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“It’s really funny how the collective consciousness of society affects you...”

Bob Dylan Scarlet Rivera Steve Earle Charles Jenkins James Reyne Mondo Rock Emma Swift The Jayhawks Mark Olson & Ingunn Ringvold Michael Franti Ray Beadle Blake Mills HISTORY: John Schumann John Dowler

$12.95 $12 .95 inc GST JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISSUE: 300










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R E - I S S U E

Exceptional. Powerful. Australian.

The power and words of Henry Lawson. The power and music of John Schumann and a bunch of close mates.

The Vagabond Crew

John Schumann / Russell Morris / Rob Hirst / Broderick Smith Mike Rudd / Shane Howard / Marcia Howard / Chris Stockley / Mal Logan Hugh McDonald / Michael Atkinson / Steven & Alan Pigram Produced by Kerryn Tolhurst AVA I L A B LE N OW




S P O T I F Y, I T U N E S & G R E AT R E C O R D S T O R E S T H AT S U P P O R T I N D E P E N D E N T A U S T R A L I A N M U S I C

Volume No. 300 July/August 2020


The Word.

The End of The World As We Know It. By Brian Wise.

Rhythms Sampler #7. Our 26-Track Download Card! Only available to subscribers!


Vale Richard Lane.


Music News


The Caravan Moves On


By Brett Leigh Dicks.

The esteemed Melbourne venue has a tree change. By Ian McFarlane.

Nashville Skyline

What’s Going On. Anne McCue.


Mick Thomas and his Roving Commission recorded their new album, See You On The Other Side, during the isolation. By Jo Roberts.

FEATURES – NEW RELEASES 20 21 22 23 24 26 28 34 36 37


Moon Shot

Charles Jenkins decided to make a new acoustic album alone in his room. By Jeff Jenkins.

Making Lemonade

Ray Beadle releases his first album in seven years. By Sam Fell.

Scarlet Ribbon

From Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour in 1975 to a new EP in 2020. Violinist Scarlet Rivera reveals why she decided to finally sing. By Brian Wise.


Michael Goldberg reviews Rough and Rowdy Ways - Bob Dylan’s first album of new songs in eight years - and calls it ‘an absolute masterpiece.’





Van Walker, Blues Train, Vika & Linda, Paul Kelly.



Lawson gets a timely reissue for its 15th birthday. By Meg Crawford.

From Young Modern to The Zimmermen and beyond. By Ian McFarlane.


55 56 57

58 59 60 61

Technology. A Vinyl Story. By John Cornell. Turntables: Some wheels of steel to play the platters that matter. Musician: Wayne Jury. By Nick Charles.

33 1/3 Revelations: Firefall. By Martin Jones

Lost In The Shuffle: The Pretty Things.

By Keith Glass

You Won’t Hear This On Radio: By Trevor J. Leeden

Underwater Is Where The Action Is. By Christopher Hollow

Waitin’ Around To Die: Richmond Fontaine. By Chris Familton

Reyne, Hail or Shine


Mr Positive


Michael Franti offers a dose of his trademark positivity. By Sam Fell.


FEATURE REVIEWS: Charlie Crockett, Gretchen Peters,

Set List


World Music & Folk:

James Reyne is a masterful observer of human nature. By Jeff Jenkins.

Acclaimed guitarist/producer Blake Mills treads his own path. By Brian Wise.

The Second Coming!

Mondo Rock’s 1981 live album marks the second coming of Ross Wilson. By Jeff Jenkins.


Classic Album: Eric Burdon & The Animals.

By Billy Pinnell

Alex Izenberg, Alan Caswell, Nick Shoulders.

By Tony Hillier


By Al Hensley



By Tony Hillier


Jazz 2:

Here last year as a member of bluegrass ‘supergroup’ I’m With Her, Sarah Jarosz releases her fifth solo album and it marks a giant step. By Brian Wise.



Coal Man


Film: ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas.


Books. Janis: Her Life and Music.


Books Too! Set The Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties.

World In Her Hands.

A play about a coal mining tragedy inspired the songs for Steve Earle’s new album. By Brian Wise.

Homespun Wonder

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold record at home in Joshua Tree. By Brett Leigh Dicks.

Outside The Bubble

A great new album by the Jayhawks ushers in a new era for the revered band. By Brian Wise.

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By Des Cowley By Steve Bell. By Brian Wise.

By Des Cowley.

By Stuart Coupe

The Last Word: Danny Walsh.

By Chris Lambie.

Hello & Goodbye

By Sue Barrett.


CREDITS Managing Editor: Brian Wise Senior Contributor: Martin Jones Senior Contributors: Michael Goldberg / Stuart Coupe Design & Layout: Sally Syle - Sally’s Studio Website/Online Management: Robert Wise Proofreading: Gerald McNamara


Christopher Hollow

Steve Bell

Denise Hylands

Nick Charles

Andra Jackson

John Cornell

Jeff Jenkins

Des Cowley

Martin Jones

Stuart Coupe

Chris Lambie

Meg Crawford

Warwick McFadyen

Brett Leigh Dicks

Ian McFarlane

Chris Familton

Trevor J. Leeden

Samuel J. Fell

Mark Mordue

Keith Glass

Anne McCue

Megan Gnad

Iain Patience

Michael Goldberg (San Francisco) Billy Pinnell Al Hensley

Jo Roberts

Tony Hillier

Michael Smith

CONTACTS Advertising: bookings@rhythms.com.au Festival Coverage Contact: denisetwang@hotmail.com Rates/Specs/Deadlines: bookings@rhythms.com.au Subscription Enquiries: subscriber@rhythms.com.au General Enquiries: admin@rhythms.com.au

SOCIALS Facebook: facebook.com/rhythms.magazine Twitter: twitter.com/rhythmsmag Instagram: instagram.com/rhythmsmagazine

PUBLISHER RHYTHMS MAGAZINE PTY LTD PO BOX 5060 HUGHESDALE VIC 3166 Printing: Spotpress Pty Ltd Distribution: Fairfax Media


WIN A ONE OF A KIND BLUES TRAIN GUITAR Simply update your membership details or sign up to become a VIP MEMBER and you’ll automatically be in the running to WIN!

Play it or hang it on the wall!




t has been another remarkable two months with the COVID-19 virus ravaging the world and then the Black Lives Matter campaign in America which has led to support around the world and the Black Deaths in Custody protests here in Australia. Both events will change our lives, and in the case of the latter issue, hopefully for the better. Then, as I began to put this issue together, I realised that this is the 30oth edition of Rhythms. It is difficult to get my head around that figure and, if we weren’t so busy just trying to survive, we would probably have been celebrating in a modest way. The reason we are able to continue is simply because of your subscription support and the support of our loyal advertisers, including the City of Melbourne (who have been constantly supportive in the past two years). Many of you have extended your subscriptions or have subscribed friends and this has been enormously helpful. I appreciate your support immensely. Rhythms has never received any government assistance or grants so your support is absolutely vital. My sincere thanks also go to all our wonderful contributors who give us such an incredible coverage of musicians and also new releases. I always discover some new treats to listen to each issue; sometimes from long-established artists as well as newcomers that the writers help me to discover. In the next few months we will be doing a huge resubscription campaign with some special offers as well. If you take out a gift subscription for a friend, relative, acquaintance (or even an enemy) we will send you the latest Bakelite Radio album Rosary of Tears on CD. It is normally only available with the vinyl edition of the album and I can tell you that I had to bend Joe Camilleri’s arm to allow us to do a run of the CDs exclusively for subscribers. He very kindly allowed us to do this because I promised him that everyone else would make sure that his superb album would also sell out the vinyl edition!

Banksy’s comment on Black Lives Matter Of course, I hope you enjoy this issue’s sampler. It contains some superb music, a lot of it recorded in isolation and kindly given to us. I know some of you prefer to receive a CD but the cost at the moment is prohibitive in terms of added production and mailing costs. If you are even a little tech savvy you should know how to burn a CD if you need one. If you are a Luddite find the nearest teenager who I am sure will be able to help you! (I fleetingly thought of producing an exclusive 7” single but I don’t think it would survive the mail!) I would like to thank all of the musicians for allowing us to use their recordings. I would especially like to thank Shane O’Mara for organising some very special recordings. Our cover story this issue is on Mick Thomas and his latest release with the Roving Commission. Thomas is practically

an institution on the Melbourne music scene and enjoys a national profile thanks to Weddings Parties Anything. The major release this issue, with all due respect to other musicians covered, is Bob Dylan’s new album ‘Rough & Rowdy Ways.’ Can you believe that Dylan achieved his first ever Billboard No.1 single with the first track released from the album, the epic ‘Murder Most Foul’? As the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, Dylan remains as relevant as ever. Last issue, I was mourning the loss of John Prine. This issue we are mourning Richard Wayne Penniman, aka Little Richard, one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll. Every time I visit New Orleans and walk past Cosimo Matassa’s old J&M studio (now a laundromat on Rampart Street) I look at the plaque on the wall and am reminded of Little Richard. I can’t recall the exact date I first heard his music but I would have been just a kid listening to Stan Rofe and it was so incredibly exciting that it was like hearing a broadcast from Mars. The songs still sound primal. You only have to listen to Paul McCartney’s versions of Penniman’s songs to know the effect he had on The Beatles and later Prince and others. I was lucky enough to see Little Richard several times at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival but it is a show at the now defunct San Francisco Blues Festival in 2006 that most sticks in my mind. It was an eccentric but heart-warming performance in which Richard performed maybe eight of his key songs but spent a lot of time talking and introducing friends and relatives on the stage. Yet there were enough flashes of brilliance to put a chill up your spine and make you understand just how important this man was. (I had a similar feeling just a few years ago when I saw an aging Jerry Lee Lewis). Until next issue…… Brian Wise Editor 9

Welcome to our 7th Rhythms Sampler this time with 26 incredible tracks in the handy download card format. This is available to all print plus print & digital subscribers ONLY. You can add the songs to your library, or you can also create your own CDs with the tracks. . Thank you to the record companies that have donated songs to Side A which features some of the best local music this year so far. Side B comprises songs recorded specially (some for Off The Record) during the lockdown by Shane O’Mara and friends, Andy White, Sean McMahon and Liz Stringer (courtesy of Blind Date Records) and Rob Snarski If you are not a member of the Rhythms family then you need to join to get this fabulous disc. 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 B – ALBUM TRACKS & PREVIEWS 1. MINT CONDITION Mick Thomas & The Roving Commission (from See You On The Other Side) Also the title of the online film series of the same name that you can check atmintcondition.tv. 2. NIGHT DRIVING Mark Seymour & The Undertow (Bloodlines) Critics are hailing Mark’ new album as his best solo effort ever. This song co-written with James Reyne is based on a true story. 3. CALL A FRIEND Kevin Borich (Featuring Russell Morris) First song from a forthcoming album of duets. Two legends. Guitar from KB. Vox by Russell Morris. Lucius Borich (drums) and Rick O’Donnell (bass). 4. LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY TO DAY Van Walker From the coming album. Van on guitar and vocal. Jeff Lang (production & bass), Shane Reilly (pedal steel), Brendan McMahon (piano). See: vanwalkermusic. bandcamp.com 5. TO AN OLD MATE John Schumann & The Vagabond Crew (Courtesy of Bombora Records) Members of the Dingoes, Redgum and Goanna contributed to songs based on Henry Lawson’s poems. 6. ONE CHORD TOO MANY Girlatones From Horn If You’re Honky. The Girlatones play their own brand of garage-pop. Featuring Leah Senior (who has a new solo album and Jesse Williams. 10

7. MONKEY DO The Breadmakers (From: The Breadmakers LP). A Melbourne institution. For fans of raw R&B a la early Stones!. 8. JANELLE Sean McMahon (Courtesy of Blind Date Records) The brand new single, based on a story his partner told him. 9. OVERLOAD Joe Matera Recorded by the Australian singer/ songwriter at the famed Sunlight Studios in Stockholm, Sweden in 2019. 10. BIG MAN Dan Tuffy From the album Letters Of Gold, the new album from the Europe based Australian singer and songwriter. A tribute to Chris Wilson. 11. DRIVING ME CRAZY Lisa Richards On I Got A Story from this Canberra-based songwriter who has lived in Austin and New York City. Recorded in Brooklyn, NYC. 12. INNER OUTLAW Rory Ellis Title track and latest song from Rory’s Ellis’ 9th studio album. A homage to the world and songs of outlaw country music. 13. MERRY-GO-ROUND Kimberley Wheeler First song from the song to be released mini album Pokerface Limbo from Melbourne-based singer and songwriter and her band Roadside Holiday. 14. I NEED A RIDE Wagons The first single from the fantastic new EP Need A Ride. Get it at wagons.bandcamp.com

SIDE B – THE ISOLATION SESSIONS 15. SPIRIT IN THE SKY* (N.Greenbaum) Recorded for the 50th anniversary of the original song making No.1. Billy Miller (lead vocals), Rebecca Barnard (backing vocals), Harry O’Mara (drums), Shane O’Mara (production at Yikesville and all other instruments). 16. THE WAITING (Tom Petty) Liz Stringer (Courtesy of Blind Date Records) Tom Petty originally released this on Hard Promises back in 1981. Featuring Sean McMahon and guitars from Matt Green and Jeb Cardwell. 17. GRANDMA’S HANDS* (Bill Withers) Rebecca Barnard Released by Bill Withers on his debut album, Just As I Am, in 1971. Rebecca Barnard on lead vocals /Shane O’Mara (guitar)/ Harry O’Mara (drums) and Rick Plant (bass). A Yikesville production. 18. STAY AT HOME Andy White Andy and son Sebastian (on drums) recorded a version of Andy’s 1996 single ‘Get Back Home’ with new lyrics. Rod McVey in Belfast added piano, Hammond and funky clavinet. 19. ROSE TATTOO* (Chris Wilson) Liz Stringer A tribute to the great Chris Wilson. Liz (vocals) with Shane O’Mara on guitar. Produced by Shane O’Mara at Yikesville. 20. TWO GIRLS ON A BUS Rob Snarski (Mushroom Music) From Rob’s Song Gift project (robsnarski.com). You send him an idea, a sketch, a little story: the result is a song for you, your partner, friend or family member.

21. BEWARE OF DARKNESS* (George Harrison) Shane O’Mara Original version appeared on All Things Must Pass (1970). Shane O’Mara:vocals, guitars, percussion. Harry O’Mara/ Ash Davies (drums)/ Howard Cairns (double bass)/Billy Miller (harmonies). A Yikesville production. 22. FOLLOW YOU* (DEMO) Nick Barker Written for the Bull Sisters. Guests: Rebecca Barnard (backing vocals). Nick’s on vocals, guitar and bass. Shane O’Mara (guitar). Harry O’Mara (drums). A Yikesville production. 23. A TOWN CALLED TARAGO Rob Snarski (Mushroom Music) Another from Rob’s Song Gift project (robsnarski.com) and a co-wrote with MF Walker. A tale of two of misfit mates. Evil Graham provides the sonic disturbance. 24. BLOOD IN MY EYES* (Bob Dylan) Liz Stringer Bob adapted the Mississippi Sheiks song for his 1983 album World Gone Wrong. Guests here include: Shane O’Mara (guitars/bass) and Ben Weisner (drums). Another Yikesville production. 25. HUNGRY PLANET Sean McMahon (Courtesy of Blind Date Records) The Byrds put it on Untitled (1970). Written by Skip Battin, Kim Fowley and Roger McGuinn. 26. UNCLE JOHN’S BAND (GRATEFUL DEAD) Sean McMahon (Courtesy of Blind Date Records) Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the album Working Man’s Dead. *Recorded in isolation for Off The Record (Triple R-FM/CBAA)

JULY/AUGUST 2020 RHYTHMS SAMPLER THE RHYTHMS SAMPLER! EXCLUSIVELY FOR RHYTHMS SUBSCRIBERS: Mick Thomas & The Roving Commission, Mark Seymour & The Undertow, Andy White, Girlatones, Kevin Borich & Russell Morris, Lis Stringer, Van Walker, John Schumann & The Vagabond Crew, The Breadmakers, Sean McMahon, Joe Matera, Dan Tuffy, Lisa Richards, Rory Ellis, Kimberley Wheeler, Rebecca Barnard, Shane O’Mara, Rob Snarski, Nick Barker.

