and a Busking Competition, and offers a wide array of activities beyond that. Street performers, workshops, talks, poetry, camping, food and artisan markets and free activities. Line-Up: Archie Roach, Nancie Schipper, Bill Chambers, Murray Cook’s Soul Movers, The Weeping Willows, Brighe Chambeul (Scot), The East Pointers (Canada), Gallie, Hussy Hicks, Charm of Finches, Grace Barbe, Jenny Mitchell, Carus Thompson, Tickets: $190 (weekend, $200 at gate), $110 (Single Day), $95 (Youth Weekend), $35 (Youth Single Day), Children (Free), Website: nannupmusicfestival.org
THE GREAT ALPINE PICK Friday February 28 – Sunday March 1 Where: Harrietville, Victoria Getting There: Harrietville is approximately 4 hrs from Melbourne. Head up the Hume highway, turn right at Wangaratta and follow the signs to Harrietville About: The Great Alpine Pick is a Convention that is held annually in the town of Harrietville in Victoria The Great Alpine Pick invite Bluegrass and Old Timey Music artists and enthusiasts to come down to enjoy a great series of concerts and playalong sessions and join in the many jams that are bound to happen. at the infamous rotunda and all around town. The Mountain Pickers Association, we are a group dedicated to the promotion of Bluegrass, Old Timey and Associated Music in Victoria. They have a Monthly Club Night at the Ferntree Gully Bowling Club. This is held on the last Tuesday of the month from January to November. The club night consists of a chalkboard concert featuring local working bands followed by a Feature Act, both local and overseas guests appear. Line-Up: The Stetson Family, Kissin’ Cousins, The Undertones, Coolgrass, Slim Dime & The Prairie Kings. Tickets: Friday night and Saturday night concerts at Community Hall ($25/$22 concession/$20 members) Website: mountainpickers.net
PORT FAIRY FOLK FESTIVAL Friday March 6 – Monday March 9 Where: Port Fairy is on the South West Coast of Victoria, approximately 290km from Melbourne, and 28km from Warrnambool, it’s largest regional neighbour Getting There: Allow 3.5 hours travel from Melbourne by car via Princes/Hamilton Highway and 6 hours if taking the scenic route via the Great Ocean Road. The Festival arena is just a short stroll from the centre of the township. About: The Port Fairy Folk Festival was established in 1977. Since that date it has grown to become one of the most regarded festivals both in Australia and on the international festival network. The festival has won numerous awards and has been inducted into the Australian National Tourism Hall of Fame. Line-Up: Archie Roach, Patty Griffin (USA), Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi (USA/ITA), CW Stoneking, Dan Sultan, Emily Wurramara, Grace Petrie (UK), Harry Shearer (USA), Judith Owen (Wales), Jeff Lang, John Smith (UK), Keiran Kane & Rayna Gellert (USA), Neil Murray, Nick Charles, Sarah Carroll & Shannon Bourne, Shane Howard, The East Pointers (USA), William Crighton, Yolanda Brown (UK) and many more. Tickets: $295 (Adult), $110 (Youth) / $195/$85 (Two day Pass) Website: portfairyfolkfestival.com
BLUES ON BROADBEACH Thursday May 14 – Sunday May 17
BLUE MOUNTAINS MUSIC FESTIVAL March 13 – 15 Where: Katoomba, NSW Getting There: By road Katoomba is 1.5 - 2 hours from central Sydney along the M4 and the Great Western Highway. It can sometimes be quite busy at weekends so if you are coming up on Saturday or Sunday leave early as you may need the extra. Trains leave from Sydney Central Railway Station for Katoomba almost every hour. Visit the Transport for NSW website and checkout the timetable for Blue Mountains line. About: The Blue Mountains Music Festival of Folk Roots and Blues, takes place in Katoomba in March each year. It runs from 7pm Friday ‘til late. Saturday 9.30am ‘til late and Sunday 9.30:00am til 9:30pm. The festival site is home to 8 undercover performance venues on which over 100 performances occur. Line-Up Includes: John Butler, Kasey Chambers, Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi, Kieren Kane & Rayna Gellert, Backsliders, Irish Mythen, YolanDa Brown, Eastpointers, Eleanor McEvoy, 19-Twenty, The Turner Brown Band, Sandman and Flacco, Emily Wurramara, Claude Hay, Mama Kin Spender, John Smith, Lloyd Spiegel, Grace Petrie, Shellie Morris & Djakapurra, Will Kimbrough, Whitetop Mountaineers, Eagle and the Wolf, Isobel Knight, and Big Merino. Tickets: $220/$195 (conc)/$90 (13-18)/$15 (3-12) (Full weekend early bird) Website: bmff.org.au
