Downunder Beats #11
I spent most of the weekend doing album reviews for my CountryAs blog. Brad Butcher’s album, From The Bottom of a Well is probably in my top 5 albums of the year so far. There are so many new albums coming out thick and fast over the next few months though, so it may be knocked off its very lofty perch.....it will be a hard task though. Brad’s songs have a very personal, family vibe but in reality, there are elements of the songs that are relatable worldwide. Sometimes with Australian stories, they don’t translate to a mass audience because of their unique Australian qualities. This one, however, is universal. Brad’s voice will sound familiar, but the artist is an original. (I featured him in the Infamous 5). Shane Nicholson’s album, Love and Blood, is everything that you would expect from one of Australia’s leading songwriters. It is very hard to top his last album but this is a quality production of onion like songs (lots of layers). Both of these albums were produced by Matt Fell and you can detect his touch. The releases will keep on coming...please check out my blog for more details.
Infamous Five Extra Special Edition:
I dub Allan, Sir Allan and the English born, Aussie bred Caswell is very regal in the singer/songwriter circles in Australia. Allan celebrated 50 years in Australia last year and he has been consistently in the country charts for a big chunk of those years. Many agree with me in saying that his music is getting better as he gets more mature. Like a good red wine or vintage cheese, Allan is forever finding new words and tunes to spin us and he collaborates with 90 percent of country and folk artists in Australia. He is a mentor for many Indie artists, conducting workshops all over Australia and he is becoming more prolific in recording and chart making with each year. Very few writers of any genre, especially in Australia can match the number of songs that he has co-written or written by himself. He has a great ability to match and rhyme words that you would not expect to put together. He writes a great drinking song, a heartfelt love song and his best songs are about characters that you meet in every corner of the country. He is a multi award winning artist who is not afraid to tackle the big issues in and out of songwriting. He wrote the theme song to the Australian Television series “Prisoner” which was known as “Cell Block H” overseas and it has been recorded by many artists.
Like Allan, Mike’s songs are featured on many Australian Country Music Artists’ albums. Mike comes from a family who have been part of our Entertainment history. His brother, Darren, is a ventriloquist and musician. Their Dad, Warren, had a lot to do with our longest running children’s show, Play School and he was a piano player for many of Australia’s leading bands in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Mike has only had two solo albums, a self titled album and Legend. Mike Carr is probably our most underrated singer/songwriter in any genre in this country. Many careers would not taken off as well if it hadn’t been for Mike’s songs. Again, like Allan, Mike has helped to mentor many young artists and give them what we would call in Australia, a leg up. (Their key to the door). In his efforts to help others, his own career has taken a back seat. He has a beautiful voice, but his words and music are the most amazing part of his repertoire. He is my favourite singer/songwriter in Australian Country Music and he is well respected by his peers. People in Australia often know his songs but not the man who wrote them. I think Mike sometimes likes it that way. Either way, his music deserves to be heard and acknowledged.
Darren writes from the heart. His songs are Australian stories but he also writes about every day people with every day problems. He has a voice which is all his own and he writes in a style that the likes of John Denver would have written had he been Australian. Darren is chiefly a poet who works with music, like Denver, Dylan, James Taylor and co., have done over the years. Although he writes and sings about his own backyard, the worldwide backyard would appreciate his stories and his delivery. In Tamworth a couple of years ago, I was listening to Darren at a pub and two Americans dropped by, just passing through the city and they sat down for a drink and some music, not knowing who this fella was. They ended up staying the night in Tamworth (hang the expense) and stayed around for another set. Such is the measure of the man.
The Papa bear of The Dead Ringer band which also include his former wife, Diane and their children, Nash and Kasey, is now a solo artist who sits in with just about every band and solo artist in country music, including his daughter Kasey, Catherine Britt and many others. There is a venue named after him in Tamworth. Bill’s albums feature his raspy, Dylan mixed with Kristofferson like voice and songs about drinking, driving and life’s ups and downs. He has produced albums for various Indie Artists and he is well loved and respected in the country music arena. Like all of the Chambers clan, Bill has had a large life, on and off the record. He is one of our national treasures. I have watched Bill being put on the spot with a new artist who has just handed given him rough instructions on a new song and Bill has tinkered for a minute on stage and then he has gone all out, shocking both the audience and the artist with his magic.
Life sometimes gives you gifts which keep on giving. This high school history teacher come Golden Guitar winner and now multiple Golden Guitar Winner (finally), is one of life’s biggest gifts. Like a large percentage of Australian born members of our population (including myself), Luke is from Irish stock. His music is heavily influenced by his heritage, both in content and sound. Luke’s songs tackle issues, love, history and just about everything from heroes to road workers. He writes of every day happenings to major political problems. His larrikin spirit is often evident in his shows and in his songs. He has always had respect amongst his peers and he has had a loyal following from his fans but he has only recently received broader recognition and rewards from the broader public and radio. He is the thinking person’s hero. He writes songs that sometimes make you smile, sometimes make you cry and always make you think.
Gig guides seem a bit superfluous when we are going around the world, but I can tell you that the alt. Country and Blues scene in the Inner West and West of Sydney in particular is going great guns. (Sort of our Wild West, perhaps!) Victoria is booming, with small and large venues, particularly pubs opening up to the sounds of some great Indie artists. Queensland is becoming the Festival State, with major music festivals like Broadbeach, Gympie and Country Rocks. New South Wales are still the King with Tamworth, but they are having smaller festivals like the Deni Ute Muster, Central Coast Country Music Festival, Blue Mountains Music Festival and several Blues and Roots Festivals in Northern New South Wales and at Manly near Sydney. Western Australia has a couple of major music festivals, but they are a bit more isolated than the other states and territories and huge geographically, and they don’t have as many. South Australia is looming as a rival to Victoria, especially musician wise. Tasmania is small but what they lack in population and geographical size, they make up for in culture. Their country music festival is starting to build. Northern Territory is the perfect place for a music festival of gigantic proportions. It tends to have the same problems as W.A, being that it is isolated. Australian musicians deserve to be part of a large showcase. There seems to be new festivals on every week. Unfortunately, with every new festival and every new venue an old festival or old venue suffers.
The closure of one of our favourite Indie venues in Melbourne, The Caravan Music Club will be happening later in the year. Circumstances have forced the managers to move on. It is a wonderful intimate venue that had a feeling like I imagine the Cavern did in Liverpool in England. It was unique and the managers put on acts that perhaps wouldn’t have had a home anywhere else – well not anything like it. Sydney Country Music Festival ran well as a small festival with big crowds, then it moved to a few days and I think that people over extended themselves. It faded. Central Coast Festival is one day in the park now instead of two. I think that they are having too many festivals on at the same time these days, which means that it is hard for headliners to be at all of them and some people don’t want to risk lesser known acts. The festivals that offer a broad range like Tamworth and Gympie will probably outlast the others. Mildura is great but it is limited in styles of music. Rooty Hill (yes it is a real place) RSL in Sydney’s west puts on lots of free music and some big shows as well as does The Brass Monkey in Cronulla in Sydney’s South, and several inner west haunts in Marrickville and Newtown. Tamworth is doing better now by offering all year ‘round country music rather than just at Festival time. There are places which would be perfect for our kind of music.....they just need to take the risk.
I did the radio show for three hours by myself this week (with Clem at the panel). I programmed it and presented it. It was great fun and I was able to showcase some of our very best.
Until next time,