Subscribe to Rhythms Print or Print & Digital today and we’ll send you our EXCLUSIVE SAMPLER FULL OF GREAT MUSIC.... AVAILABLE ONLY TO SUBSCRIBERS GO TO: rhythms.com.au/subscribe







While talking to someone recently about Richard Lane and the Fremantle music school he passionately ran with his wife Cathy for the past decade, my colleague fervently recalled Richard’s contributions to Perth-based power-pop icons The Stems. As the conversation moved to Richard’s post-Stems ventures, they declared him to be something of a musical enigma. Richard Lane – songwriter, musician, teacher, and all-round musical sage - died suddenly on the night of May 9th after a rehearsing with one of his latest musical ventures - the Fremantle-based growling blues groovers, Big Boss Man. Those who were privy to Richard, his vast and varied musical accomplishments, and his generous spirit, knew him to be anything but an enigma. With Richard, what you saw is what you got – and it was always lavishly and lovingly bestowed. “The loss of Richard is painful,” said former The Triffids and current Nick Cave and the Bad Seed bassist, Martin P Casey, who performed with Richard in two Perth-based bands, Big Boss Man and The Painkillers. “We have lost a true Soul musician. A wonderful writer of his own songs, he had a brilliant pop sensibility. He could also rock as a member of both Big Boss Man and the Painkillers. A true hardworking man, not only running his amazing music school, but he also found time to encourage others to create their own music, particularly young people. He was inspirational.” Richard’s baptism into the Australian music scene came in 1983 when he and vocalist and guitarist Dom Mariani formed the Perth-based garage rock-inspired collective, The Stems. With Richard on guitar, keyboards, and sharing vocal duties, a four-piece lineup quickly came together with the addition of drummer Gary Chambers and bassist John Shuttleworth. The Stems played its debut gig in March 1984 at the Old Civic Theater in Perth, supporting The Saints and The Triffids. When Shuttleworth left, Julian Matthews took over bass and a debut single – “She’s a Monster/Make you Mine” - followed in January 1985. An EP, Love Will Grow - Rosebud Volume 1, quickly followed in 1986 as did David Shaw replacing Chambers on drums. In August 1987, with the quartet’s lineup firmly cemented, The Stems released its debut full-length album, At First Sight, Violets Are Blue. Rolling Stone recently included the recording in the top 100 Australian releases of all time while sales certified the album as gold. Following a performance on Countdown and with a European tour beckoning, in October 1987, The Stems promptly disbanded. With the demise of The Stems, Richard went on to form The Chevelles, which in turn gave way to The Rosebuds. The infectious power-pop sensibilities he brought to The Stems also characterised those two

musical ventures. Richard has remained an intricate part of the Perth music scene, performing with the likes of The On and Ons, The Painkillers, and Big Boss Man while also fronting for the mid-2000s reformation of The Stems, which yielded a second album, Heads Up. “Richard was a force of nature on stage, embodying the true spirit of Rock and Roll, no matter if it was with The Stems, or whatever band he was playing with on any given night, he sealed their deal of authenticity,” explained founding member of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and multi-instrumentalist, Ricky Maymi, who met Richard in 2009 when they all worked together on a Steve Kilbey tour. “He was a great facilitator in the music scene, booking shows, promotion, production, all of it. He hooked up a sea of bands and singer/songwriters with shows, for years and years.” When Richard wasn’t occupying the spotlight himself – flailing on guitar, hammering a keyboard, wailing away on harmonica, or singing up a storm - he worked tirelessly yet quietly behind the scenes, supporting the work of others. He established and ran a record label (Idaho Records), worked as a booking agent, and opened the Fremantle-based Penny Lane Music School. “He was a greatly admired fixture of the Perth and Fremantle music community, as well as in the parenting community,” Ricky added. “He ran a children’s music school, Penny Lane’s Music Workshop, named after his daughter, Penny. Otis, my son, took guitar lessons from him there. Richard was like the rock and roll Pied Piper of Perth! Everyone knew and loved him! “I considered him to be one of the greatest friends I have ever had. He was so painfully humble. I used to always shower him with praise in the hopes that it would remind him of how much people truly admired and respected him for being the living legend that he truly was. He was one of the good ones, if ever there was one!” When looking back across Richard’s legacy it quickly becomes apparent that he wasn’t just a talented and revered exponent of music; he was a music enthusiast and catalyst unlike any other. Not only did be bring people together, he was always there to help them to a better place. In every venture Richard partook, whether it was on stage or off, he generously applied passion, grace, and the sincerest of intention. In an industry full of pretense, Richard was only ever himself. To his family – Cathy, Penny, and Daisy – thank you for sharing Richard’s light and love with the world and may both continue to illuminate your way. There was no mystery to Richard Lane – he wore his heart on his sleeve and opened it completely to anyone willing to accept it. 13



Acclaimed singer-songwriter Van Walker has always been one to march to the beat of his own distinctive drum, and this year – with all the upheaval it offers, is no exception. The follow-up to the lead single ‘Spirit World’ was not one, or even two songs, but instead three from his long-awaited solo album Ghosting (due in August). Recent months in isolation, and with touring and live shows also on a current indefinite hiatus has necessarily changed the way many musicians create and share music; and in this Walker has been no different to his peers. With an altered release plan and tour, Walker is champing on the bit to share his new music and believes there’s no time like the present. ‘Long Night’s Journey To Day’ – one of the great tracks on our new sampler - is a cry for forgiveness and regret, but also vigilance and survival. Guitar wizard Jeff Lang lends his talents, this time on bass guitar. The other songs – ‘When You Were Mine’ and ‘Drifting Too Far From Shore’ – are also available at Van’s bandcamp page.



Established in 1994, The Blues Train is a family owned business that has been in operation for 26 years and is Australia’s longest running blues music venue. Like many other venues it has been hit really hard by the recent COVID-19 crisis. So, if you would like to support the Blues Train and go in the running for a prize, may we suggest you enter its fundraising Raffle. And it won’t cost you a cent. All you have to do is become a member. Just go to the bluestrain.com.au for details. First Prize is a one of a kind Blues Train guitar valued at $1,000 (as shown in the photo being played by Wayne Jury). Second prize is a Blues Train Double Pass valued at $270. Third prize is an Ultimate Blues Train Merch Pack – Calico Bag, valued at $100. Be sure to share this page with your friends and family so they can sign up and have a chance to win too. There are a bunch of other amazing benefits to being a Blues Train VIP.




Vika & Linda have released their very first best-of album, ‘Akilotoa 1994-2006, a 28-song double CD Anthology, including The Black Sorrows classic ‘Never Let Me Go’, and a brand new recording of ‘Down On The Jetty.’ The anthology takes its title, ‘Akilotoa, a song about love, from a track on Vika & Linda’s second album Princess Tabu.

Vika & Linda Bull have comprised one of the most distinctive, versatile, and emotionally charged vocal sounds on the Australian music landscape since their multi-platinum conquest of pop radio with The Black Sorrows in the late 1980s. Since that time, the sisters have forged diverse pathways into soul, gospel, rock, country, and the island music of their Tongan ancestry. ‘Akilotoa is Vika & Linda’s first release since signing to Bloodlines, part of Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group, who will reissue the entire Vika & Linda catalogue later in the month. The 28 song anthology gathers tracks from Vika & Linda’s five studio albums and two live albums and features the muchloved singles ‘When Will You Fall For Me’, ‘House of Love’, ‘We’ve Started A Fire’, ‘Hard Love’ and ‘Love Comes Easy’. Vika & Linda will be recording a new studio album this year.


Since late March Paul Kelly performed and posted a series of songs and poems on his social pages, filming them himself on his phone at home. Most of the pieces are by other writers and many touch on themes related to the lockdown – home cooking, dry pubs, hope, insomnia, separation – while others commemorate singers and poets – Bill Withers, John Prine and Bruce Dawe – who have left us recently. Paul says, “I noticed that the recordings spanned a period of roughly forty days and was aware that ‘forty days’ in Italian is ‘quaranta giorni’, the origin of our word ‘quarantine’. (During the Black Death in Europe from the 14th century onwards ships were required to be isolated for forty days before passengers and crew could go ashore.) So, I had the videos converted and edited to audio files to make a kind of document. The recordings are rough and ready but, to paraphrase George Jones, ‘Ragged but right is ok with me.’ I was never much of a hi-fi guy anyway. I’m sending this little ship out into the world with the hope that it finds many happy harbours.” ‘Forty Days’ includes ‘Pub With No Beer,’ ‘Hey Good Lookin’ (Hank Williams), ‘Grandma’s Hands’ (Bill Withers), ‘Paradise’ (John Prine), ‘My Island Home’ (Neil Murray), ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’ (Emily Dickinson) as well as ‘Passed Over’, ‘Stumbling Block’ and ‘Thoughts In The Middle Of The Night’, all three written by Paul Kelly. Forty Days is available now to stream Kelly has also announced a brand new studio album for release later this year.

“We’re all inherently creative people, an artist perhaps more so: more ready and wellpracticed at reflecting and evaluating life in effective ways. More used to dealing with uncertainty, and of making the most out of what you’ve got.” October 2019 saw Sean McMahon and his band the Owls perform at back-to-back festivals Out On The Weekend and Dashville Skyline, marking the end of a solid three years of writing, recording and performing the material that would make up 2019’s landmark LP You Will Know When You’re There. Recorded in Melbourne’s Union St Studios with producer Roger Bergodaz, the album was slowly pieced together over a year with a different gathering of musicians at each session. “It was as if we were gathering just to perform these songs that one time, until we had the take, with no certainty that we would ever play them together again. It was very much a live affair,” explains McMahon. Although the record calls on a whole host of Melbourne talent, most of Sean’s performances in the period leading up to the release were solo, and a lot of time was spent traveling up and down the East coast with little more than an acoustic guitar. After the release of You Will Know When You’re There and a holiday to South America with his partner, it seemed like the perfect time to reset and assess the future. “I think I was burnt out looking back on it now. When I was in South America I didn’t think about music for a month. It was like hitting stop. I’d

been flat out for a long time with a day job, gigs, promoting the album, organising tours. Apart from performing I found it hard to find any time for anything creative. I missed having time to experiment, mess around, explore. I was getting none of that. Until now.” The COVID-19 lockdown started not long after Sean had moved into a new house in Melbourne’s inner north. “It had been years since I had properly set up a decent recording situation and was really looking forward to doing so in my new place. I had been living in a tiny one-bedroom unit with neighbours surrounding me on every side, so I’d barely been able to plug in an electric guitar. The first thing I bought for the new place was an old piano.” The time at home has been both productive and experimental for Sean; not only has he recorded a new single but covers and an LP of experimental instrumental music. “I started out playing around with just piano and acoustic guitar, working up little instrumental duets. Spacious, minimal, melodic stuff. Improvised and then elaborated on. As the pieces started to take form, other layers appeared and I spent a lot of time playing around with synth sounds, trying to find the place where those elements seemed to naturally coexist. It’s like building environments with sound. That’s what I love about recording: it’s important to capture a great performance but also being able to layer, subtract and refine as you go. I get so immersed in it. I like mixing as I go, I think

everything you do to the sound has some influence over what happens next.” Sean has compiled a collection of these recordings into a twenty-minute EP, a “vignette” uploaded to Bandcamp under the name Compositions for a Film. “The first actual song I recorded was a cover of the Byrds’ ‘Hungry Planet’, an old favourite of mine since I found the song in my Dad’s collection twenty years ago. I kept on coming back to the thought, when the reality of the COVID-19 situation set in and the world was forced into lockdown, that finally the planet might get a chance to breathe. This is a situation that would never be available again if we’re given a choice but it’s exactly what the planet needs if we’re going to survive. I sat down to do something with this track just for fun, to see how my cheap drum kit recorded and I ended up finding a darker channel in the tune through its minor chords and adding synth beds. I sent it over to my bass player, Tim McCormack, and he added layers of synth and percussion and also created a psychedelic collage video. It became a great collaboration project that grew organically between us in the midst of the lock down.” Sean also participated in a collaborative lockdown project organised by Tim which was a home recording of ‘The Waiting’ by Tom Petty which included vocals from Melbourne singer-songwriter Liz Stringer and guitars from Matt Green and Jeb Cardwell. The track debuted on Triple R a few days before the lockdown ended. Another project Sean is working on is a cover of a Grateful Dead song to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album Working Man’s Dead, another all-time favourite. The other project Sean has been working on in lockdown is, of course, the new single ‘Janelle’. “The inspiration for this song came from a story my partner told me, about her childhood best friend. It’s about someone so shy being brought out of their shell by this beautiful friendship. It’s about acceptance: from others and of yourself. When the chorus lifts up it’s like a celebration of this. ”When the spotlights bounce off the mirror ball, at the dance, in the council hall.. will you tell them all I’m here, tell them all I’m here, Janelle.” The song is set at a dance, but it’s so long ago, it’s a foggy memory, furthermore, defused by poor lighting and a smoke machine. All this imagery is in the essence of the song I’m trying to reveal.” 15

One of Melbourne’s most beloved music venues, the Caravan Music Club, has closed its doors in suburban Melbourne. By Ian McFarlane. The CMC as we know it may be over but long live the CMC! Promoter Peter Foley has weathered the storms of running a successful, and satisfying, music venue but it’s time for new challenges. I’ve seen so many marvellous CMC gigs, from Models and The Audreys to Raw Brit and The Pretty Things. Everyone will have their own memories of favourite gigs. Foley has moved out of the Melbourne suburbs and headed for the wilds of Archie’s Creek, in the Bass Coast Shire not far from Philip Island. I caught up with the usually media shy CMC figurehead to get the lowdown. When did you start the Caravan Music Club? I started the Caravan Music Club at the Oakleigh Bowling Club in 2007. There was an initial two years there. It was hard work, we had to build the stage every week from the ground up and then dismantle it. After two years it got too hard and the opportunity came up down the other end of Drummond Street. The Oakleigh RSL had established the separate room and stage in the Memorial Hall. So, we were able to install everything and leave it set up. It was a great vibe, a rustic old room. That was the halcyon years of the CMC but after eight years we moved to the South Oakleigh Club in East Bentleigh. The sound down there was probably better but I think the room needs to have a character and a personality, and the old room had a bounce and a character to it. After two years at East Bentleigh we’ve decided to move on. What were your intentions with the move to Archie’s Creek? I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. We had a whole lot of gigs booked for later in the year and we’re prepared to keep going but I’m not gonna pretend that I’m heartbroken because I’m not. We bought the Archie’s Creek hotel and we’ve been running gigs here for a while. The pub capacity is only about 100 people but we’ve had some cracking gigs. We always overdo the production, we can’t help ourselves. Brian Wise has been giving us great amounts of publicity on Off the Record. So, we’ve started installing everything in the Archie’s Creek community hall. It’s a community of only 16 houses here and we all have a share in the hall and everybody’s very positive about putting on music there, everybody in the local community is excited. This one feels pretty good. And the hall’s 16

actually bigger than the old Caravan. We’re gonna make it the final resting place for the Caravan Music Club. Why waste a good brand? Contrary to popular belief there’s not a lot of money in putting on gigs. Essentially music is a high risk / low profit business and unless your whole heart and soul are in it, if you don’t have the passion for it, you can’t do it. It’s gotta be an extension of the few core people who are doing it. Down here we’ve got some of the heart and soul of the Caravan Music Club moving into the street. Jon von Goes has bought the house next to the hall, and Tracey Miller’s family have bought a house two doors further up the hill. We’ve now got about five houses in the town. We’re starting a cult! We’re building the legend of Archie’s Creek. I guess you can’t open your club just yet with the current COVID-19 restrictions? Yeah, that’s an advantage, it will take us a fair while to get set up properly. In the past I’ve done most of it myself. Like an idiot I wouldn’t ask for help but this time I’m getting other people involved. I’m trying to make it a real community effort. I made sure all the community was there when we bought the truck down, to help unload it, to make everyone feel part of it. When you started the CMC, did you have a mission statement, or did you just make it up as you went along? It was essentially that, it was a hobby that got out of control. The situation was, it’s been documented, I had a son who had muscular dystrophy and he needed a lot of care. We couldn’t go out and our way of connecting with the world was to bring people into our house and put on shows. Our first show was actually Tracey Miller, then David Bridie, Dave Graney, Stephen Cummings, all these people started playing there and it always seemed to pack out. I started the CMC but Jack died just after that, so I just kept going because I didn’t know what to do with myself. That’s always been the reward of running the CMC. It’s not the money for sure, or the glory, it’s just the fact that you can make something happen. If you can put 200, 300 people in a room and they can come out feeling different, then it’s the satisfaction of knowing that wouldn’t have happened without someone taking the time to set up the circumstances.

The hardest question might be, do you have a favourite band that you put on or doesn’t that work for you? I’ve always loved the Don Walker shows. Any of the Australian stuff I always love. People telling our stories, singing our songs. We have a lot of international acts but the Australian ones are the best for me. I’m most proud of those and I’m always angry when they don’t go well. I had one week where a big international act packed out two nights. Then we had Neil Murray doing an album launch and Rob Snarski doing an album launch, both of them were badly attended and I was so pissed off. The greatest night we ever had was clearly Ross Hannaford’s last gig (March 2016). He was meant to play on the Thursday and we had to cancel at 5 o’clock in the afternoon because he couldn’t get out of bed. We had to let 300 people know pretty quickly; only a handful turned up which was good. We rescheduled for the Tuesday and he came and did the show, stood the whole time and just did an amazing show. That ended up being his last show. It was the album launch as well, his last album. Ross was just so unique. James Black has been talking about doing some memorial tribute to him, he’s got some ideas but there’s no way you can do a tribute show because he was an original. From a punter point of view, the most memorable CMC show for me was The Pretty Things (December 2012). I know it was an international act but they were fantastic! They were great shows. A wonderful band and they had that young rhythm section. Often you see these reformations and they can be disappointing but with The Pretty Things they recognised they just needed a really good rhythm section to drive the whole thing. Dear old Phil May. I have this great memory of him. I’d done the rider and he came outside to me and he said ‘where’s our sandwiches?’. I said, ‘you’re meant to be the scariest band in the world and you’re asking me where are your sandwiches?’ For old blokes they drank a lot too, and I’d given them more alcohol than they asked for and he was asking for his sandwiches. But you could talk to him like that, he was a good guy. Their more recent show was at East Bentleigh, on a Sunday afternoon and of course Phil gets to the venue and he’d

Ross Hannaford And James Black At The Caravan Music Club. Pic By Brian Wise. forgotten his pants. He’d left them in Carlton where they were staying. So, my partner Mary drove this guy from the crew back to Carlton to pick up his pants. I said to this guy, he was a nice approachable guy and I said ‘what is your role here, I can’t work out where you fit in?’ and he said ‘I’m Phil’s minder, I go everywhere with him’. Then he said, ‘once Phil’s on stage my job is done’ and they did a great show. They were on stage for an hour

and a half. So, the minder had forgotten to bring Phil’s pants. He had one thing to do so he hadn’t done his job totally. Congratulations on what you’ve achieved. What is positive is that the Caravan will continue down at the Archie’s Creek Hall. We won’t continue at the same frequency, but I’ve got every intention of making this room as good as any other room we’ve ever

done. We’ve always prided ourselves in doing the best we can’t afford at the time. We’ve always punched above our weight. After 13 years you work out what the gigs need, little things like having a full back line available so the bands don’t have to hire anything. A great James Black quote is, ‘you’ve got it perfect, no one makes any money at your gigs but they all want to play it’. 17