BLUESFEST Thursday April 9 – Monday April 13 Where: Tyagarah, NSW Getting There: Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, approximately 10 minutes north of Byron and 5 minutes south of Brunswick Heads. Travelling to Bluesfest is easy and hassle free whether you are local or coming from interstate, only 30 minutes from Ballina Airport and 40 minutes from Gold Coast Airport. Local festival shuttle buses will be running (check website). Festival parking is available for a fee. Camping is also available. About: Bluefest showcases music from around the world and presents over 200 performances with various stages over 5, 12-hour days, as well as camping for up to 6,000 people, 5 licensed bars, over 100 food and market stalls, undercover food courts, beer gardens, and children’s entertainment. Line-Up: (Selected): Patti Smith, John Prine, The War & Treaty, Dave Matthews Band, Crowded House, The Waifs, John Butler, Lenny Kravitz, The Waterboys, Xavier Rudd, The Cat Empire, Buffy St Marie, Jimmie Vaughan, Ani DiFranco, The Allman Betts Band, The Marcus King Band, Larkin Poe, Jenny Lewis, Joachim Cooder, Kool & The Gang, Dweezil Zappa and more! Tickets: Adult (Single Day): $160, Adult (3 day): $430, Adult (5 day): $625 (Camping packages also available). Website: bluesfest.com.au
BOOGIE Friday April 10 – Sunday April 12 Where: Tallarook, Victoria Getting There: Free shuttles from and back to Tallarook station for train travellers, By Car: Get on the Hume Hwy and head north About: Boogie is 14 and is a boutique camping festival committed to providing diversity in music, arts, booze and food. The site has great facilities as well as an old school club house that has to be seen, and boogied in, to believe. Shared experiences on communal grounds surely leave more than footprints on the top soil. They go beyond and deep. You can feel it when you enter under the Camp Boogie sign. As you turn into the grounds of Our Friend’s Farm to find your home camp for the best weekend of the year. Your mind sparkles and shines as it mingles with your being and rockets you to your happy place. It’s spiritual. It’s metaphysical. It’s Boogie. The fourteenth installment. The final incarnation in Tallarook. The last waltz in the dust. And what a dance it will be. They are offering 4 types of tickets during the course of our pre Boogie journey this year. Please check the website for details. Line-Up: TBA Tickets: Check website. Website: boogie.net.au
THE GUMBALL Thursday April 24 – Sunday April 26 Where: The festival is located in secluded bush at Belford, in the middle of the Hunter Valley, NSW. Getting There: Two hours and 20 minute’s drive from Sydney. One hour from Newcastle. About: Exciting and relaxed in equal measure the Gum Ball festival now in its 15th year is renowned for its diverse musical line-ups and laidback family friendly vibe all set in one of the most pristine sites in the Hunter Valley of NSW. The boutique festival brings together Oz music legends with a fresh crop of future stars and international gems annually. A truly inclusive event year after year the artists are also enjoying their experience in equal measure. The Gum Ball has a reputation for inviting some of the country’s most popular acts to perform alongside their pick of the best emerging performers from around Australia and overseas. Line-Up: The Church, Harts Plays Hendrix, iOTA, Dyson Stringer & Cloher, Frazey Ford, Steve Smyth, Lost Ragas, Soul Movers, Cash Savage & The Last Drinks and more. Tickets: All tickets include camping and the ability to bring your own food/drinks (including alcoholic ones, but no glass). Adult ticket from $235/$215 conc./$140 conc./$75 youth/$20 child / (3 day) - $165 - $10 (Saturday). Sunday night winddown is also available if you want to stay until Monday. Website: dashville.com.au/gumball/
Getting There: Coolangatta airport (a shuttle operates from the airport).
