Downunder Beats #9
By Kaz Johnson
Welcome to this week’s blog post. Excitement is in the air as new album releases are just around the corner or just down the road (as we say in Australia). As reported last week, Broadbeach Country Music Festival is on this weekend and coming soon is the Central Coast Country Music Festival. There are guitar festivals and blues festivals aplenty. Despite the fact that it is winter here, the festivals are still going strong. I am sure that this year has more country and blues festivals than any other year in Australia.
The launches are starting too. Shane Nicholson has the launch of his new album this week and next week. A Shane Nicholson new album is always worth waiting for. I have reported each week on new albums coming through soon, when they are finally officially launched, I will go into more details!
Vale the man who’s been everywhere..
Geoff Mack, one of the great characters of Australian Country Music passed away at the age of 94. Though he was involved in the country music industry for many years, he is best known for his song, I’ve been everywhere, which he wrote in 1959. In 1962, the song became a hit for Lucky Starr, whose son is also a singer/songwriter and he lives in the U.S.A. now. To date, there have been 131 versions of the song worldwide, including the 1996 version by Johnny Cash. Most people in Australia, no matter what kind of music they are into, will know this iconic song. It is incredibly clever, and difficult to sing...much like The Auctioneer Song, which is also fast and tongue twisting. I had the pleasure of meeting Geoff’s wife, many times in Tamworth at the Festival and I did get to meet Geoff as well and he was a gentleman. He left his mark, not only with his music, but his character.
Melody Moko: (also known as Melody Feder and Melody Muchow)
Melody has been busy recording her debut album, to be produced by husband (and one of Australia’s best musicians), Michael Muchow and one of our Queens of Country Music, Catherine Britt. Melody gave us a sneak preview at Tamworth with an EP – a teaser, of sorts. Her alternative country style will no doubt be prominent on the album. It is probably the album that I have been looking forward to most this year, other than Aleyce Simmonds’ album which was released in January. Melody does cover shows as well and along with Michael, she runs a cafe in Newcastle which has gigs featuring various artists. This dynamic young performer has a lot to offer, with a great range and well crafted songwriting skills. One to watch.
I am very excited about this alt country artist. He has released singles, but his debut album is set to be released later in the year. One reviewer described his music as Countrified Soul. (I guess that is Soultry). He has won songwriting awards and he has had chart success with his singles. As an artist he is growing in stature and has the respect and support of his peers. A gentle husky voice tops lilting melodies. He goes from strength to strength.
Aleyce is one of our most gifted and versatile singer/songwriters. From the hard to find Mighty Mighty Love E.P., Pieces of Me, Believe and More Than Meets the Eye albums, Aleyce has shown talent beyond her years in both her singing and songwriting. Her songs are heartbreakers for the most part, and they are sung with such passion and conviction that they are very hard not to pay attention to. Aleyce has one of the most pure voices that I have ever heard in any genre. She does a lot for the country music industry, being a fine ambassador for Tamworth and for the artists in general. She does bv’s on more Aussie country albums than most people have breakfasts. Aleyce’s latest album is her best (in my humble opinion). She co-writes on the album with some of Australia’s top songwriters, including Shane Nicholson and Allan Caswell. Aleyce has scooped the pool at Mildura Country Music Festival Indie Awards and has been nominated for multiple Golden Guitars. I think that January will see more nominations for her album and hopefully, finally, a gong for our girl at last. She is a treasure.
Most of his fellow artists and alt. Country fans can’t wait for Brad’s album, due out soon. He is an artists’ artist. I met him briefly at Tamworth this year and heard him sing a couple of songs as a support artist. His album was previewed on radio last weekend and even though the hour was late, it was making me alert to all the nuances of his songs. For a relatively new artist on the scene, his songs have a lot of polish to them. His songs are very personal. The new album features songs about his family, particularly his grandfather, who is a muse. He has the potential to go International.
Ian Burns is a singer/songwriter who I had been told about a few years ago, by other artists. They had told me to go and listen to him and hear his songs. I bought his album pretty much on the spot after hearing him the first time. There is a genuine honesty about Ian and his songs. He is not afraid to tackle the hard subjects and his songs are sincere about the issues and often offer hope to situations that he sings about. He has a bit of a cult following and he is a down to earth, nice guy. Ian’s album is very easy to listen to on one hand, and thought provoking on the other.
The way that we play
Without a doubt, the best way to hear your favourite music (no matter what the genre) is LIVE at a pub, arena, theatre or other concert venue. Obviously, this is not always possible. With Australia being such a huge country, geographically, getting to a venue that plays music is harder too. The average price of a major concert in Australia these days is between $99 Australian dollars to $500. On top of that, you have petrol (gas), public transport, plane costs and accommodation costs plus having to take holidays from work, etc. It can be an expensive thing. To see our Indies, it is a lot easier, though you still have some of the same extra expenses. A lot of our festivals have free entertainment in side venues and parks. Our pubs do the same. I am quite happy to pay up to $50 to see and hear one of my faves, it gets a bit heavy after that. If I knew that most of the money was going to the artist, I would be happier to pay a bit more. We are lucky with our Indies. They keep the prices reasonable and I make sure that I buy a cd or hat or t-shirt at their gigs to compensate.
Which brings me to my major point.....how do we play our music at home, or on the road? I am still a fan of hard copy. I love cds, records and I even still have a lot of cassettes. These are especially helpful for reviews. I like to know the credits on an album. I like getting one signed at a gig and I like singing along to the words and seeing who wrote them. The sound is better than a download too. Sure, they take up space in your home and they aren’t easily transportable, but with a larger percentage going to the artist and a more personal piece of music history with you, for me, that is the best way. I do have a fair bit of music now from Itunes, but generally, that is out of desperation. Unfortunately, not a lot of our indies are available at dwindling music stores in the cities and hard copies are generally only available in country towns and at gigs. Sometimes, you can order them from an artist’s website but then there are the delivery doubts and I must admit, I get impatient. One big advantage of Itunes these days is that they do have a fairly broad genre selection and a lot of Indies are available on there. I guess, that in the end, the main thing is that we all get our music fix. Every cent helps our artists stay on the charts and keep a roof over the heads. Streaming music is not for me. I don’t think that is fair to the artist and it is not permanent enough for me. Mostly, it is about personal choices.
Reviews coming soon.
Listen to the words and feel the music.
Until next time,