Just as the light and the dark truly blend at the close of day - that is when the howling starts. The lonely voices of the quarantined. Children and dogs join in. It is the Eight O’clock Howl. The sound comes dimly through the trees, from people marooned in isolation. Through the beautiful trees of Nashville. The ducks, the wild turkey, foxes, coyote and deer, have all ventured back where there have been so many less cars. So many less humans on the move. Meanwhile, downtown, the Court House is on fire. What started as a peaceful protest became violent and arsonistic. According to the Governor, “… many of those involved in unlawful acts are not Tennesseans and we will be working with law enforcement to investigate this further and bring those responsible to justice.” In short, the Alt Right is organised. Their mission: to disorganise, cause chaos and disunity among so-called ‘liberals.’ There is an 8 o’clock curfew in Nashville tonight. The music venues are still closed and some will not reopen. The houses on Holly Street hit by the tornado still look like bomb sites just tidied up a bit. Each day more bad news from the Capitol via Twitter. Each day more cynicism, more chaos, less leadership, less democracy. The cities are on fire. Unarmed black protesters are fired on with rubber bullets. Tear gas is thrown in canisters into the crowd. Meanwhile, white men armed with AR-15s have raided Capitols in Michigan and North Carolina en masse with no contest from the police whatsoever. 18

WHAT’S GOIN’ ON President Tweet fuels the flames. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He calls black men ‘thugs’ and white fascists ‘fine people.’ The Civil War is not over. Nobody won. The fight continues. The Civil Rights Movement has barely begun. Black men are still being murdered for being black men. Racism is how we got to this point. Feminism, deemed by many to be barely necessary during the previous administration, is now more necessary than ever. Sexism is how we got to this point. There is a movement to go backward here. The American people do not have the right to affordable health care. They do not have the right to a livable wage. They do not get four weeks vacation every year. They barely get any sick leave. Most jobs are benefitsfree. Many states are ‘right-to-work’ meaning no unions. There is no minimum wage in those states. The gig economy is the mainstay here along with so-called ‘part-time positions’ and neither scenario provides any security. The President has insulted women for years. The New Guard does not like intelligent women, educated women, powerful women, ambitious women. The New Guard is The Old Guard. They no longer hide their bigotry, their sexism, their greed, their hatred for democracy and due process, their disdain for equality, their xenophobia. They are actually fighting ‘the battle of the sexes’ while most of us thought that was a cheesy ‘70s catch-phrase. For them it is real, very real. The Cold War actually ended with the last Presidential election and the Russians won. They and the GOP are doing everything they

can to stop a fair election. Will there be an election in November? We can’t be sure. The venues are still closed. The destruction reeked by the tornado has barely been seen to. Most buildings hit are still down. Just the details have been removed - the loose bricks and tree limbs. Volunteer efforts ceased at the start of the quarantine and no doubt, insurance companies will do all they can to not come through. Just for some perspective, Tennessee has roughly the same sized population as Victoria. Yet Tennessee has 25,000 cases of COVID-19 while Victoria has 1600. There was no coordinated plan of action to curtail the spread of the virus and there is also no socialised medicine to deal with it. People who survive hospitalisation can be hit with a $35,000 bill at the end of it. Who would have thought that wearing a mask would be construed as a political statement? Trumpers don’t wear masks, apparently. Roseanne Cash’s daughter was abused by a man in the supermarket for wearing a mask. The man yelled at her “Liberal pussy!” They argue for their right to infect others by not wearing a mask just as they argue for their right to bear arms even if that means school children dying every day. The secret is out. Most Americans are being abused on so many levels. While billiondollar corporations are receiving bailouts right now most Americans haven’t even received their unemployment benefits. It feels like 1968 all over again. Meanwhile, we are all still playing music, playing from our rooms into cyberspace in hopes that someone out there will be listening. That’s what’s goin’ on…

Nashville-based Australian singer Emma Swift has recorded an album of Dylan covers, including one of his brand new songs, ‘I Contain Multitudes.’

BLONDE ON THE TRACKS By Brian Wise What inspired you to record an entire album of Dylan covers? I don’t want to get too down in the dumps about it too, but this was a record that I began because I was depressed. I’m not depressed anymore, and that’s a really good thing. I want to flag that because lots of people suffer from depression and I think it’s important to know that you can come out of it the other side. I certainly have. So, I started recording these Bob Dylan songs and I got Pat Sansone from Wilco to come and help me flesh it out and make it sound more pro. In a way, it worked as an audio Prozac for me. It was a really spiritual and uplifting, cool experience, and I’m so happy to have done it. As you said, it was obviously cathartic. So, what was it about Dylan’s songs that particularly you were drawn to at that particular stage? Well, I was so lost and Bob Dylan, to me, is a person who he’s just never seemed too lost to me ever. He always seems supremely confident in whatever artistic pursuit it is that he’s doing, from crafting songs, to going electric, to creating giant metal sculptures, to recording the songs of Frank Sinatra. Bob Dylan does everything with a supreme confidence and an enviable amount of self-esteem. I admire that. As well as that he’s the poet laureate of song writing and I’m such a book nerd, and like Bob Dylan, I love poetry, and I love words. I think that in my song writing too, I was trying to work out how to be a better songwriter. I was writing some pretty mediocre stuff and a way to learn how to write songs better is to sing songs that are actually really good, that have been crafted by someone else who’s been doing it for a long time. Setting your goal of emulating Bob Dylan is probably setting the bar a little bit too high, do you think? Look, if you’re going to set a bar, you might as well set the maximum one. There are certainly other bands that I love and could do a whole record of covers of, but I loved the idea of calling it Blonde on the Tracks. I thought that was really silly. Great title. I also thought that it was time to have a bit of a gender re-imagining of some of those Bob Dylan songs. I thought it was a feminist perspective that could come by not changing any of the pronouns. So back in the old days, when Linda Ronstadt recorded ‘Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind’, Linda or the producer changed it to ‘Baby, You’ve Been On My Mind’. And when Joan Baez recorded it, she made it, ‘Daddy, You’ve Been On My Mind’. And I wanted to actually just leave everything as it was. It’s the 21st century. I don’t think we have to worry so much about, oh, this is a woman singing a song about a girl, or this is a woman calling herself a man in a song. I think we’ve evolved past those lyrical twists. It’s a decision that each and every artist who’s reinterpreting someone else’s songs has to make for themselves, but I wanted to have fun with that. Now you named the album Blonde on the Tracks. There are two songs from Blood on the Tracks, but how could you possibly narrow down the song choice?

Well, the first song that I was absolutely desperate to do, and it shows how terrible and laughable my commercial instincts are, is that all I wanted to do was sing ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’, which is epic. It goes for 12 minutes, but it’s my favourite Bob Dylan song and I couldn’t leave it out. Then after that, I sat around the kitchen table with Robyn [Hitchcock] who plays guitar on the record and we just thumbed through what sounded good, what sounded pretty, what sounded fun. ‘Queen Jane Approximately’, like ‘Sad Eyed Lady’ is in my top 10 Dylan songs and the same with ‘One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)’. The others found their way onto the record by suggestion of Pat or just by sifting through things, trying not to make too obvious choices. Of course, Dylan’s new album will also contain, ‘I Contain Multitudes’. Are you looking forward to that? The lyrics we’ve heard on the three songs so far are pretty incredible, aren’t they? Oh, I can’t wait for Rough And Rowdy Ways. I couldn’t be happier that that album is coming this year. It’s really exciting to get some new Dylan material, particularly at a time that’s as turbulent and challenging as this one. Music’s a real comfort to me and to a lot of people. I’m not unique in that. So, I’m very excited. And the first song that he dropped was ‘Murder Most Foul’ and it’s 17 minutes of just epic inter-textual song references and pop culture and politics. That’s exactly, I think, what Dylan fans have been going to him for decades. So, he’s really playing to his strengths and, again. I love a man with uncommercial instincts. Here’s the first single from the album that goes for 17 minutes. Take it or leave it, friends. I think, what a guy, what a great choice to make. Blonde on The Tracks is available at emmaswift.bandcamp.com 19

TO THE MOON AND BACK The COVID-19 crisis creates an unexpected sequel for the celebrated singer-songwriter. By Jeff Jenkins After releasing last year’s When I Was On The Moon – an album that showcased one voice, one guitar and one microphone – Charles Jenkins was planning something grander for his next release, perhaps a record with orchestral strings, heavenly choirs and more birds in the background. “But things happen,” the Melbourne singersongwriter notes. “Like pandemics.” Like all of us, Jenkins (no relation to this writer) was forced to retreat to his room. But unlike many of us, he made the most of his time, recording a new album, which is the perfect companion to When I Was On The Moon. As ABC Melbourne Evenings host David Astle recently pointed out, the title of the new album, When I Was In My Room, is not idiomatic, it’s how the record happened. Alone in his room, Jenkins had the same equipment that delivered When I Was On The Moon – one good microphone, his $150 nylon string guitar “and a computer that’s so old, it still accepts CDs and DVDs, but it can do enough to record me and the guitar”. Jenkins had also recently moved into a new home, where the internet was not connected. “So, besides my box set of I, Claudius, I had nothing else to do, except write a record.” The result is an album that’s beautifully intimate. It’s as if Jenkins is serenading an audience of one. A product of necessity – Jenkins had the time, but also needed to generate some income when his gigs dried up – the singersongwriter has been touched by people’s generosity. The response was immediate from fans and fellow songwriters. Dave Wright sent him a message: “Sounds beautiful, Chuck. Rich and warm, like a nice single malt by the fire.” Rory Ellis wrote: “Awesome work, mate. I love the line, ‘I used to be a ghost, the one who scared me the most.’ Brilliant!” Matthew de la Hunty remarked, “Lovely work, Chuck.” While author Lyndell Giuliano suggested, “Charles Jenkins, you should spend more time in your room.” Jenkins does spend a lot of time in his room. Aside from missing his regular gigs, including his famous Monday night residency at Brunswick’s Retreat Hotel, he says the pandemic has not greatly changed his life. “I’m a musician, so I’m perpetually broke,” he laughs. “So, I don’t really go out that much.” But he has continued his day gig, teaching songwriting, which he says is “always inspiring”. 20

He’s actually having a busy year. He pops up in the web series Mint Condition and contributes to the soundtrack, and his muchloved band the Icecream Hands are preparing to release No Weapon But Love, their first album in 13 years. Jenkins says songwriters are the luckiest people in the world – “songwriters get choruses, how wonderful is that!” – and age is no barrier. “I did my knee 30 years ago and I’m still writing songs,” he points out. Jenkins liked another word that Astle recently used to talk about the solo album, a Japanese word, wabi-sabi, which means there’s beauty in imperfection. “I realised that I don’t need the take that is 100 per cent perfect. If I make a little mistake here or there, people won’t care – they’re just going to like the song or not like the song. Once I got that in my head, the recordings were really easy.” The challenge for every songwriter, Jenkins says, is finding the perfect combination of lyrics, melody and rhythm. “It only really works

when you’ve got the three superpowers working as one. Where all the elements head towards unity, as Aristotle would say.” When I Was In My Room opens with a classic piece of songwriting, ‘The History of Scotland’, where Jenkins recalls a relationship he had with a woman of Scottish heritage when he was a young man in Adelaide. He writes about her parents’ relationship – “My parents were always fighting the war of independence” – and also manages to document a meeting with Joe Strummer. “That’s why we love songs,” Jenkins smiles. “You can talk about anything.” In the end, it’s a song about love. “There are so many different kinds of love,” Jenkins sings. “The first love, the fleeting love, the only love, the mother’s love. All of the above. “It’s the unheard songs that are so sweet. It’s love’s promise that sweeps us off our feet.” When I Was In My Room is available now at charlesjenkins. com.au

MAKING LEMONADE Despite the tough times, Ray Beadle is making the best of it with his first release in seven years, as he tells Samuel J. Fell.

There’s no denying that the times, as they are today, are tough. Life has taken on a different hue, and with that has come great change – entire industries have failed, others damaged irreparably; the music industry has been in no way immune. However, as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, and this is what Ray Beadle has been doing. He’s in his truck, his day-job, when he picks up the phone, and he’s happy. He’s really happy. He laughs frequently during our conversation, he’s excited, he’s passionate, music has taken on a new meaning and he’s embracing the hell out of it. “It’s a good place to be,” he muses on his current place in life as a 42-year-old musician. “When I was younger, I was wanting to do it and get ahead as a musician… but since I’ve turned 40, it’s more and more fun as I get older, it’s weird. It’s become less about the money and more about who you’re playing with, writing good tunes, playing good music. As clichéd as it sounds.” The reason Beadle, renowned as one of the finest jazz and blues-influenced guitarists in the country, is so content right now stems directly from his latest project, The 301 Live Session. Set for release in early July, the album is as it sounds – recorded live in front of an intimate audience at Sydney’s famed 301 Studio (just before the country went into lockdown), featuring Beadle along with double bassist Jonathan Zwartz and drummer Andrew Dickeson. It’s Beadle’s first release in seven years (2013’s Ray Beadle Live was his last offering, 2011’s Spellbound being the last time he released a studio record), and far from seeing him out of form, The 301 Session is a tight, shimmering, sophisticated set of jazz and blues tunes, featuring a number of Beadle’s own, along with a slew of covers from the likes of Robert Johnson, JB Lenoir, LJ Welch and George Benson. It’s a cracking release; little wonder Beadle is feeling good. “That’s how it felt on the night,” he says when I mention the set has that air of sophistication about it, but that there was a real element of fun pervading. “It was a lot of fun for me… I’ve been doing a lot of things out of my comfort zone in the past six months, and so to record a live set in the studio with about sixty people in there, is definitely out of my comfort zone.”

“And Jonathan, Andrew and myself hadn’t played together until about two hours before that session,” he adds with another laugh. “We ran through the songs that afternoon, and that was it. And that says a lot about the musicianship of those guys, Jonathan was just so focused through that session, it was unbelievable.” “There were definitely a couple of songs on there where we were just jamming out, pretty much,” he smiles when I ask how much of the set ended up being improvised. “But that’s sort of the fun of it, I mean, then you’re really having fun with it, feeling each other out, that’s what it’s all about when you’re playing live with people – you don’t want everything too mapped out.” The nine-track set closes out with the J. Smith track ‘Bayou’, made famous by George Benson, which suits Beadle’s jazz-inflected guitar playing to a tee. It’s an instrumental track, and one on which you can hear the trio really getting into. And this was the one track, they’d not rehearsed beforehand.

“That’s a song I’ve wanted to do on a recording for years,” he says. “About a week before [the set], I sent them the tracks to listen to, but that one I put on them on the day. The formula of the song is a standard progression, but it was great, I’m so grateful they did it for me, that they came to the party.” I venture, given the fact The 301 Session gives the impression these three have been playing together for years, that there’ll be more collaborating between Beadle, Zwartz and Dickeson. “We do have, actually, a couple of gigs coming up,” he smiles, happy to keep the energy rolling. “Mate, it’s great, I’m really looking forward to it.” He pauses for a second, before offering, “Years ago, I’d have been too scared to play with those guys.” He laughs again. “But now I feel happier within myself and more comfortable to play with anyone these days.” This is Ray Beadle’s lemonade. The 301 Session is available July 10 through Interface Blue. 21


HAIL OR SHINE The music legend takes a trip to Toon Town for his first studio album in eight years. By Jeff Jenkins

Mr Pickwick encounters a “lively stranger” in Charles Dickens’ first novel, The Pickwick Papers. “I am ruminating,” said Mr Pickwick, “on the strange mutability of human affairs.” “Philosopher, sir?” asks the stranger. “An observer of human nature,” replies Mr Pickwick. James Reyne is a masterful observer of human nature. For more than 40 years, his work has been filled with wry observations, razor-sharp wordplay and unforgettable turns of phrase. Wherever he goes, his ear is tuned, ready to catch a word or a saying that will one day pop up in a song. A few years ago, Reyne was thinking about the time he lived in Los Angeles. He googled the title ‘A Little Ol’ Town South Of Bakersfield’. “I thought it was a great name for a song and that it must have already been a title or a cowboy phrase.” But Reyne – who spent time in Bakersfield making the ‘Motor’s Too Fast’ video – couldn’t find it anywhere. ‘A Little Ol’ Town South Of Bakersfield’ is now one of the many highlights of Reyne’s 12th solo studio album, Toon Town Lullaby. The song documents the singer-songwriter’s days in LA in the late ’80s when he was managed by Roger Davies and signed to Capitol Records. “Maybe opportunity opened its doors and I didn’t recognise it, or maybe it didn’t open its doors,” Reyne ruminates. The song mentions David Allan Coe and Jimmy Buffett. “Capitol didn’t know what to do with me. Was I David Allan Coe or Jimmy 22

Buffett? They didn’t really know what I was.” Reyne remembers visiting the Capitol office, where the staff were in the boardroom watching the video for Poison’s ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’. As the staff exclaimed, “This is a smash!”, Reyne thought to himself, “This is the biggest load of shit I’ve ever heard.” “Whether they wanted me to be more like that …” His voice trails off, before adding, “Well, I can’t do that.” Toon Town Lullaby references some of Reyne’s songwriting heroes. After watching about 10 minutes of the ARIA Awards, he wrote a song called ‘Low Hanging Fruit’. “I don’t see bravery,” he sings. “I just see knavery.” Looking for a rhyme with “leaves”, he included the line, “Desperadoes under the eaves.” “I thought, ‘Can I use it?’. And then I decided, ‘Bugger it, I’m going to use it. Warren Zevon fans will pick up on it.’” And the title track references Blaze Foley. “I like all the Nashville/Austin outlaw songwriters,” Reyne reveals, “and Blaze Foley was one of those guys. When I was a kid I was a big John Prine fan and he later sang a song called ‘Clay Pigeons’, which Blaze Foley wrote, so I got into a bit of Blaze Foley. He and [his friend] Townes Van Zandt really hated the Nashville establishment, but they wrote all these beautiful songs.” Reyne covered Van Zandt’s ‘To Live is To Fly’ on his 2005 album, And The Horse You Rode In On. Foley was killed by a guy named Carey January, and Lucinda Williams paid tribute

to Foley in her song ‘Drunken Angel’. Reyne’s ‘Toon Town Lullaby’ – a song about Nashville being ‘toon town’, a city swarming with songwriters – features the verse: Carey January took a ride A 12-bore shotgun by his side And one more drunken angel Up and died The album opens with ‘Toon Town Lullaby’ and concludes with a track called ‘Wrong Guy’. Reyne says he was “trying to be a bit Raymond Chandler”, writing an epic poem after he heard someone talking about Hollywood: “All you need is the wrong guy, wrong room, wrong night and you’re screwed.” Musically, he wanted to do his first “jam song”. “I saw Tedeschi Trucks at Bluesfest a few years ago and they were playing a feel that was similar, but they were doing it beautifully. They went off on this really long jam, just over these two chords. I grew up loving The Allman Brothers and all those jam bands, and this was me trying to do that, but I’m not sure if we pulled it off, to be honest; I think the key change is a little weird.” Brutally honest, James Reyne remains his toughest critic. But Toon Town Lullaby is another fine record, which sits comfortably in his classic catalogue. Toon Town Lullaby is out July 10 on Bloodlines.