' <MICHAEL KIWANUKA 'Kiwanuka <THE BEATLES 'Abbey Road' BR) 3CD/ Dlx r (50th Anniversary 2CD or Supe <FENN WILSON ‘Ghost Heroin’ S 'Ghosteen' <NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEED the Dance' <LEONARD COHEN 'Thanks for m' <LOST RAGAS 'This Is Not A Drea een The Lines' <DANNY WIDDICOMBE 'Betw <THELMA PLUM 'Better in Blak' Mountain' <ANDY NELSON 'Man on The Slow' <TESKEY BROTHERS 'Run Home ' <ROB SNARSKI 'Sparrow & Swan ration' <V/A: 'JONI 75: A Birthday Celeb
AUSTRALIAN <SARAH CARROLL w. SHANNON BOURNE 'Medicine' <MICK THOMAS' ROVING COMMISSION 'Coldwater DFU' <WAGONS ‘Songs from the Aftermath’ <THE GADFLYS 'Love & Despair' <KEVIN BENNETT & THE FLOOD 'Blood Red Ties' <ROBERT FORSTER 'Inferno' <LITTLE WISE 'Want It All' <BLACK SORROWS 'Citizen John' <DYSON, STRINGER, CLOHER s/t <ANGIE McMAHON 'Salt' <DANA GEHRMAN 'Find A Way’
<EILEN JEWELL 'Gypsy' <JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE 'Saint of Lost Causes' <RODNEY CROWELL ‘Texas’ <FELICE BROTHERS 'Undress' <MOLLY TUTTLE 'When You’re Ready' <JIM LAUDERDALE 'From Another World' <BRUCE COCKBURN 'Crowing Ignites' (Instrumentals)
<JOHN PAUL WHITE 'The Hurting Kind' <JOE HENRY 'The Gospel According to Water' <ALLISON MOORER 'Blood' <V/A: 'COME ON UP TO THE HOUSE: Women Sing Waits'
DESIGN: Lin Tobias / Lin Tobias Projects
WOMADELAIDE Friday March 6 – Monday March 9 Where: Botanic Park, Adelaide Getting There: The easiest way to get to WOMADelaide is by bike but buses run either side of the park. About: WOMADelaide is a four-day festival of Music, Arts and Dance celebrating cultural and creative diversity held since 1992 in Adelaide’s beautiful Botanic Park. The festival has become a truly unique part of the Australian festival landscape, showcasing the best, the essential – and the surprising – in global music, dance, art and ideas. Line-Up: (Selected highlights): Mavis Staples (US), Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turresi (USA/ITA), Salif Keita, (ML), Aldous Harding (NZ), Ziggy Marley (JM), Blind Boys of Alabama (USA), The Cat Empire, Briggs, Deline Briscoe, Hiatus Kaiyote, Jorge Ben Jor (BR), Kate Miller-Heidke, L Subramaniam (IN), Tami Neilson (NZ/CA), Tickets: Adult 4 day & night: $396 /$334 conc., $222 Youth/ Adult 3 Day Night & Day (Fri-Sun/ Sat-Mon): $358, $302 conc, $202 Youth. Website: womadelaide.com.au
Where: Broadbeach is centrally located in the Gold Coast and is easy to get to no matter where you are coming from. There is plenty of Broadbeach Accommodation available all within walking distance of stages and venues so no need to drive into the event!
FOLK|WORLD <PASSI JO & WARAKO MUSICA <DR. HERNANDEZ '8 Remedios' <ANGELIQUE KIDJO 'Celia: tribute to Celia Cruz'& 'Remain in Light' <MARTIN SIMPSON 'Rooted' <RHIANNON GIDDENS 'There Is No Other' <OUR NATIVE DAUGHTERS 'Songs Of' (featuring Rhiannon Giddens)
About: Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival started in May 2002 and is one of Australia’s largest nonticketed music festivals. Each year the festival remains a highlight on Queensland’s calendar of events with its location fast becoming one of Australia’s premier entertainment hubs. The festival features outdoor stages plus there are 10 indoor venues operating with free live music.