Michael Franti injects his new album with a dose of his trademark positivity, which is a tonic for the times, writes Samuel J. Fell Michael Franti is a beacon of positivity, and this isn’t new. Over the course of three decades, the man has made it his mission to imbue his music with shades of the upbeat; his message of positivity, of inclusion, of living and loving and sharing this life together are rife across his releases and in truth, it’s a tonic. No less for today than it ever has been before. Speaking from Bali, where he’s been stranded with his family since the global lockdown took effect back in March, Franti can’t help but look for a bright side. And that’s no mean feat – what with the coronavirus, what’s happening in America and Hong Kong, looking for a positive way of taking it all in can be almost impossible. For Michael Franti though, he needs to, and the people who thrive from his music, need him to as well. “I take it as a big responsibility, as an artist, to try and show up in a way that’s going to be… where people are drawn to the message,” he muses, “but also, second of all, keeping the message alive through every song that I do. It’s challenging when you think of the world today [for sure]; I mean, how do you break through the clutter of the billions of Instagram photos, Tweets, Facebook posts, how do you break through that clutter? “What I’ve found, at the end of the day, is that if you speak from your heart and you’re really putting your emotions into the music, that people feel it and people will find it. And that’s what I’ve tried to do on this record.” This record is Work Hard & Be Nice, Franti and Spearhead’s eleventh studio release. Franti, along with a cohort of contributing songwriters, began penning the album around a year ago, but despite this, it’s almost like this is a record for right now. It is, as Franti has been quoted as saying, “about the power of optimism to get us through our darkest moments.” Extremely apt for this point in time. “When we started making this record, I was really just thinking how divided things seem in the world these days, especially in my country,” he muses. “From these divisions, we then exact hate on other groups – I really believe we’ve gotta be showing up differently in the world for each other, as a human family. “And that’s what we see taking place in America right now, with people saying we

need to have a shift in the culture, in the way that we think about one another, and then go about tearing down the systemic racism… and also changing how we treat each other online; the way we treat each other, people who think differently to us; the way we just show up for one another on a daily basis. “And that’s what the title of the album is all about, I mean, if you can’t show up in any other way, at least work hard at what you do, and be nice to other people. And that’s just a starting point, I think we need to go much further than that in changing systems we have in place, but that’s a starting point.” Work Hard & Be Nice is, as you’d expect, vintage Franti – not just from a lyrical and messaging sense, but sonically as well, the record (which clocks in at seventeen tracks long) harking to Franti’s myriad musical influences, from reggae to rock and most points in between. It should be noted too, that Spearhead, the band he’s fronted for

almost his entire career, have lost nothing over time. It still comes back to the message though. The album’s title comes from a t-shirt Franti had made up on tour last year, “it was first gonna be a shirt for us, in the band, to have, but it became the most popular selling t-shirt on the tour, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I write a song about this?” he laughs, “and then it became the title track to the record.” The record, at this point, won’t be showcased live for some time, for obvious reasons. Franti has been working hard on the digital side of things however, looking to let fans into the music as much as he can via the internet. It’s not the same as feeding off a live audience, but as he says, when they are able to tour, “the spirit of our next touring run is gonna be that of gratitude,” he smiles, brimming with positivity. Work Hard & Be Nice is available June 19 via ThirtyTigers. 23


he last time I spoke to Blake Mills he was a young man under pressure, and he admitted it. It was 2013 and the then 27-year-old was preparing to play Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden. I thought the self-confessed nervousness must have been from having to appear on a bill with superstar names like Clapton, BB King, Buddy Guy, Robbie Robertson, Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Jeff Beck and more than a dozen others. “Two of my blind spots are like playing for an audience in an arena, and then like guitar culture,” recalls Mills when we connect by phone to talk about his new album, Mutable Set. “And I just felt like I don’t know whether to trust my instincts or do the opposite. But all in all, it’s a good memory now. But boy, the terror. The terror of being around all these behemoths, that was a trip! I got in and got out.” Mills had released his debut album Break Mirrors three years earlier and was working on its follow-up, Heigh Ho, released the following year. He had already begun what was to become an acclaimed career as a producer with Jesca Hoop, Sara Watkins and Sky Ferreira, as well as producing Billy 24

By Brian Wise.

Gibbons on a version of ‘Oh Well’ for a Fleetwood Mac tribute. (In years to come he was to win a Grammy for his work with the Alabama Shakes and pick up nominations for recordings with Laura Marling, John Legend and Perfumed Genius. He’s also worked with Dawes, Jim James, Jay-Z and Fiona Apple. It’s an impressive list of achievements). Yet going out on stage in front of 20,000 people was not what had Mills jumpy that day. As he sat on a couch backstage before the show, he confessed that it was the pressure of expectation from his record company and others that was weighing heavily on him. At the time he was a hot young guitarist that everyone was praising and it was having an effect. I walked away a little concerned and followed his career closely since. As it turns out, I need not have worried. Mills had the perfect answer to the pressure: he ignored it and did his own thing. He worked with some big names afterwards, including Randy Newman and Ed Sheeran, produced the Cars 3 soundtrack, started his own label and drip-fed his own recordings – including the instrumental album Look in 2018. Recently he has been pegged to create the music for the fictional band in the film of

Daisy Jones & The Six being made by Reese Witherspoon. “I have enjoyed that kind of freedom, especially in the last couple of years,” he replies when I mention that he seems to have trodden his own path. “I’ve had a relationship with Universal Music Group where I’ve got my own label now as an imprint through them and it’s called New Deal Records. What’s been great about that is just the autonomy, the creative autonomy, and not have to convince anybody of the merit of an artistic endeavour, or some idea or some tangent that I might want to go down. “Also, since we last spoke, I think I’ve had the good fortune of being able to work on however many records and that some of those went on to be successful projects or at least respectable projects. I think it just helps to be a little more established in that world on the business side of things, to where they aren’t wondering if every inclination you have is some sort of financial sacrifice. Like there’s a chance that the synth guitar album could catch somebody’s ear and wind up in a film, so let’s just go with it. I think there’s just a little more trust on both sides, and maybe a healthier business relationship now between me and the people that I work with. Then,

“I don’t know: it’s like fishing, sort of. At the end of it all, I want a delicious record.” also, just a distance from people that I just don’t have any business being in business with, I suppose.” If you want to hear a statement about how far Mills has come to avoid the pressure and tread his own artistic path then all you have to do is listen to his fourth album, the recently released Mutable Set, which he has said is a ‘soundtrack to the emotional dissonance of modern life’. The fact that he might be renowned for his guitar playing comes second to serving the music and finds him just as often at the piano. “How would you describe the thread from these last two records is as far as similarities go?” asks Mills when I mention that Mutable Set could almost be an extension of the beautiful instrumental Look, which is like a soundtrack to a science fiction movie playing in his mind. Good question. I’d been trying to think of how I would describe the new album. Intimate, like a late night jazz album, as it draws you in and invites you to listen to it closely. There is no way people are going to be able to pigeonhole it, that’s for sure. The album begins with ‘Never Forever,’ and its acoustic guitar. It is almost the most conventional song on the album, though it

builds to a climax. ‘Summer All Over,’ the first song released, features Mills’ voice quietly intimate over piano. ‘Vanishing Twin’ is underpinned by an hypnotic refrain reminiscent of Steve Reich or Phillip Glass. ‘Money Is The One True God’ is equally insistent and eerie. ‘Farsickness’ is a quiet lament. ‘Off Grid,’ is a gentle, melancholic closer. All the while Mills’ voice is way up in the mix, almost as if we are listening to him in a confessional, as the instruments and numerous almost imperceptible effects visit the music. “I think one of the discoveries in the studio for me a few years ago was how a lot of habits that I had developed being in a rock band in my teenage years and through my twenties and playing live shows and playing loud, those things don’t necessarily translate directly, in the studio, to energy,” observes Mills. “You have to unlearn a few things maybe and experiment a little to find out what does to activate that medium. “But what happens when you do have that ethos in mind, is you can play softly and you can write softly and impressionistically, and turn all of the equipment that is responsible for magnifying sound, like compression and gain and even like proximity to the microphone, you can get closer, you can turn all these things way up. And if it’s good equipment, that has a sound to it. “Maybe why it feels like an old jazz record is because that’s what that equipment was designed to do. It was designed to record acoustic music. It was designed to help keep the dynamic range and the noise floor down and signal to noise ratio up. It was designed to kind of preserve, as much as possible, what was recorded and what was being played. And so, when you use that equipment the way that it was designed, it might have a certain nostalgia, for sure, without sounding like a throwback or like a retro record. I think that might be what you were picking up on.” “It’s been interesting to hear people kind of place this one amongst the other records. I’m still learning and growing, and I don’t have an urge to make a record until there’s some sense of how it is going to be different from the previous one. But that’s not to say that I’m not relying on the same sensibilities that I’ve been trying to hone.” “I never really know when I’m making it,” responds Mills when I ask him what he was hoping to achieve with the new album. “I had a sense of the temperament of the record, maybe like the time of year. It felt like an autumnal record to me. But I think, as far as like wanting to achieve anything specific, I don’t know: it’s like fishing, sort of. At the end of it all, I want a delicious record. But as far as what comprises that with this body of work, I think it’s much more of a hunt and a journey. One big difference between being in a production chair and making a solo record is that the producorial role is much more of a response or of a collaboration and a reaction to somebody else’s idea. At least the kinds of records I produce and artists that I work with.

“But on a solo record, you have to bring that initial kernel of an idea or a song, you have to bring that in and create an opportunity for responses to that idea. So, that’s where the people who played on the record and engineered and the co-writing that I did with Cass (McCombs) on a few of those songs, that was where I think the momentum for the record came from. Otherwise, it’s just me kind of like tweaking a song and rewriting a verse for six weeks or something. It’s a trap until I let other people into the process.” Part of the clue to the record is the title, which Mills got from a review of a Perfumed Genius album that he worked on that became the score for a dance performance. The ‘mutable set’ occurred with a constantly changing backdrop. “Here we are (in a) completely different world from the one that I wrote this music in and made this record in,” explains Mills, “and it’s fascinating to see all the music coming out these days and people applying songs to current situations and to the world that we’re trying to figure out now, and how it applies. So, it’s a term that feels really fitting and kind of evergreen. I could probably call every record Mutable Set from now on, and it would be applicable.” It’s also a great description of the music on the album, with instruments coming in and out, and the mood changing as you hear effects in the background. There’s a lot happening in there, though it might not seem so at first. “It’s happening on so many levels too,” agrees Mills. “I mean, the songs are written about change in various ways. ‘Money Is The One True God’, is literally about change. It’s one of those kind of endless threads that you could just keep pulling and pulling and find new ways that it applies. But I liked the way that it spoke to me. I want to try to use another word other than minimal, just because I think that is such a common term now that you start to think of other records that are minimal when using it to describe music. But there’s definitely an economy to the way that the record is arranged and how little there is going on. So, that when there is a change or a gesture or some sort of flourish to a performance on something, it comes through because there’s room.” “Absolutely,” agrees Mills when I mention JJ Cale’s guitar playing and that while it didn’t immediately appear so, a lot was happening under the surface. “I mean, there’s definitely like a high art to the way that everybody on this record is playing. Knowing what these tracks all sound like, if you were to remove one of the elements that’s there and how different it is. “There’s some really good playing on this record that got muted. I’ll tell you, you can make a whole other album of just the pieces that we didn’t use. Some people will probably like it even better, but it was right for what these songs are.” Mutable Set is available now through New Deal/UMG. 25


Ross Wilson enjoyed a second coming with Mondo Rock, and the proof is a now-released live show from 1981 By Jeff Jenkins It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who observed, “There are no second acts in American lives.” But in Australia, a decade after hitting number one with Daddy Cool, Ross Wilson was back on top of the charts with Mondo Rock. But this rock god’s second coming followed a couple of false starts. He launched Mondo Rock in November 1976, releasing their debut album, Primal Park, three years later. It stalled at number 40. “I decided to change everything,” Wilson says. “The band, management and record label.” The new line-up featured James Black on keys, Paul Christie on bass and Eric McCusker on guitar. McCusker, who joined after a stint in Captain Matchbox, was an astute addition. He wrote Mondo Rock’s first Top 40 hit, ‘State Of The Heart’, and a string of other singles. The son of a nuclear physicist, McCusker was also responsible for the title track of the band’s second album, Chemistry. “You have betrayed me,” Brian McCusker told his son, in mock seriousness, when ‘Chemistry’ became a hit. He was Professor of High Energy Nuclear Physics at the University of Sydney – and the physicists hated the chemists, with a bitter rivalry on the university squash courts. After all the major labels passed, Mondo Rock signed to Avenue Records – for one single. The label was owned by John McDonald, the “mac” in Sparmac, Daddy Cool’s label. Avenue wasn’t keen on ‘State Of The Heart’ as a first single. “The band’s called Mondo Rock and you want to release a ballad?!” But ‘State Of The Heart’ soared into the Top 10 and Avenue gave the go-ahead for an album. In the lead-up to Chemistry, drummer John James Hackett – who had played with James Black in Rum Jungle in Adelaide and was the son of Dr Earle Hackett, who had served as ABC chairman – joined the band. “With all of the drummers we worked with, J.J. was da man,” Christie says. One of Hackett’s first Mondo Rock gigs was at Frankston’s Pier Hotel, a show for EON FM (which would later become Triple M). It was a night to remember – in more ways than one. As the band kicked into the opening song, the power cut out. After being off-air for 30 minutes, the crew discovered that a waitress had plugged in a fan in the kitchen, pulling out the three-phase power. Wilson references the drama before the

band plays ‘The Popular View’. And as they finish the main set, he thanks the crowd “for putting up with all the hassles tonight”. Nearly four decades later, Mondo Rock have uncovered the Pier Hotel tapes. The result is Summer of ’81 – Mondo Rock Live At The Pier, the band’s first live album. It’s dedicated to Hackett, who died last year. The record features all the Chemistry hits, including ‘State Of The Heart’, ‘Cool World’, ‘Chemistry’ and ‘Summer of ’81’, plus Mondo Rock’s debut single, ‘The Fugitive Kind’ (“not bad for an oldie,” Wilson notes) and ‘We’re No Angels’ (which Wilson wrote the same night as ‘Cool World’, and John Farnham would later record for his Age of Reason album). The Chemistry album hit number two, won Best Album at the Countdown Awards and saw McCusker crowned Best Australian Songwriter. I once asked Wilson if fame was different the second time ’round. “It was different,” he replied, “because I had been through it before. I was better equipped, more media-savvy and selfaware. But it still takes its toll. The glare of the media spotlight and the endless touring can still drive you mad. It took longer, but it still drove me nuts after a while.”

The new live album includes the McCusker gem ‘Mona Lisa (She Smiles)’, which inexplicably was only released as a B-side, and ‘Tied Up In Knots’, which previously turned up on 2017’s The Complete Anthology. Then there’s the Mondo Rock manifesto, ‘Mondo Sexo’, plus the band’s blistering take on Wilson’s first solo single, ‘Living In The Land Of Oz’ (from the Oz soundtrack), and a Mondo Rock rarity that never appeared on a studio album – ‘Slice of Life’. The album captures Mondo Rock at the peak of their powers. As Wilson points out, “We were hot and hungry and you can hear it on this album.” “Surrender to the beat,” he sings in the opening track, ‘Moves’. Resistance is futile! As ‘State Of The Heart’ flows into ‘Cool World’, Wilson tells the screaming crowd, “Last month’s hit must make way for the new … You have to move on, know what I mean.” But sometimes it’s good to take a trip back, to days innocent and new. The Summer of ’81. This is a great live album. Sign up or go underground. Summer Of ’81 – Mondo Rock Live At The Pier is available via Bloodlines. 27


With her latest solo album Sarah Jarosz is set to take a giant step. Brian Wise


f you saw Sarah Jarosz touring here last year as a member of I’m With Her, the bluegrass ‘supergroup,’ you would have got a hint of her immense talent as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. Along with Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan, she was part of something very special and they were rewarded by winning the duo/group award at last year’s Americana Awards and a Grammy for their song ‘Call My Name’ from their album See You Around. If you have been lucky enough to see Jarosz in her home state of Texas, you would also be aware of her status there. At the age of only 29, Jarosz – who was born and raised in Wimberley, not far from Austin - is not only a ‘veteran’ of the music scene there but also one of its most revered musicians. See her at a music festival and it is akin to witnessing the return of a homecoming hero. The adulation is striking for this three-time Grammy winner. It seems extraordinary that Jarosz has also just released her fifth solo album, eleven years after her debut; but, perhaps not given the kudos that she has already accumulated. Yet while her previous four albums, all co-produced with Gary Paczosa, have been praised and garnered several Grammys and numerous other nominations, World On The Ground is set to take her career to a new level. The production credit of John Leventhal on World on The Ground is a hint of what was intended with this production and what the results might be. Leventhal is one of those producers whose name guarantees that any project on which he works is worth checking out. His previous credits include Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash (his wife), Rodney Crowell, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Marc Cohn, Joan Osborne and more. But it is his work with Shawn Colvin on her Grammywinning debut album Steady On that offers the greatest insight into why Jarosz chose him to helm her new album. Not only does Leventhal produce and play a large variety of instruments but he is also a valuable co-writer on many of his projects. His touch behind the controls is impeccable and the sound of World on The Ground, which has a minimal cast, is spectacular enough to make you believe that this is an album destined for huge success. Jarosz admits that Leventhal has helped her writing, but he has also added much more of a rock feel to it, in the same way that Colvin went from folkie playing Joni Mitchell songs to winning a Grammy. Or the way Mitchell went from For The Roses in 1972 to Court and Spark in 1974. While World on The Ground was recorded in New York its subject matter is all about Jarosz’s hometown of Wimberley, just 60km southwest of Austin. With its 25oo people the small town is home to an artistic community that thrives and includes musicians such as Butch Hancock, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Kevin Welch. When I talk to Jarosz about the new album she is in Nashville, having decamped from her home in New York. “When things started getting crazy, I thankfully, very fortunately had another place to go to get out of the city,” she explains. I mention that it must be difficult having released and new album and prepared for a tour behind it to have everything put on hold. “Yeah, I would say there’s been a lot of waves of emotion over the last couple months,”

she admits. “I mean, at the end of the day, I really can’t complain because I’m just so, so grateful to not be in the city right now and be able to be here and have access to being outside in the sunshine. That has made it much more bearable these last couple of months. But it’s definitely been - as many musicians, all my musician friends are feeling right now - tough to wrap our heads around that. “It’s turning into more and more of a longterm reality of not being able to play our music live. For me, that’s how I make my living. So, I am trying to be creative and trying to figure out ways to get this music to people. At the end of the day, I’m so glad that I was finished with this record and that I’m able to still release it on time. So, I’m thankful for that.” “If I’m being honest,” she continues, “I’m really trying to navigate how much I want to do because I do have the sense that the live streaming is just not quite the same as the real thing. I think some people have this natural lean towards doing live streams and going on Instagram live and making a lot of that content. I would say that I’m not one of those people. So, with that being said, I obviously care about my fans so much and want to get this music out to people. So, I want to be particular about when and how I do them. Inevitably, I will do a couple of concerts here and there, but I’m just trying to figure out when those will be.” While many of the songs on World on the Ground refer to Wimberley, I wonder how long it is since she has been able to get back to her hometown. “I think it’s been a while. I think it was last Thanksgiving,” she replies. “Obviously, these songs are so inspired by the landscape and the imagery of my town. That’s probably almost been the hardest part of this whole thing - just being so far away from my parents and my family who are all in Texas and I haven’t been able to see them this whole time. So, missing them a lot right now.” Speaking of missing people, our conversation turns to John Prine, who Jarosz knew very well. One of my concert highlights of recent years was seeing I’m With Her at the City Winery on the same bill as Prine, who opened the evening by playing The Tree of Forgiveness in its entirety. “Oh my gosh,” she says. “That’s also been one of the most challenging parts of this whole pandemic, losing John Prine. That night was really special and I feel very fortunate that I shared many musical nights with John Prine on the road. He was one of the first people to really believe in me and my music. I mean, I got to open for him a handful of times, just solo, all by myself. I recounted on Instagram when he passed, that I was actually too young to rent a car and so he offered - his band and him offered - that I could just hop in their car to drive. And we drove together, and he drove the car, he didn’t have a driver or a bus or anything. He drove the car and he loves Dairy Queen and we’d stop and have lunch at Dairy Queen and he let me sing with him, sing his songs with him. “It’s one thing when people’s music touches you and then to meet a hero and also realise that there’s this other layer of them, just being a really incredible human enriches the whole experience and he was a perfect example of that.”

“I can’t quite believe it, honestly,” says Jarosz when I mention that she has just released her fifth album, while there are some musicians who never get to release that many. “Five is my favourite number. So, this one feels special just in that simple regard. But I can’t believe it’s the fifth one already.” “John and I had been acquaintances,” responds Jarosz when I ask her how she came to work with John Leventhal. “We really didn’t know each other well at all but we had run into each other at events here and there, as you do, as musicians do and he had actually played on one of my records, on a song called ‘Runaway’. He played the electric guitar on that song, but it was a remote overdub, so I had never actually been in the studio with him. But as I was preparing to make this record, over the course of the year leading up to it, I had been compiling a list of dream producers because I had made all four of my previous albums with incredible producer engineer, Gary Paczosa. That was four albums over the course of 10 years and it just felt like a really beautiful chapter. “John Leventhal’s name just kept resurfacing to the top of my list as the ultimate person who I would just dream to work with. I just adore his production and his writing. Mainly his work with Shawn Colvin, I would say, is what inspired me to want to work with him and see if he would be interested. So, I just asked. I didn’t know him very well, so it was a bit of going out on a limb to ask him to do it.” Jarosz says that it was just seven stops on the subway from her house to Leventhal’s studio on Manhattan’s Upper West side. “Our first meeting went really well,” she recalls, “and I think we both could tell – in a word that he’s used – it was a very simpatico vibe in the studio. I think we were hearing the same things. I was really excited to be open to writing with him, which was another reason I picked him to be a producer because I had read interviews that he really liked cowriting to be a part of his production process. So, it really just happened and it flourished in a really natural way and I loved every minute of it. I really just was so inspired working with him in the studio. It was really special.” “Steady On, I think, was his first production role,” says Jarosz, referring to Leventhal’s work on Shawn Colvin’s debut. “And as he has said, he was just figuring it out as he went along. But as with any craft or anything that you work on for a long time, you figure out what works and you figure out what doesn’t and you hone it. He’s certainly at a point in his life and career where it’s almost like he’s got it boiled down to a science, in the best way. I think that happens to some people where they’re further on in their career and they have it figured out, but the spark or the joy or the inspiration gets lost somewhere along the way, and that is definitely not the case with John.” “It almost felt like a runaway train in the best way possible, of just constant energy and constant forward motion,” she continues. “Never lingering too long over an idea that didn’t work or a part that wasn’t right. Just constant forward motion, which is not always the case in the studio.” The result of their brilliant collaboration is Jarosz’s most mature album to date which seems certain to make the next year ahead her most exciting and successful to date. World on The Ground is available now through Rounder Records/UMusic. 29

Mick Thomas has documented life in lockdown in the best way he knows how –


ebruary 2020. Mick Thomas and his band the Roving Commission meet to start planning the recording of a new album. “I reckoned I had 10 songs,” says Thomas. They pencil in April 2021, in Tucson, Arizona. The Melbourne band’s last album, 2019’s outstanding Coldwater DFU, was also recorded in the United States, but in Memphis. Although a rewarding experience, after more than 30 years of touring the world in various guises, Thomas loves to visit new places. “I just want to keep seeing the States via the studios – I still have this thing of loving to go away to record,” says the singer-songwriter. However, barely a month after that band meeting, suddenly no one was going anywhere – not to the local pub, let alone


Arizona – as COVID-19 lockdowns, border closures and supermarket bog-roll brawls began. Life, as many of us knew it, changed completely. Elbow bumps are still the go at Thomas’s home when we meet in early June, though at least a couple of rooms away there’s the sound of some return to normality, with the sing-song voices of his young daughter and a friend playing. And the family dog Rudie is having none of this distancing palaver (he’s a staffie cross, after all). Thomas has been busy doing interviews for his new single, ‘See You When I’m Looking At You’. Initially released in May as a fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, it’s now the epic centrepiece of the new Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission album, See You

on the Other Side: a Postcard from 2020, out on June 19. The making of not just the single, but the album, is an epic story in itself. An isotriumph over distance and technology challenges, the songs are all about these strange times, recorded in a way that could only have come from … well, these strange times. But technology remains ever the frenemy. “During this pandemic, the amount of tech stuff we’ve had to deal with, it’s doing my fucking head in,” says Thomas. “ ‘Oh, you gotta do this interview using Tieline’ What in the fuck is Tieline? ‘You have to do this ABC interview on Skype’. Skype? I haven’t used Skype for fucking years, I have to find my fucking password.”

with an epic single and new album as ‘postcards’ of the time, writes Jo Roberts. The conversation with Thomas, and another with his co-producer, Craig Pilkington of Audrey Studios, is peppered with plug-ins, interface units and apps, as they talk about the mammoth task of recording a single with more than a dozen guest artists – some of whom had never self-recorded at home – as well as an album that only started coming together in early April. See You On the Other Side is the second Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission album, featuring his ex-Weddings, Parties, Anything bandmate Mark ‘Squeezebox Wally’ Wallace (recording from Ocean Grove), bassist Ben Franz (recording from Western Australia), singer/guitarist Brooke Russell (Reservoir) and drummer Dave Folley, who was the only member to record his parts live at Audrey in

Coburg, albeit under strict social distancing. The only album track recorded pre-COVID is ‘Mint Condition’, a power-pop gem Thomas penned as the title track to the online miniseries made in Melbourne about a single mum who opens a record shop. (Fun fact: Thomas scored a cameo in the 5th episode, chatting up the record store owner Audrey, played by Sibylla Budd). The song harks back to the early rock-pop of the Weddings, a fact Thomas thinks is often overlooked. “With the Weddings, everyone sort of talks about our Celtic connection, which was strong, but the rock ‘n’ roll element of what the Weddings did was power-pop, because that was the time; it was the Smithereens and Replacements. Wally’s big go-to is the Smithereens.”

Only occasionally does Thomas mention by name ‘See You When I’m Looking At You’ – instead it’s “the big song” or “the big track”. Fair enough too; almost nine minutes long, it’s a ‘chain’ song, written and recorded in locations all over Australia by more than a dozen singer-songwriters – including Angie Hart, Nick Barker, Vikki Thorn (the Waifs), Ron Peno, Van Walker, Alannah Russack, Ben Salter, and Darren Hanlon and Shelley Short – and crowned with a stunning strings arrangement by Jen Anderson. The video for the song is part Zoom video, part postcard, and gives you a fair idea of the project’s vast digital footprint. Thomas thought of asking Melbourne singersongwriter Sal Kimber to take part, as she had played the last show at the Northcote >>> 31

>>> bar he co-manages, the Merri Creek Tavern – on Friday March 13 – before the lockdown happened. He then remembered she was due to give birth any time, as it also dawned on him that the final MCT show of barely a month ago “already seemed like a year ago”. That distortion of time has been a common experience for many during lockdown. “It’s really funny how the collective consciousness of society affects you; you think it doesn’t, but it does,” says Thomas. So instead of asking Kimber to guest on the big track, Thomas penned the album song ‘I Heard Sally Singing’, a musing on “how long ago things seemed”. Another new album song presented itself the week after the lockdown. ‘Round Fourteen, Two Thousand Nine’ existed previously as a chorus-in-waiting for the rest of a song from Thomas, a diehard St Kilda Football Club fan. Its title comes from the AFL’s 2009 season, when St Kilda remained unbeaten on 14 wins in a heart-stopper against Geelong. Its resonance in the time of pandemic arrived when the 2020 AFL season was suspended on March 19 after just one round. Like many a footy fan, feeling at once despondent and jilted, Thomas turned on the television the following weekend in the faint hope there might be some footy – any footy – to watch. As it happened, Channel 7’s interim programming was replays of modern-day classic matches. The first cab off the rank? “Against all logic, I turned on the telly and that was the game they were playing,” says Thomas. “But again, like ‘I Heard Sally Singing’, they were both songs about how long ago things seemed.” ‘Round Fourteen’ features the attention to detail so common in Thomas’s songs – to the point you know exactly what ground the game was played at: “I remember the day/I remember your hair, your clothes/Overcast and grey/I think the roof was closed.” It was the decision to avoid such minutiae that inspired the approach to ‘See You When I’m Looking At You’, says Thomas. “Ï don’t normally write in those kind of big rhetorical ways; my songs are much more concerned with specifics,” he says. “So I had this verse all about ‘hold you in my arms again’, which is how I write, and I thought ‘if I keep going with this, it’s going to get into specifics’, so I thought I’d get some other people involved.” Thomas invited a few people to take part. If someone didn’t reply after one email, he didn’t chase them up. “There was plenty of people I asked to do it,” he says. “My one thing was not to hassle anyone.” Thomas sent an audio file of himself playing acoustic guitar and singing the chorus and 32

a verse, plus one blank verse of acoustic for guests to put their own verse to. Pulling everything together back at Audrey was Pilkington. As far as back-and-forth song-writing projects go, he’s done a few, he says, “but nothing as challenging as Mick’s record, where it went off to people and came back in all sorts of different formats.” The fragmented nature of the writing process belied the united sense of nostalgia and longing that emerged as Pilkington assembled the song jigsaw in his studio. “It’s really funny because when it came back, putting all the bits together, it was kind of emotional because you could see this common thread of sentiment that everybody had going, and it was expressed in different ways,” he says. “You could pick everyone’s individual expression, and their styles, but they were pretty much dwelling on the same sentiment, which was really quite a beautiful thing.” Many of those involved had their own unique COVID-19 backdrops. Vikki Thorn recorded her parts from Western Australia after a planned return to her US home with her family was abandoned at the last minute, in response to car radio reports of the pandemic’s impact in Los Angeles. “They were half an hour from the airport and they went ‘nah’ and pulled the pin,” says Thomas. Darren Hanlon and his pregnant partner, Portland singer-songwriter Shelley Short, recorded their duet contribution from the NSW Riverina town of Moama (where they have now been joined by their baby boy), having narrowly beaten the lockdown to return to Australia from the US.

Ron Peno at first declined. In remission from cancer, but still immune-compromised, he was reluctant to even walk out his front door. But he changed his mind at the 11th hour and quickly recorded his version with his Superstitions bandmate Cam Butler, after ensuring he could get a wiped-down cab to and from Butler’s house. For all the hard work, safe to say it’s paid off for Thomas, who has never been afraid to try something new. Though he is still known by many for Weddings, Parties, Anything, the band he founded in 1984, he has deftly kept a foot in each camp of tradition and reinvention. There would be few, if any, fans these days who come to his shows to just hear the clutch of ‘Weddoes’ songs he still includes in his sets. He has continued to evolve as a composer, performer, playwright and author and soundtrack composer, always having at least a couple of new projects on the go. Last year, he even released a graphic novel with cartoonist and comic artist Angelo Madrid, Coldwater Chronicles, based on the songs of his Coldwater DFU album, which many critics considered one of his finest works to date. With ‘See You When I’m Looking at You’, Thomas has raised the bar yet again. “With this track, I’ve tried not to get too excited about it, but I just love all the people on it,” he says. “The one thing they’ve got in common is I f-cking love them all.” See You on the Other Side: a Postcard from 2020 is out now.