Line-Up: Tommy Emmanuel, Fiona Boyes & The Fortune Tellers, The Turner Brown Band, Gaby Moreno, Karise Eden, Kim Churchill, Bondi Cigars, Allensworth, Dan Dinnen & Shorty, Jeff Lang, Jules Boult & The Redeemers, Minnie Marks, Osaka Monaurail (Japan), Pete Cornelius Band, Shaun Kirk, This Way North. Tickets: Free Website: bluesonbroadbeach.com
Here we go again with our hotly debated and robustly discussed BEST OF THE YEAR LISTS. Remember... music is the gift that keeps on giving all year round. We thank you so much for your support through 2019 and look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in the new year. THE TEAM @ BASEMENT DISCS
<TINARIWEN 'Amadjar' <PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA 'Handfuls of Night' <NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN 'Live @ Womad 85' <PRES. HALL JAZZ BAND 'A Tuba to Cuba' <RICHARD THOMPSON 'Across A Crowded Room' LIVE 2CD
<J.J. CALE 'Stay Around' <VAN MORRISON 'Three Chords & The Truth' <WILCO 'Ode to Joy' <NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALL STARS 'Up & Rolling' <JEFF LYNNE’s ELO 'From Out of Nowhere' <V/A: 'IF YOU'RE GOING TO THE CITY: A Tribute to Mose Allison' (w. Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Peter Case, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, R.Thompson)
<BOB CORRITORE 'Do the Hip-Shake Baby' <TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND 'Signs' <REESE WYNANS ‘Sweet Release’ <MIKE STERN & JEFF LORBER FUSION 'Eleven' <WALTER TROUT 'Survivor Blues' <ESPERANZA SPAULDING '12 Little Spells' <LAZY EYE 'Whiskey & Gin' <ABDULLAH IBRAHIM 'The Balance' <BETH HART 'War In My Mind' <V/A: IF YOU'RE GOING TO THE CITY: Tribute <RONNIE EARL 'Beyond The Blue Door' to MOSE ALLISON <JANIVA MAGNESS 'Sings John Fogerty' <CHICK COREA & THE SPANISH HEART BAND <RORY GALLAGHER 'Blues' (3CD) <SAM ANNING & KRISTIN BERARDI <CHRISTONE 'Kingfish' INGRAM 'Kingfish' 'Our Songs, Not Songs' <ALLMAN BROS BAND 'Fillmore West '71' (4CD) <MANU KATCHE 'The Scope' <BILLY BRANCH 'Roots & Branches: Songs <KURT ELLING & JAMES MORRISON of Little Walter' 'Live in New York' <TAL WILKENFELD 'Love Remains' <JOE RESTINO 'Where’s Joe' <GRABOWSKY/CEBERANO 'Tryst' <MAVIS STAPLES 'Live in London' & <JEFF GOLDBLUM & THE MILDRED SNITZER 'We Get By' ORCHESTRA 'I Shouldn't Be Telling You This' <BLACK PUMA s/t <EDDY SENAY 'Step by Step' (Reissue) <DURAND JONES 'American Love Call' <YOLA 'Walk Through The Fire' <NICK WATERHOUSE s/t <THE BAMBOOS 'By Special Arrangement' <DAMIEN JURADO 'In the Shape of a Storm' <SOUL MOVERS 'Bonafide' <SHANNON LAY 'August' <KEB MO 'Oklahoma' <CASS McCOMBS 'Tip of the Sphere' <GEORGE BENSON 'Walking to New Orleans' <CALEXICO & IRON + WINE 'Years to Burn' <MARC COHN & BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA <ANDREW BIRD 'My Finest Work Yet' 'Work to Do' <ALDOUS HARDING 'Designer' <WILLIAM ONYEABOR 'Who Is...' (Reissue) <TINY RUINS 'Olympic Girls' <VAMPIRE WEEKEND 'Father of the Bride' <BILL CALLAHAN 'Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest' <HAZMAT MODINE 'Box of Breath' MUSIC <NEIL YOUNG 'Colorado' CD, V ON & BLUINYL, DVD & <GOV'T MULE ‘Bring On The Music’ RAY VD D , BOX SETS Live at the Capitol Theatre SHOP & AY <SHERYL CROW 'Threads' R LU B HERE STS <DYLAN LE BLANC 'Renegade' FOR T REISSUES LI <THE WHO 'Who' HE B
(Deluxe Edition w. 3 bonus tracks)
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ES 2019T OF
Enjoy Ed Ackerson
The Lijadu Sisters
COMPILED BY SUE BARRETT
Young Queensland musician Robert Cini’s song ‘Different Road’ won the Folk/Acoustic category (co-sponsored by Rhythms) in the Australian Songwriters Association’s 39th Australian Songwriting Contest. Announced at the National Songwriting Awards (sponsored by APRA AMCOS & Wests Ashfield), Cini also won the PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia) prize for Best Live Performance and Steve Montgomery was named APRA/ASA Songwriter of the Year. According to ASA’s Denny Burgess, Montgomery and Steve Wade are the only dual winners of Songwriter of the Year in the ASA’s 40 year history. Robert Cini recently released