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A new play about a mine disaster has Steve Earle reaching out to those on the other side of the political divide.


hosts of West Virginia, Steve Earle’s’ new album with the Dukes, centres on the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that killed twenty-nine men in that state in 2010 in one of the worst mining disasters in American history. What started as music for the stage play Coal Country, based on the tragedy, emerged as a full-blown album when Earle went into the Electric Lady Studio in New York and added four more songs. (The 10-song set is Earle’s 20th studio album and was mixed entirely in mono). The recording features the latest incarnation of The Dukes with long-time members Chris Masterson on guitar and Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle & vocals along with Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel, guitar and dobro, Brad Pemberton on drums & percussion and Jeff Hill on acoustic and electric bass (taking the place of Kelley Looney who passed away last year). The process of putting the music together for the play and the eventual album was a lot more complicated than usual. Earle actually visited the mining town and drew on interviews with surviving miners and the families of those who died. In exploring the role of coal in rural communities he discovered that the story is a lot more complex than it might at first seem. Rather than being a polemic against coal mining, Earle has produced a batch of songs that seek to understand the communities while reaching some common ground. Coal Country, in which Earle acts as a sort of Greek chorus with guitar and songs, opened on March 3 off Broadway in New York City but was postponed after two weeks due to COVID-19. When I catch up with him by phone to talk about the resultant album, Earle is in Tennessee. “I bailed out of New York after they closed the schools and the play I was in and all that closed,” he explains. “So, we just decided, at the time, this was the safer place to be, because New York got to be a mess really fast. But now I don’t know. They’re starting to reopen Tennessee a little early, I think. So, New York might be safer. I might decide to go back. We’ll see. “It was sort of disquieting to realize the first thing that went away in this pandemic was the culture. It just vanished overnight. All of a sudden, there was no live music, 34

By Brian Wise no theatre, no movies, no nothing. That’s just frightening. I hope people at least learn how important art is in this situation where it’s really hard to come by any kind of performing arts at all.” Coal Country is the second stage production that Earle has been involved in over the past decade and he is enthusiastic about the medium. “I moved to New York 15 years ago to do music for theatre,” he confesses. “That’s what I had in mind when I moved there. I love it. I’ve always loved it and I do aspire to writing a big Broadway musical one of these days. I’m working on two or three projects like that. But I like theatre at all levels. I spend money basically on baseball and theatre when I’m not working, when it gets right down to it - and guitars. Those are the three things I spend money on. “My grandmother was the wardrobe mistress, the costumer, in a small college drama department in Northeast Texas. They did a Shakespeare play and a musical every year. Drama was the only class I didn’t get kicked out of in high school! My drama teacher in high school gave me my first copy of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. My first Bob record would have been Highway 61, I guess, that I bought on my own, just because of my age. So, I backtracked to those earlier Dylan records, but because of Vernon Carol, my drama teacher. “So, it was always a big deal to me, and I just started getting interested in doing that. So, I had that in mind when I moved to New York 15 years ago. Anyway, I’m finally starting to get somewhere with it, and, all of a sudden, we have the show up, it’s a hit, and then it closed. It’s a high-class problem. There’s a really good chance that Coal Country will go back up when theatres are able to reopen in New York, whenever that is.” Earle explains that the writers, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen - who had written The Exonerated, about death row exonerees, in which he was involved as an actor - asked him to go to West Virginia with them when they conducted interviews with locals, including three miners who survived the explosion. “It was the first non-union mine on this mountain,” he explains, “and one of the things that unions do is protect workers from

unsafe working conditions. They started running this outlaw from day one, and everybody that worked in the mine knew it, because they were all second, third, and fourth generation coal miners. They knew it was dangerous, but things had changed and they didn’t have a union to protect them anymore. But that was the only work that you could get in that part of West Virginia, and so they kept working.” “I decided to stick with West Virginia,” he says in explaining the theme for the additional songs. “A lot of it had to do with the fact that I think some of the trouble my country’s in even before this virus came along is because we’ve forgotten what we have in common with other people that maybe didn’t vote the way that we did and don’t think exactly like we do. “It’s a big country, and a lot of people think a lot of different ways. There are very, very powerful people that count on that division in order to do whatever they want to and bypass democracy. It’s gotten worse and worse. I just felt like this was a chance for me to make a record that spoke to people that maybe didn’t vote the way that I did and for them, hopefully, because I’ve done that before. Not all of the characters in Guitar Town and Copperhead Road are people that I have that much in common with, politically but they’re still people who have stories, and their stories deserve to be told.” “I’m the orchestra and the chorus because I’m the only musician and I perform the songs,” replies Earle when I ask him about his role in the play. “They’re quite a bit different on the record, because it’s the Dukes on the record in all their glory.” “I’m the first person that everybody sees,” he continues, “and I’m the last person that everybody sees. It was a great experience. It was a lot of work, the hardest work I’ve ever done. Four years, to put Coal Country together. The last project I was involved in was three years. When you start a theatre career when you’re 50 you have to have more than one project going at once, or you’re never going to get anything done. That’s essentially what I’ve done. I’m 65 now and finally starting to get somewhere.” “So, it’s more work than I’ve ever done in my life, but it was worth it,” he says of working on the play. “I was really loving

going up there. It’s a lot like having a real job, because it’s six days a week, and it’s eight performances a week. So, that part of it was kind of exhausting. “I’m a single dad, too,” he adds, explaining that he had to drop his young son John Henry - whose name he has used in one of the song titles - off to school on his way to rehearsals and pick him up later in the day, then when the play opened he employed a babysitter in the evenings when he rushed back to the theatre. For someone who is never shy about voicing his opinion, in interview or on stage, Earle seems remarkably conciliatory. “Look, politicians have hardly set a good example, have they” he notes. “Not just in America but around the world. Because we’ve become incredibly polarized, haven’t we? Society’s become incredibly polarized almost everywhere. “I can start talking in terms of this virus right now. There was a failing all around the world of dealing with this when it should’ve been and, but when we get into trouble like this, trust me, Wall Street’s going to do fine when all of this is over with. The richest people in the world, they’re going to do fine. They’ll profit from this.

“So, it’s just one of those things that we have to figure out what we have in common with each other, rather than how we’re different, because some very, very powerful people have profited from the division among most of the regular people in the world. They always have, and it’s become more polarized than it’s ever been. “I believe that coal is a bad way to power anything. I do believe that if there wasn’t so much money in coal and oil, it’s a no-brainer. We would have alternative forms of energy that would work now. They just couldn’t figure out how to monetize them, so they didn’t care. There was still black stuff in the ground, and they were going to get it all out and make all that money before they even thought about an alternative form of energy. Everybody’s known that for a long time. But, still I’m out there. I get on the bus and burn the diesel and go out there and play the shows. I’m part of the problem. I want to be part of solution.” Ghosts of West Virginia is available now through New West. Earle has also released an acoustic version of ‘Times Like These’ online as a preview of a new album later in the year.

“I just felt like this was a chance for me to make a record that spoke to people that maybe didn’t vote the way that I did…….” “I’m 65 now and finally starting to get somewhere.”


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold’s new album was recorded at their home studio in Joshua Tree By Brett Leigh Dicks

In a perfect world Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold would be rehearsing songs for a North American tour right now. Instead they are holed up at their desert retreat just outside of Joshua Tree, California tending to a vegetable garden, raising puppies, and making sure the swamp cooler is working before the coming summer unleashes its desert fury. The pair recently released a new album – Magdalen Accepts the Invitation - and the first leg of their tour to support the album’s release was scheduled to get underway at the beginning of June. With the album already gathering glowing reviews, the pair isn’t allowing their pandemic-enforced hiatus from touring to dampen their enthusiasm for its release. “We would have loved to have been out there playing these new songs to people, but that’s not possible right now and who knows how long it will be before we can get back out there again?” Olson said in his trademark Californian-inflected Midwestern twang. “It’s a shame because we’re really excited about this album and we want folks to hear it. 36

“So instead of rehearsing for the touring, we’ve spent the time working on promotional material for the album. We’ve made some live video recordings. We just spent three weeks recording live sessions of us playing some of the songs from the record. It’s not the same as playing for folks, but at least we’ll be able to connect with people until we can get back out on the road again. Magdalen Accepts the Invitation is Olson’s 18th recorded release and Ringvold’s sixth, their last three respective releases having been collaborations together. The pair met in 2006 when Olson was touring Europe and after marrying a few years later, Ringvold relocated from her native Norway to Olson’s picturesque patch of Californian desert where they have since forged both a life together and a very fruitful musical partnership. While Ringvold previously contributed to several of Olson’s solo albums, including The Salvation Blues in 2007 and its 2010 follow up, Many Colored Kite, they have since recorded and released three collaborative albums. Just like its predecessor, 2017’s Spokeswoman of

the Bright Sun, their new album was written and recorded at their Joshua Tree home. The homespun approach seems to perfectly suit Olson’s romantic approach to songwriting. “That’s a really good way to look at Mark’s writing,” Ringvold enthused. “Mark’s songs are very romantic, and I think making the albums the way we do really suits that. His songs are very personal and so are the albums and the way we make them.” Olson’s songs have always been deeply personal. So much so he seemed to be something of a fish out of water during his tenure with The Jayhawks. The band played a seminal role in giving country music an alternative sound. Olson ultimately released five albums with the collective, mostly during a period when grunge music was consuming the airwaves. At shows The Jayhawks played with grittier bands, like Pearl Jam and Soul Asylum, Olson’s songs stood out as sparkling contemplative jewels amongst a sea of distorted electric guitar.

It wasn’t until he freed himself from the rock band format that Olson’s songs were given the contemplative space for which they yearned. “It really wasn’t easy back then because it was the age of grunge and they were talking about all these things that weren’t really in my scope,” Olson recalled. “It was a strange time musically and I think the grunge thing probably ran a lot of good musicians out of town. For me music is supposed to make you think and feel something and the sheer volume of what was going on back then didn’t allow that.” Thinking and feeling is what drives Olson’s work and life has thrown up plenty for the Minnesota-born Californian to contemplate. Be it a dusty old painting he found in a local Thriftstore or the untimely passing of his father while in his early teens, Olson stores away moments precious to him and poetically returns to them in song.

“I think my songs are really a form of protest,” Olson said. “I come from a place where people had these very strong ideas and opinions about life and how it should be lived in a certain way. Then I had this tragedy in my life when I was 14 years old and I watched it all go away. So, I had this dream world where things were ordered, and they all had meaning that I still go back to. But there is also the post-event world where things seemed to turn chaotic and take place more by chance. “When I found songwriting, I found a way to delve back into that early world and was able to see life a different way. It’s a way for me to look at things going on now through a different prism and to see how life could be different. So, I store up all these little experiences that mean something to me and when the time is right or something triggers them, they come up again and I write a song about what they mean.” This approach lays the foundation to the worlds Magdalen Accepts the Invitation explores and “Excelsior Park” serves as a prime example to that. “A lot of songs come from my childhood,” Olson explained. “I had a very rich childhood and have an unlimited supply of memories that I can draw from. Excelsior Park is an old amusement park in Minnesota that I never

went to. I always wanted to go there but our parents weren’t interested. My father had a moral reality and wasn’t interested in those sorts of things. He was from a farm and instead took us to the state fair because he loved the animal barn. After spending all day in the animal barn we were sometimes lucky enough to go on a ride at the end of the day.” Olson’s embrace of memories fuels the album. The record’s opening song. “Pipestone I Won’t Be Back,” marries childhood recollections with a recent visit to a Minnesota town while “Black Mary” was inspired by a discarded painting he found in a local Thriftstore. Both “Black Locust” and “Then You’ll Find the Morning” owe their originals to the Joshua Tree desert. The former poetically equates a tree taking root with starting one’s life over again while the latter is a simple meditation about a glorious morning spent bathing in the morning desert light. Add to this songs like “Children of the Street Car” and “Elmira’s Fountain,” and the album offers ample celebration of life’s simple pleasures. “I don’t swear on records and there’s not a lot of sex, drunkenness, drugs or shopping malls in my songs,” Olson said with a laugh. “And that’s because I have no interest in those things and they’re not part of my life. As a result, you can play my songs to anyone of any age. I keep my songs very Catholic or Lutheran I guess so maybe they’re a little old fashion.”

Along with Olson’s empathetic lyrical subjection, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation is also a testament to the synergy between its creators. Well known for his use of open tunings, Ringvold’s multi-instrumental talents provide the perfect foil for Olson’s eclectic musical musings. And then there are their voices – two-part unison singing that breaks into glorious harmonies - all of which is empathetically wrapped up and packaged as a homespun roadtrip for the soul. “We pretty much made the record at home,” Olson said. “But we also did some recording with our mobile recording equipment doing some outdoor recording. We don’t really have a studio and we’re in the middle of the desert, so we run lines outside. We have a beautiful porch and we sit there and play a lot. The nice thing about that is we don’t get stuck in one place, we’re always moving around the house or the yard. And it also helps to keep the fun in it as well. “It’s funny that you mentioned roadtrip because a lot of this album came from roadtrips. Our writing retreats are basically camping trips. And the car was also a good place to write lyrics for this album. I was writing lyrics all the out to Death Valley and all the way back on one trip. I get really drawn into it - when we got out there, I was in the middle of a song so Ingunn had to set up the tent!” Magdalen Accepts the Invitation is out now through Fiesta Red Records. 37

By Brian Wise he months of quarantine have been difficult for the music industry with many acts struggling to maintain a career with stalled album releases and postponed tours. Gary Louris, founding member of The Jayhawks has been dealing with the situation by throwing himself into live streaming performances on Facebook and working on videos for songs from the band’s new album, XOXO, released this month. You might not find The Jayhawks name in the list of Americana awardees but they are a quintessentially Americana band with a musical heritage that you can trace back to The Byrds. (Maybe one day the group will receive the Americana kudos that it deserves). Now, after thirty-five years and eleven albums the Jayhawks believe that their latest 38


album - recorded at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and Flowers Studio in their native Minneapolis - is the band’s most collaborative to date and ushers in a new era for the revered group. All four bandmates—original members Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, and long-timers Karen Grotberg and Tim O’Reagan—contributed songwriting and lead vocals. This has taken the burden off Louris, who is undoubtedly the leader of the band, and when we catch up by phone to talk about the new album he sounds as happy as I’ve ever heard him. In fact, just before I spoke to him he had recorded an acoustic version for Facebook of ‘Living In A Bubble,’ one of the highlights on the new album and “a reaction to the 24-hour news cycle, data collection, Big Brother and our obsession with devices.” Louris says that it is also an homage to Harry Nilsson.

“Harry’s maybe the purest white pop voice that you can imagine,” he explains, “and I guess he was really petrified of performing, but definitely a hero of mine. He could sing the phone book and I would love it. His voice is so amazing. He has an old-timey thing that’s gold. But he’s got the something that’s just uniquely him. “There is a documentary that they did about him and I got to play at the premiere and his daughter was there, and I played ‘Without You’. It was a very special moment. There’s something about his voice; it’s just... He’s usually piano/bass, which is different than what I do, which I appreciate. He’s just brilliant, and you can’t really put a numerical value on that.” “It’s a sweet little song but it’s just a really fun song to play,” continues Louris. “It’s really about the piano-playing. Karen is like the Nicky Hopkins of today. She’s a

brilliant musician. I said, ‘I want this really based around your piano.’ So, a lot of this record was recorded live. Some of it was overdubbed, depends on the song or the writer, but it was pretty much a live song. So, it was about isolation.” “But it’s also dangerous because there’s anxiety and depression,” he adds. “I’ve been living in New York, so I watch Andrew Cuomo, the Governor. It’s funny because they talk about the dangers of what’s going on now with people isolating. It’s like anxiety, depression. So, this is what every musician I know goes through, because they isolate.” “It’s a departure, in a good way,” says Louris when I ask him about the new album, “and it’s been good for the band. We want to make it less about me and make it more about us.” “It started, to be honest, with a live situation,” he explains, “in that we play a show and I’m singing 20 something songs and it’s like ‘God, but Tim is such a great singer and Karen is such a great singer.” I want it to be more varied than what it was. I really want to hear these guys playing, singing more and I can sit back. That was one thing about the old days with [Mark] Olson; is I could sit back and just be the Keith guy and just play guitar sometimes.”

“I admire my bandmates and I respect them and they’re not just faceless people who back me up.” “We have such a wealth of talent in the band and I know they’re also writers,” he continues. “Also, Marc Perlman is an amazing writer. I don’t think you’d ever say he was like a crooner, but he’s written or co-written a lot of great songs. He’s been there since ‘85. He’s written songs like ‘Trouble’ and ‘Think About It’ and ‘Ain’t No End’. He either wrote them or co-wrote them. I admire my bandmates and I respect them, and they’re not just faceless people who back me up. “So, now, that was just the time. I just felt like I want them to express themselves more. To be honest, it was very bonding for us. I think people felt more vested in the process. Overall, we just got very tight as a band. I mean, we’re always a family because we’ve been together forever. So, we fight and we

love. But it was a really good process to see people, especially like Karen, who really grew into it. It was a big deal for her to have songs on this record. She’s never really had songs and she’s a fantastic writer, especially lyrically. So, I think it just was a very positive and interesting process.” Of course, Louris has written with other people in the past - his former band mate Mark Olson, Chris Thile of the Punch Brothers – so how did the process work. “I think not everybody likes collaborating,” he replies. “I’ve done it a lot and I’ve had good experiences, but it’s hard to let go of control, and some people can do it more than others. I think this is a steppingstone. Karen’s songs………she’s had those around for a while, but I think this is going to give her confidence to write new songs with or without us, on her own. “We’re all different. Tim is the best singer in the band, maybe. He writes amazing songs but he’s not good at sharing his own songs. He’s really good at giving input to other songs but he’s not comfortable. So, he’s more of an isolator and likes to do as much as he can on his own. Then, we contribute as we can. Marc Perlman and I are so different that we’ve written songs together. So, he and I work more collaboratively together. But in general, there’s no one simple blueprint.” “Well, new lease in life might be an overstatement,” he says when I put it to him that the band seems to be revitalised by the collaborative process, “because it’s not like we were on life support.” “But also, like I said, there was a desire for me to have more collaborative thing,” he continues., “so that I could tap into the talents that we had. Not every record might be the same. It’s not like we were dying, and we found something to keep us going. All we know, Brian, is it brought us together closer. I would never include everybody in to write just to do that if I didn’t think the songs were strong. But the songs are very strong from everybody. And as long as they keep writing great songs, they’ll continue having a place on the record.” “I mean, we have an MO in the way that we work. But I think it was also that I came off of making a solo record, which will come out after the Jayhawks record is done and everything. But I really had not sat and written for the Jayhawks so much. So, in certain ways, it worked well on both ends, that I didn’t have this backlog of stuff I needed to express in a solo record.” XOXO contains maybe the most varied selection of songs of any Jayhawks album. ‘Dog Town Days,’ written by Tim O’Reagan, with Louris playing guitar, is almost a power pop song. “I was really into power pop, especially in the late seventies with Tom Petty and Dwight Twilley. I grew up being a British total Anglophile, and then I was into English punk rock, into art rock way before I ever got any Americana kind of thing.” “This record is interesting in that there’s a lot of firsts,” explains Louris, “and one is,

there’s no keyboards on every song. There’s no drums on every song. Different people are singing lead vocals than what you would normally think of as a Jayhawks sound”. ‘Homecoming’, also written by O’Reagan some time ago was finally finished for this album, explains Louris. “It is definitely a Greta Thunburg kind of climate change thing. People are selfish and people are thinking about putting bread on the table, which I understand but at the expense of the long game, the end game.” ‘Society Pages,’ one of the most interesting songs lyrically, opens with the line: ‘hello young queer/so nice to see you again.’ “I always loved it because it was a kind of weird Replacements meets Bowie thing,” says Louris. ‘Little Victories’, with its uncharacteristic instrumentation is one of the most unusual songs on the album and might surprise long-time Jayhawks fans. There is a kind of Stephen Stills/Manassas feel to it with the harmonies and the keyboard propelling the sound. I tell Louris that it is my favourite on the album. “Well, thank you,” he responds. “It’s a song about mental illness or depression (which I have a low level of). The lyrical content is about wondering about your parents. They’re mom and dad, they’re your parents, but there are people too. So, that song was a little bit about thinking about my parents as people as opposed to my parents. “I’m wondering where I inherited this from because I think that my son got a little bit from me, which they hid it very well, but which one of parents had this and did you have to deal with this darkness? And just getting by each day at a time is a small victory. And so, it’s really about the mental illness and depression and wondering what genetically you might have inherited or whether it’s environmental. We don’t know.” “It’s got a Michael Jackson intro, which I think is amusing,” he explains, “and I have listened to Manassas recently, because I’m living out of a suitcase here. I only have a few CDs in my car, but Manassas is one of them. I don’t know that much about the Manassas catalogue, but they were a fantastic band.” XOXO is available now through Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl Australia.


Renowned as a violinist, Scarlet Rive By Brian Wise On a July afternoon in 1975 Scarlet Rivera, carrying her violin case, was walking from her Lower East Side Manhattan apartment to visit a friend and have a jam with the Latin band she was playing with when an ugly green car pulled up alongside her. Of course, she recognised the driver as Bob Dylan who asked her to rehearse with him in his studio. This is one of the true stories in last year’s Martin Scorsese documentary on the Rolling Thunder Revue. The rest as they say is history. Rivera went on to play a pivotal role with Dylan on that famous tour and subsequent albums; and, she also developed one of the most distinctive sounds in rock music. Trained as a classical musician, she switched from piano to violin at the age of 7, won a scholarship to university to major in music and bought a one way ticket to New York where she worked with jazz great Ornette Coleman, continued her studies, played in a Cuban outfit and then went from obscurity to the world stage with Dylan. Her playing on ‘Hurricane’ is etched into our consciousness as it drives the urgency of one of the great protest songs of all time: and a song that is as timely in 2020 as when it was first recorded 45 years ago. Rivera featured on every track on Desire, one of Dylan’s most successful and acclaimed albums. She subsequently appeared on Hard Rain, in 1976, a recording of the Rolling Thunder tour and you can hear much more of Rivera on that epic tour in the recent 14-disc box set. Since then, Rivera has released a dozen albums of New Age, Celtic and world music. She has toured or recorded with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, with Tracy Chapman, the Indigo Girls, Keb Mo’, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cindy Cashdollar and even David Johansen. More recently, she appeared with Emmylou Harris, Rufus Wainwright and others on the fabulous Joni Mitchell 75th birthday tribute and with Brandi Carlile in a tribute to the album Blue at the Disney Center. Yet, in the forty-five years since she first worked with Dylan, Rivera has never released an album featuring her own vocals. Until now. All of Me, a 6-track EP is Scarlet’s 12th solo body of work and combines her renowned playing with her singing on six original songs, covering subjects as varied as women’s empowerment and political power and self-identity. The recording also includes ‘Songbird,’ an homage to Joni Mitchell. Rivera’s producer Tim Goodman assembled an all-star cast to help: Mike Finnigan on keys 40

era releases her first recordings as a singer. (Bonnie Raitt, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix, Etta James and many more); Steve Ferrone on drums (Tom Petty and Eric Clapton); Jimmy Haslip on bass (the Yellow Jackets, Chaka Kahn, Jeff Lorber and Bruce Hornsby); Andrew Kastner on guitar, Bill Bergman on horns (Jack Mack and the Heart Attack). Goodman also plays guitar along with young blues tyro, Delanie Pickering. My meeting with Rivera to talk about her new release occurred just after Dylan released his first new song for 8 years, the epic ‘Murder Most Foul,’ which has its own entire side on his new album. “I heard it the minute it came out,” confesses Rivera, who debunks the theory that she might have been playing on it. “A lot of people think it’s me, because I think they say that they are hearing echoes of my playing in how they played it - which is a nice compliment.” “I love it,” she continues. “I love it that if you really look at the lyrics, you can say, well, it was about an event that happened a long time ago in the ‘60s; but if you really look carefully at the lyrics, it brings you up to date, because it’s talking about the age of the antichrist is coming. And other lyrics talk about the progression of history.” “This is a continuum,” she replies when I mention how timely the song is given what is going on in the world. “I mean, the same force, the same dark shadows, whoever they were, that did this knew full well that they were going to off a President and get away with it in broad daylight. So, it sent a chilling message, not to mention killing his brother.” “It is amazing,” enthuses Rivera when I mention the song was Dylan’s first No.1 Billboard single ever. “When you think of ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ was like something you could dance to even. I mean, it’s so like a rocket of a song, even in spite of the lyrics being really deep and heavy. The fact that this one is even incredibly deep and profound and it is way longer than any single should ever be. And the fact that it still made it to the top of the charts is wonderful!” How did it feel looking back at the footage of the Rolling Thunder Revue? “Well, I was blown away by the footage because I never saw myself in the footage. I was just doing it,” replies Rivera. “I never saw myself from the audience point of view or the cameraman. I was thrilled with the fact that I stood side by side with Bob and played with equal force and power with him.” Forty-five years on, Rivera and Dylan both have new recordings. When Rivera first started cowriting with producer Tim Goodman, who lives

in New York, she wasn’t necessarily planning on making a recording that was so different to what she had done previously. “It’s drastically different,” she admits, “because all of my albums up to this point are instrumental. I might’ve sung a verse very briefly, but it was not meant to be a vocal. It was just something that needed to be said on the album. So, this is my actual vocal debut as a singer-songwriter singing lead vocals.” “I never really wanted to be a lead singer,” responds River when I mention that it is a long time to wait to make your debut vocal appearance. “I never really had the ambition to be one at all. It’s not based on ambition anyway. It’s finally I had realised I have something to say that I can’t say instrumentally, so I better write it and sing it.” “Yeah, it has,” agrees Rivera when I mention that for more than four decades her violin has been her voice. “A lot of instrumentalists feel that that’s quite enough. You don’t have to be a lead singer; you don’t have to be a singersongwriter. Being a great instrumentalist is a very notable thing by itself.” “Oh, thank you,” she says when I suggest that there are not many instrumentalists who have as distinctive a sound. “I guess it came partly from the fact that I really did not want to imitate anybody. I went out of my way right from the beginning not to listen too much to any other violin players of the time. “It must’ve been a synthesis of things that I had been listening to, because all I had done before that was literally improvised records and sit in with various people that were not even close to what Bob Dylan was doing. So, I never really got a chance to hear what I was capable of or even know what I was capable of till that recording. But prior to that, I was listening to John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Janis Joplin, of course. All kinds of eclectic things. Oh, and King Crimson I loved at the time. So, all of that just when I actually was put on the spot to record, it just poured out as a sound that was a signature sound that I didn’t even know I had myself.” “Well, I wasn’t nervous,” says Rivera when I ask if there was any trepidation in becoming a singer after all these years, “but I was not terribly much of a fan of my own voice yet, because I’m very critical. Having played with the greats, I go, ‘Well this doesn’t match up to that level.’ But I did record with somebody else [John Cate, co-writer of ‘Sacred Wheel’] who was very discerning on one of their albums a couple of years ago. After I laid down one of the verses, which they pushed me into doing, I went into the control room and I said, ‘If you don’t like my

voice, I won’t be offended you just hit the erase button.’ They said, “No, we not only are not hitting the erase button, we think your voice is great. You sound like a cross between Bob Dylan and a female Johnny Cash.’ Rivera’s songs on her new EP are as timely as that of her former boss, Dylan. “Dust Bowl” talks about the ecological disaster of the 1930s and resonates with what’s happening now. “It sure does,” she agrees. “Because ultimately, those farmers that contributed to that disaster, they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know that their practices were going to lead to a disaster. Nor did they know that they were destroying the earth. They didn’t have that knowledge. But lately many corporations that are destroying the planet in multiple ways, they’re fully knowledgeable about what they’re doing and they don’t care. They are just doing it for greed and short term profit.” ‘Songbird,’ is a tribute to Joni Mitchell, who Rivera has reconnected with in recent years. “The more I’ve gotten to spend time with Joni, I’m very grateful to have had a chance to really deepen our friendship over these last number of years,” she explains. “I’ve just continued to be just in awe of her as an iconic great person and singer-songwriter and a painter. I just started to see the whole picture of wanting to write something about her. It just kind of accidentally happened. I just wrote a few lines about her and then it led to more and more and more lines and I realized it was a beautiful song all about her and not only for her but about her.” Rivera agrees when I tell her that I think that Mitchell is not as appreciated as she should be. “I think she is just as much of a giant and a legend and a genius as Bob Dylan and a Renaissance person, a Renaissance woman,” she says. “I mean, she is an incredible painter. Her paintings are going to be in museums one day. They’re just staggeringly of a high level. And her lyrics were, like on ‘Shine’ (are) very profound, prophetic kind of lyrics. I think perhaps because she’s, was a woman ahead of her time. Maybe she didn’t get put on that high pedestal of genius that she deserves to be on.” Does she think that this new EP will be the start of an ongoing thing in terms of singing? “I think there will be more,” admits Rivera. “I don’t know about with the same configuration, but I know if you’re a creative person you just don’t stop. It might continue in the same vein. It might shift into another style.” All of Me is available on Bright Sun Records. 41

After eight years Bob Dylan returns with his first double album of original songs since Blonde On Blonde and it’s an absolute masterpiece. By Michael Goldberg


ob Dylan is 79 years old and he knows it. His new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, his first double album of original material since 1966’s Blonde On Blonde, is at once a look back at the world as Dylan has known it, but also an album that deals with the profane and the spiritual, and implies you can’t have one without the other. Repeatedly in the 10 new songs, Dylan writes about the commission of sin and a striving for absolution. But don’t think everything in the songs here has religious overtones. He sings of love, of lust, and of murder – most foul. And there’s humour too, even when he sings about death. In ‘False Prophet’ Dylan boasts like a young rapper, but you can hear the smile on his face:

“I’m first among equals “Second to none “Last of the best “You can bury the rest “Bury ’em naked with their silver and gold “Put them six feet under and pray for their souls” Or this from ‘I Contain Multitudes’: “I’ll sell you down the river, I’ll put a price on your head “What more can I tell you? I sleep with life and death in the same bed”


He says he doesn’t think about his own mortality; his concerns go beyond that. “I think about the death of the human race,” Dylan said in a rare interview that ran in the New York Times on June 12, 2020, conducted by Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University who authored American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race. “The long strange trip of the naked ape. Not to be light on it, but everybody’s life is so transient. Every human being, no matter how strong or mighty, is frail when it comes to death. I think about it in general terms, not in a personal way.” In the New York Times, Brinkley summed up the album. “‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ covers complex territory: trances and hymns, defiant blues, love longings, comic juxtapositions, prankster wordplay, patriotic ardor, maverick steadfastness, lyrical Cubism, twilight-age reflections and spiritual contentment.” Rough and Rowdy Ways, an absolute masterpiece, is also an album about Bob Dylan and he admits as much. Speaking about the opening track, ‘I Contain Multitudes,’ Dylan said, “It is my identity.” And of the 17-minute-long reflection on the death of John F. Kennedy, ‘Murder Most Foul,’ he said, “To me it’s not nostalgic. I don’t think of ‘Murder Most Foul’ as a glorification of the past or some kind of send-off to a lost age. It speaks to me in the moment.”

Throughout the album Dylan shares his love for music, and particular musicians. He names a song after Jimmy Reed, but between ‘I Contain Multitudes,’ ‘Murder Most Foul’ and ‘Key West (Philosopher Pilot),’ dozens of other musicians are also named or referred to by way of their songs: Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Billy Joe Royal, Warren Smith, Louis Armstrong, Carl Perkins, Otis Redding, Thelonious Monk, Guitar Slim, Nina Simone, the Eagles, Etta James, the Beach Boys, John Lee Hooker, Patsy Cline, the Who, and on and on. With the world in the midst of a ruthless pandemic, and Americans of all races and religions out in the streets protesting the systemic injustice that Blacks have faced

for hundreds of years that is a different kind of ruthless black plague, Dylan’s timing in returning with a new album, this album, is perfect. Dylan was singing about racial injustice in the early ’60s; he was also singing about the brute force the authorities used, a brute force no different than what the police used on George Floyd. He wrote about the vicious murder of 51-year-old Hattie Carol and defended in song Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the murdered Black Panther George Jackson. In his New York Times interview, Dylan was asked about the murder of George Floyd, which took place in Minnesota, the state where Dylan was born and grew up. “It sickened me no end to see George tortured to death like that,” Dylan said, sounding depressed according to the interviewer. “It was beyond ugly. Let’s hope that justice comes swift for the Floyd family and the nation.” In 1964 Dylan, with few exceptions, stopped writing topical folk songs. Since then he’s been writing for the ages (although ‘Masters of War,’ and many of his topical folk songs turned out to be for the ages too), which often makes his songs timely at any time. I would wager some of these Rough and Rowdy Ways songs will be listened to by future generations.

Nearly as soon as Dylan established himself with ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ (when it became a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in August 1963), he began confounding expectations. In case anyone still wants to box Dylan in, he reminds us at the very start of Rough and Rowdy Ways, ‘I Contain Multitudes,’ that he “is a man of contradictions, a man of many moods.” The title and the theme come from section 51 of Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself,’ in which Whitman wrote, “Do I contradict myself?/ Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” Dylan has been inspired by Whitman since the ’50s (“On 7th Avenue I passed the building where Walt Whitman lived and worked,” Dylan wrote in his memoir, Chronicles Volume One, talking about when he first got to New York in 1961. “I paused momentarily imagining him printing away and singing the true song of his soul.”); ‘Cross the Green Mountain,’ which on the soundtrack for the 2003 film, ‘Gods and Generals,’ and concluded the 2008 Bootleg Series set, Tell Tale Signs, references lines from Whitman’s ‘Come Up from the Fields, Father.’ Dylan said in the interview that ‘I Contain Multitude’’ “is trance writing…It’s the kind

of thing where you pile up stream-ofconsciousness verses and then leave it alone and come pull things out. In that particular song, the last few verses came first. So that’s where the song was going all along. Obviously, the catalyst for the song is the title line. It’s one of those where you write it on instinct. Kind of in a trance state. Most of my recent songs are like that. The lyrics are the real thing, tangible, they’re not metaphors. The songs seem to know themselves and they know that I can sing them, vocally and rhythmically. They kind of write themselves and count on me to sing them.” >>> 43

>>> That Dylan says his new songs are not metaphors is a revelation. Consider that in 2004, speaking to Robert Hilburn of the L.A. Times about ‘Just Like a Woman,’ Dylan said, “I don’t think in literal terms as a writer. That’s a fault of a lot of the old Broadway writers…. They are so literal. There’s no circular thing, nothing to be learned from the song, nothing to inspire you. I always try to turn a song on its head. Otherwise, I figure I’m wasting the listener’s time.” Perhaps recording three albums of Tin Pan Alley songs, most of which Frank Sinatra had first recorded, helped to change Dylan’s approach to songwriting. It’s obvious recording those songs had an impact on Dylan’s singing on the new album. Gruff and raw when handling the blues, but nearly angelic on the love song, ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You’ and the (at times) inspirational ballad, ‘Key West (Philosopher Pilot).’ In a rare admission, Dylan said that ‘I Contain Multitudes’ is about him. “It’s the way I actually feel about things. It is my identity and I’m not going to question it, I am in no position to. Every line has a particular purpose. …” Still, to only take the songs on this album literally would be a mistake. While they may be about the writer, there is much more to these songs. Dylan considers the past (“We have a tendency to live in the past…,” Dylan says) even as he takes steps towards the future. There are references in ‘I Contain Multitudes” to Warren Smith’s 1957 recording for Sun Records of ‘Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache’ (which Dylan covered for the 2001 Sun Records tribute, Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records), to Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps’ 1957 recording, ‘Red Blue Jeans and a Ponytail’ and to Carl Perkins 1958 recording for Sun Records, ‘Pink Pedal Pushers.’ Dylan alludes to countless songs and namedrops generals and Greek Gods, poets, playwrights and novelists, William Shakespeare and William Blake and Edgar Allen Poe, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Jack Kerouac, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Frédéric Chopin. There’s a strange tribute of sorts to Jimmy Reed, and mentions of Elvis. Cover art for the third single, ‘False Prophet,’ features artwork borrowed from the cover of a 1942 issue of ‘The Shadow,” about the infamous crime fighter who could “cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him” and who knew “what evil lurks in the hearts of men.” But, really, do all these references matter? Or are they simply personal touchstones, a different kind of memoir? Or maybe that’s 44

the point. As a living legend, the music and musicians, culture and history, philosophy and spirituality that has excited and inspired Bob Dylan, allowed him to grow into who he is today, matters. This is BOB DYLAN after all, and if you care about Bob Dylan and he cares about ‘Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache,’ well the least you can do is give that song a listen. But what if you knew none of Dylan’s references? What if you took his lyrics at face value? When I first heard Dylan, that’s exactly what I did. As a 13 year old hearing ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and ‘Positively Fourth Street’ on the radio in 1965, and in the months that followed, listening again and again to Highway 61 Revisited, and his earlier albums, which I bought up as soon as I had the money, for the most part I didn’t know Dylan’s references. I certainly didn’t know when he was lifting words from Kerouac and using them in ‘Tombstone Blues’ or borrowing the melody of ‘Nottamun Town’ for ‘Masters of War.’ None of that mattered. What got me was the way Dylan’s voice and words and music came together into a force that reached deep into my soul, helped me find my own identity, and pointed me in a direction that I have pursued ever since. Of course, Dylan’s words matter, but it’s not his words alone that have made him one of our greatest artists. And on Rough and Rowdy Ways, it is the totality of voice, music, words that make these songs so memorable – makes them songs I want to hear over and over. Trying to figure out Dylan’s many references can be fun, even when some (many?) of those references seem, in a way, to be red herrings. Others truly add resonance. I’ll leave it to you to sort them out. And here’s another way to look at those lines and concepts. Dylan collects melodies, lyrics, and phrases. He finds them everywhere, keeps them in a box and sometimes when he’s writing he dips into the box for inspiration. At least he’s done that in the past. So, it’s not always that the reference is symbolic. Sometimes it’s how the song (or the verse) came to exist. In an interview published in England’s Uncut magazine in 2008, Dylan’s current engineer Chris Shaw talked about Dylan’s approach to recording. “His songs kind of continuously evolve,” Shaw said. “They’re not static. For him, it’s all about getting the track to fit the words, and not the other way around. So that’s why there are so many bootlegs, six different versions of ‘Like A Rolling Stone,’ four different versions of ‘Visions Of Johanna,’ he’s always trying to find the arrangement that works best with the sentiment he’s trying to express. To that end, he might say, ‘Well, I’m kinda hearing this like this old Billie Holiday song.’ And so ,we’ll start with that, the band will actually start playing that song, try to get that sound, and then he’ll go, ‘Okay, and this is how my song goes.’ It’s a weird process, and it’s unique to him out of any of the bands I’ve worked with over the past 20 years. It’s always interesting,