his debut album, Imaginary Fun. Australian singer/songwriter Little Wise (aka songwriter Sophie Klein) has just released her 2nd album, Want it All. Her advice for musicians who are starting out is to “spend time finding your voice and your sound – which can take a while. Imitation tends to come before innovation. But ultimately, being authentic is what being an artist is all about.” Little Wise says, “The key to sounding fresh and together when performing live seems to be continuing to evolve musically. In my case, being great friends with the band also helps – as we have a lot of fun together.” She goes on, “Recording Want it All was a totally different experience from my debut album. When we hit the studio for the 2nd album, I’d had a consistent band line-up of Rosie Burgess (bass) and Pam Zaharias (drums) for almost two years and we took that live energy and musical rapport into the studio. We recorded Want it All at The Aviary Studios in Melbourne, with Fraser Montgomery and Nick Edin on engineering and production duties. The album feels more expansive and open and it’s definitely the most rock n roll sound I’ve ever had! For me, this album was about making shorter, sharper, hook-laden songs that we could have a lot of fun with, but still with meaning and intent behind the lyrics and stories. It’s an album about growing up, shrugging off self-doubt and cutting loose.” In 2020, Little Wise is “touring the album (solo / band) as widely as possible. I am hoping to get over to Canada at some point, but the main focus will be Australia, including areas that we missed on the last tour, such as WA and Tasmania. Keep on making financial donations for bush fire recovery. Earlier fires feature in Eric Bogle’s ‘Ashes’ (When I saw the firestorm coming / Roaring down Sugarloaf Mountain / Knew no power on earth could stop it) and Jenny Biddle’s ‘Our Darkest Day’ (With ember attacks like pouring rain / From nature’s path there was no retreat / And they’re calling it “Our Darkest Day” / But for those of us who still remain / We’ll look up to the sky / In courage and in hope / We’ll blink the ash from our eyes / We’ll sure find a way to cope). Now based in the Scottish Borders, Jenny Biddle (with new album, Live in Scotland) is about to tour Australia. On the ARIA winning album Thirteen Ways to Look at Birds, Paul Kelly, James Ledger, Alice Keath and the Seraphim Trio interpret poems by Judith Wright, Thomas Hardy, W B Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Gwen Harwood, A D Hope et al. And Hilary James celebrates English rural life, landscape, weather and seasons on her re-released English Sketches, including poems by Thomas Hardy, A E Housman, William Shakespeare. There are new albums from: Harp and a Monkey, The Victorians; Grace Potter, Daylight; Smith & McClennan, Small Town Stories; Catherine Rudie, The Möbius Kiss; Son of Town Hall, The Adventures of Son of Town Hall; Mary Lambert, Grief Creature. The Rebelles of Melbourne has a new single (‘Down by the Rollercoaster’). And there’s a new music book from Grant Gillanders & Robyn Welsh, Wired For Sound – The Stebbing History of New Zealand Music. 108
Liz Hood (71), of Huxtable, Christensen & Hood, died New York state, USA (Sept) The Ozark Mountain Daredevils harmonica player Steve Cash (73), died in October Kim Shattuck (56), of The Muffs, died California, USA (Oct) English drummer Ginger Baker (80), of Blues Incorporated, Cream, Blind Faith, died England (Oct) Paul Barrere (71), singer, songwriter and guitarist with Little Feat, died California, USA (Oct) American blues guitarist Beverly Watkins (80), who recorded her 1st solo album aged 60, died in October Glen Brown (75), Jamaican musician and producer, died New York, USA (Oct)
Ray Santos (90), Grammy winning Latin jazz musician, died New York, USA (Oct) Scottish saxophonist Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan (74), of Average White Band, died in October Joe Sun (76), American country musician, died Florida, USA (Oct) Recording engineer and producer Ed Cherney (69), who worked with The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Etta James, Ry Cooder, Bette Midler and Sonia Dada, died California, USA (Oct) Kenny Dixon (27), drummer for Kane Brown, died Tennessee, USA (Oct) English musician Barrie Masters (63), of Eddie and the Hot Rods, died in October Bob Kingsley (80), host of American Country Countdown, died Texas, USA (Oct) American musician, recording engineer and producer Ed Ackerson (54), died Minnesota, USA (Oct) Martin Armiger (70), English-born Australian musician and producer, died France (Nov) American folklorist Ed Cray (86), biographer of Woody Guthrie and compiler of the book, The Erotic Muse – American Bawdy Songs, died California, USA (Nov) Australian conductor John Curro (86), died in November John Mann (57), of Spirit of the West, died Canada (Nov) Antiguan musician Vaughn Benjamin (50), died Florida, USA (Nov)
Nigerian musician Kehinde Lijadu (71), of The Lijadu Sisters, died New York, USA (Nov) Jan Erik Kongshaug (75), Norwegian musican and recording engineer, died Norway (Nov) American R&B singer Jackie Moore (73), died in November
All-new drivers bring amazing articulation to voices and midrange without losing the clean top end and deep, firm bass. And Richter has remained true to their history of excellent value. Audio Junction is a longestablished hi-fi and AV retailer in Newcastle. You can buy online with confidence WITH free delivery*. Talk to our friendly, expert staff during normal business hours or drop in to hear these stunning speakers. All our products carry full warranty and money-back guarantee.
Australian musician Garry Koehler (64), of The Bobkatz, died Queensland (Oct)
Donna Carson (73), vocalist with American folk duo Hedge and Donna, died in November
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Joe Bonamassa Live At The Sydney Opera House CD - JRA61071 LP - JRA61075
Mike Zito And Friends A Tribute To Chuck Berry RUF1269
BB Factory Let The Good Times Roll BBF002
Matty T Wall Transpacific Blues Vol 1 HIPS - 19
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Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters Beyond The Blue Door CD - SPCD1407 LP - SPLP1407
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Blues Caravan 2019 Ina Forsman - Katrina Pejak - Ally Venable RUF 1273 CD + VINYL
Rick Estrin + The Nightcats Contemporary ALCD 4996
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Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado Come On In RUF 1271
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PLAYING AT BLUESFEST 2020
Toronzo Cannon The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp ALCD 4995
The BB King Blues Band The Soul Of The King RUF 1268
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CD or DOUBLE RED VINYL
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Support local- Basement Disc’s 24 Block Place, Melbourne PH: 03 9654 1110 Website: https://www.basementdiscs.com.au
25 blue mountains th
music festival 2020 13 +14+15 march Katoomba
Lily & King
Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi photo by Karen Cox
3 days 7 stages 100+ concerts Tickets on sale now at bmff.org.au
Butler ★ Kasey Chambers ★ Rhiannon Giddens (USA) ★ ★ Backsliders ★ The East Pointers (Can) ★ Irish Mythen (Ire/Can) ★ ★ YolanDa Brown (UK) ★ Startijenn (Fr) ★ Eleanor McEvoy (Ire) ★ ★ 19-Twenty ★ The Sandman & Flacco Tribute Show (All Original Cast) ★ ★ Turner Brown Band (Oz/USA) ★ SON (Ire) ★ Mama Kin Spender ★ ★ Emily Wurramara ★ John Smith (UK) ★ Kieran Kane & Rayna Gellert (USA) ★
★ É.T.É. (Can) ★ Fara (Scot) ★ Flats & Sharps (UK) ★ Còig (Can) ★ Grace Petrie (UK) ★ ★ Whitetop Mountaineers (USA) ★ Ian Sherwood (Can) ★ Claude Hay ★ Lloyd Spiegel ★ ★ The Jellymans Daughter (Scot) ★ The Burning Hell (Can) ★ Will Kimbrough (USA) ★ ★ Langan Band (Scot) ★ Lily and King ★ Shellie Morris & Djolpa McKenzie ★ ★ Den
Hanrahan & The Rum Runners ★ Jed Zarb ★ Montgomery Church ★ Saije ★ ★ Nic Danta ★ Phil Davidson ★ Big Merino ★ Isobel Knight ★ Em Flach ★ Jerrah Patston ★ ★ Aurora Li ★ Allegra Dunning ★ The Heartlands Conversations ★ The Poets Breakfasts ★
3 days ★ 7 stages ★ 100+ concerts!