always unbelievably exciting, and it’s a lot of hard work – and I mean that in a very good way. His sessions are always challenging, but, at the end of the day, you always feel like you’ve got something done, and you’ve done the best to get the song to work.” The title of Dylan’s new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, comes from a song, ‘My Rough and Rowdy Ways’, that Jimmie Rodgers and Elise McWilliams wrote, and Rodgers recorded in October 1929. Here are some of the lyrics: “For years and years I’ve rambled drank my wines and gambled “But one day I thought I’d settle down “I met a perfect lady she said she’d be my baby “We built a cottage in the old hometown “But somehow I can’t forget my good old rambling days “The railroad trains are calling me away “I may be rough I may be wild I may be tough and countrified “But I can’t give up my good old rough and rowdy ways” It’s a great album title, and it sure seems to characterize Dylan. There are three rough and rowdy 12-bar blues here. ‘False Prophet’ you’ve already heard but give a listen to ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’ and the incredible ‘Crossing the Rubicon.’ Dylan has been singing the blues since at least the late ‘50s, and starting with his first album, Bob Dylan, his blues have rung true and they are still the real thing. Chris Shaw, who first worked with Dylan on the song ‘Things Have Changed’ in 1999, recorded and mixed the new album, and, according to Dylan’s management, “the majority of the music is played by Bob’s touring band.” Dylan’s most recent touring band consists of Donnie Herron, pedal steel, lap steel, electric mandolin, accordion, banjo, violin; Charlie Sexton, lead guitar; Tony Garnier, bass; Matt Chamberlain, drums, percussion; and Bob Britt, guitar. (Blake Mills, Benmont Tench, Fiona Apple, Alan Pasqua and Tommy Rhodes are guests). There is a repetitious, hypnotic quality to many of these songs. The music circles, often seeming on the verge of resolving, but then circles again, almost resolves, circles once more. It’s very beautiful, sometimes ominous, and sometimes angelic. I can hear a harp at times, though there is no harp. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like the music to ‘My Own Version of You,’ ‘Black Rider,’ ‘Key West (Philosopher Pilot)’ and ‘Murder Most Foul.’ The structure of these songs allows for many verses and, when he wants, no chorus. When Brinkley said to Dylan that it’s as if Charlie Sexton and Dylan can read each other’s minds, Dylan said, “As far as Charlie goes, he can read anybody’s mind. Charlie,

though, creates songs and sings them as well, and he can play guitar to beat the band. There aren’t any of my songs that Charlie doesn’t feel part of and he’s always played great with me. ‘False Prophet’ is only one of three 12-bar structural things on this record. Charlie is good on all the songs. He’s not a show-off guitar player, although he can do that if he wants. He’s very restrained in his playing but can be explosive when he wants to be. It’s a classic style of playing. Very old school. He inhabits a song rather than attacking it. He’s always done that with me.” Three 12-bar structural things. We’re talkin’ the blues. ‘False Prophet” and ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’ would have fit on Highway 61 Revisited. In fact, ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed’ is, essentially, a musical rewrite of the song ‘Highway 61 Revisited,’ and it’s a wild ride. Some people have complained that ‘False Prophet’ is an obscure 1954 Sun Records recording with new words: ‘If Lovin’ Is Believing,’ by Billy ‘the Kid” Emerson, a member of Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. Dylan has been borrowing the music from other songs for his entire career, so big deal. It’s part of the folk tradition. And anyway, Dylan’s song is the better of the two. Not only are Dylan’s lyrics brilliant, but unlike the 2 minute 13 second ‘If Lovin’ Is Believing,’ the six-minute ‘False Prophet’ features Charlie Sexton’s red hot lead guitar taking the song into the stratosphere.

three books by the novelist/memoirist Joyce Johnson, who in her youth was Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend when On the Road, written in 1951, was finally published in 1957. “Enemy of the unlived meaningless life.” It’s as relevant today as a philosophy of life as it ever was. Set to a slow blues with a hypnotic lead guitar that dances around Dylan’s subtle talk/ sung vocal, the third blues on the album, ‘Crossing the Rubicon,’ is an all too short 7 minutes, 23 seconds of inspired imagery that tells of a journey towards salvation. The Rubicon is the river that separated Italy from Gaul (in ancient times the name of a region of Western Europe) that Julius Caesar and his army crossed in 49 B.C. By crossing the Rubicon Caesar broke Roman law, and there was no turning back; to cross the Rubicon has come to mean that one has made a definitive decision, one that can’t be rescinded. As Merriam-Webster defines it, “one that when crossed commits a person irrevocably.” Like one of his idols, Robert Johnson (“Robert was one of the most inventive geniuses of all time,” Dylan tells Brinkley. “He was so far ahead of his time that we still haven’t caught up with him”), Dylan seems at the crossroads between heaven and hell. As he tells us in the second verse, he’s “three miles north of purgatory, one step from the great beyond.” He believes in God – “I prayed to the cross” – yet he’s a sinner – “I kissed the girls.” At the end of every other verse he sings definitively: “And I crossed the Rubicon.” Yes, the journey is difficult, but he’s made up his mind, he’ll stay the course. “I’ll feel the holy spirit inside “See the light that freedom gives “I believe it’s in the reach of every man who lives”

The funny thing about ‘False Prophet’ is that when Dylan sings, “I ain’t no false prophet/ I just know what I know,” he could be indicating that he’s actually the real thing. Certainly, we can look at lyrics he’s written going back to the early ’60s and find that he’s been prophetic again and again. In this new song he also sings,

“Well I’m the enemy of treason “Enemy of strife “Enemy of the unlived meaningless life.” That final line is a theme of the Beats, as I was recently reminded when I read

The rowdiest blues here is ‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed.’ Dylan’s band is a fury. Dylan has been a fan of Reed’s music since he was a kid; over the year’s he’s played Reed’s songs: ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’ at a Farm Aid

rehearsal in 1985 and ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ with Eric Clapton and Friends in 1999. Again Dylan mixes the profane with the spiritual. Early on he sings a version of the chorus, which changes throughout the song: “Goodbye Jimmy Reed “Jimmy Reed indeed “Give me that old time religion “It’s just what I need” But later, after describing sex with a “transparent woman in a transparent dress,” he ends the verse, “I need you but my heads in a noose” and then sings: “Goodbye Jimmy Reed “Goodbye and so long “I thought I could resist her “but I was so wrong” There are other songs on the album that are just as meaningful as the ones I’ve already discussed: ‘My Own Version of You,’ in which Dylan plays Frankenstein (“I’ve been visiting morgues and monasteries/ Looking for the necessary body parts/ Limbs and livers and brains and hearts/ I want to bring someone to life is what I want to do/ I want to create my own version of you”), ‘Black Rider,’ in which Dylan admits it’s time to give up the fight (“Black rider black rider you’ve been on the job too long”) and ‘Mother of Muses,’ in which he falls in love with “Calliope,” the muse of epic poetry. And though I haven’t said much about ‘Murder Most Foul’ because everyone who would want to hear it has heard it by now, it is an amazing 17-minute finale. Each of the 10 songs that play out across nearly 70 minutes are complex, deep and loaded with great lines. The lyrics to these songs, whatever the inspiration, come across as distinctly the work of Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan at his best. As he has done for so many decades, he sifts through the world, takes what he needs and fashions songs that can be appreciated on many levels. Or you can just kick back and let the musical waves wash over you. In addition to the many meanings one can find in these songs, what comes through is how much Bob Dylan loves music. In the second to last song, ‘Key West (Philosopher Pilot),’ Dylan sings, “I’m searching for love, for inspiration/ On that pirate radio station…” So many times, over the decades, it’s been obvious from his own music, that he’s found it. Michael Goldberg, a former Rolling Stone Senior Writer and founder of the original Addicted To Noise online magazine, is author of three rock & roll novels including 2016’s “Untitled.” 45

John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew’s Lawson gets a timely reissue for its 15th birthday. By Meg Crawford


t took a couple of cheeky journos drawing a bow between John Schumann and Henry Lawson to reignite Schumann’s Lawson-loving spark. The result was a reverential compilation of the bush bard’s poetry reformulated as songs – ie. Lawson – performed by a crack collection of Aussie musos assembled by Schumann specifically for the task. Drawing their name from a line in Lawson’s poem ‘Knocking Around’, which also made its way onto the 2005 album, the Vagabond Crew featured everyone from Shane Howard (Goanna), Rob Hirst (Midnight Oil) and Russell Morris through to Schumann’s former Redgum cohorts, Hugh McDonald (now sadly deceased) and Michael Atkinson. That the singer-songwriter, guitarist and national treasure in his own right embarked on the project in the first place is no surprise. Schumann was low-level obsessed with the poet even as a youngster. Harkening back to a trip with his folks when he was ten or eleven, Schumann vividly recalls reaching for a tome of Australian short stories on a beach-shack bookshelf and being instantly transfixed by Lawson’s work. Starting with the ‘Drover’s Wife’, Lawson mirrored Schumann’s own experience of a sunburned country. “Our family used to go on long driving trips where you’d sit on a vinyl seat in the back of an FJ Holden and look out the window without seatbelts and I just remember miles and miles and miles of Australian bush,” Schumann says. “The thing about the ‘Drover’s Wife’ was that Lawson spoke to me about the bush. He was able to describe it exactly as I saw it and, more importantly, as I felt it as a young thin, stammering, Catholic kid. “I was one of those kids who remembers the advent of television, and I remember Roy Rogers and the Cisco Kid and the Lone Ranger. Television had been an industry in America long before it came to


Australia, so the early days of our television broadcasting hours were populated with American westerns. Our imaginative, inner life was being fuelled by another culture, another history. As a little kid you resonate with what you see and what you hear. Instinctively I knew that wasn’t my country, but I didn’t have any other art form that helped me identify with my own. It was the ‘Drover’s Wife’ that opened that door and said, ‘you don’t have to worry about the planes of Arizona, it’s nothing to do with you, but these miles and miles of blue-grey scrub and gum trees and steel-grey skies and galvanised-iron farming sheds – this is your country. Lawson was able to make that connection for me.” Howard echoes the sentiment. “We didn’t have a lot of books at home, but Mum and Dad had books of poetry – Dad was a great lover of those Australian balladeers – and there was something about Lawson,” he reflects. “It was Australian for a start and so it had a context that we identified with.” “I think Lawson’s always had an effect on me,” Morris adds. “I was interested in reading about him and Banjo Patterson and their different lives and how they went about knowing what they wrote about. I’m not authoritative on this, but it seemed to me that Henry Lawson liked to live what he wrote about whereas Banjo Patterson liked to use his imagination.” Howard agrees with the observation. “I remember asking Professor Manning Clark – he wrote the liner notes for Goanna’s first album – what was the difference between Lawson and Patterson, and he said, to him, in the shearer’s strike of 1891 Patterson would have been on the verandah with the squatters and Lawson would have been in the sheds with the shearers. That kind of sums it up, really.” In contrast, Hirst’s affection for Lawson evolved a bit later, coinciding with the project. “I actually learned more from John Schumann’s songs

about Lawson than I ever knew before,” he explains. “Obviously, we did Lawson at school and Banjo Patterson – the usual – but John’s got this great knack, and the right voice by the way, to really make Lawson’s poetry come alive as song lyrics. “I remember at the time looking through the lyrics and thinking what an extraordinary poet, but Schuey’s interpretation and melodies really brought it alive for me. There’s really no one else in Australia who could have been better suited to shed new light on Lawson’s poems and put them in such a great musical context.” Little wonder that Schumann was able to perform the task so adroitly – hell, he’d explored Lawson at uni with a view to deliberately seeking out a deeper understanding of his work. Studying with Professor Brian Matthews, the pre-eminent Lawson expert who later wrote Lawson’s liner notes, Schumann was disabused of any lingering romanticism when it came to the poet. Often painted as the lanky, laconic bushman, Matthews sheeted home that Lawson was a difficult and complex character who met with an unlovely end. Unable to sustain long-term sobriety and suffering from other mental health issues, Lawson was mostly penniless throughout his life and found dead with a blowie crawling out of his mouth after suffering a brain hemorrhage. The irony is that he was lauded with a State funeral. “When Brian wrote the liner notes he said, ‘sad-eyed, brittle and intermittently brilliant’,” Schumann notes. “That’s exactly what he was. He was a pretty dissolute sort of bloke. Prey to alcoholism, depression, profoundly deaf, didn’t look after his wife, didn’t look after his kids. All of those things. He’s not the sort of person you could put on a pedestal.” Schumann doesn’t shy away from the fact that not all of Lawson’s work is gold either. “There were times in his life when he was sometimes together and sometimes a mess. Sometimes he wrote very prolifically, and sometimes when he wrote prolifically there’s a bit of shit in there, but there’d be some absolute blinders too. That said, Lawson’s capacity to capture humanity in all of its frailty was unparalleled amongst his peers.” “Looking back, it’s all nostalgia and polemic – we’ve all been guilty of that at some stage – but when he writes of the human condition, he plumbs the depths,” Howard adds.

Conceived as a project over one boozy lunch with David Minear – founder of independent record label Bombora, ex-adman, current chairman of Adelaide Fringe and long-time pal – Schumann and Minear later trawled through volumes of Lawson’s work, whittling down the poems to the cut on the album. “As a musician I was looking for a strong rhythmic pulse,” Schumann explains. “They didn’t have to be hard and fast, but I had to be able to discern in the scansion of the poems a definite internal pulse within the lyric itself. Lyrics are almost a percussive instrument themselves and in really good poetry, where assonance and alliteration and all of those things are being used, they actually become an instrument, as well as bearing the narrative. So, I was looking for those things, while Minear was looking for works that would resonate with Australians in 2005.” >>>


>>> As it turns out, of the Lawson selection, the lyrics are just as relevant today. Take, for instance, the denouement of privilege in ‘Faces in The Street’: “I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure/ were all their windows level with the faces of the poor?” “Some of the poems are dated, but lines like that one have become even more relevant over the years,” Hirst notes. “I love what John did to it – it’s a weighty, rocking track,” Howards notes. “And it’s a song that John and I still sing when we work together. We’ve grown into that song as older men.” After a representative sample of work across Lawson’s life, Schumann wasn’t just mining for the corkers either. “Given that he was a drunkard and broke a lot of the time, he’d scribble off pieces of shit he’d sell to whoever’d buy it for a quick quid and disappear into the pubs with his mates,” Schumann says. “I quite liked the idea of having one or two of those in there as an example of how good he was that he was able to churn this stuff out to get on the turps.” Anticipating that attention spans might waver beyond eight verses, Schumann then took a scalpel to the poems before recording them, while carefully preserving their integrity. “It carried the narrative, without destroying the work,” he muses. “I did it with quite some apprehension though, because I knew from Brian Matthews that the Lawson cheer squad were likely to come after me with knuckle dusters if they thought I was screwing around with the master. I think I got away with it, but it was a scary thing to do.” Next came the gathering of the troops. It was important from the outset to Schumann and Minear that the album showcased a range of 48

iconic Australian voices. “My voice gets old pretty quick,” Schumann cracks. Certainly, no one knocked him back. Howard, for instance, had performed with Schumann before and welcomed the opportunity to do so again. “I just enjoy his candour - you’ll never die wondering what John’s thinking,” Howard quips. The album had resonance for Howard emotionally too. “Reconnecting with John over the record was kind of perfect because Lawson has meant a lot to me over my life,” Howard says. “I was haunted by the ghost of Henry Lawson in the sense that I did not want to end up in my later years busking for drinking money on Circular Quay. That’s pretty much what Lawson did, then he died and had a State funeral. It’s a sad story about Australia’s Charles Dickens.” Likewise, Morris jumped at the chance. “I was already pretty into Lawson’s work, so when John called up and said he was doing an album of Lawson’s work, I said, ‘hell yeah’. Anything to recognise the early Australian greats in poetry, and it turned out to be a really lovely project. It was a very important project – to honour the work of Henry Lawson, who was such an iconic writer. It captures heritage.” Recorded over three or four weeks in Melbourne’s Sing Sing Studios, by all accounts, the making of Lawson was a hoot. “The people who came to play on the album were people who got it,” remembers Schumann. “We worked every day. We’d front up at eight o’clock and leave at midnight. There was a camaraderie with the basic band, and they were all hot players, but everybody got the idea that we were working with something special here. There was no bullshit, no pissing competitions. We considered we were doing something of note, which we hoped would find a place in the annals of Australian literary and musical history that would remain there for a while and make a contribution.”

Interestingly, the project continued to have an impact on the Vagabond Crew. “Subliminally, it must have,” Morris says. “I can remember being halfway through a blues album and it wasn’t really grabbing me. I picked up a paper and there was a photograph of a guy called Thomas Archer, who was a criminal in the early 1900s, and it almost begged the question, ‘Can you write a song about me?’. I did, and I thought, ‘that’s right, I’ve got to write about Australia, like when we did the Lawson album’. If I’m going to write blues and roots music, I can’t write about Mississippi and New Orleans, because I was trying to echo my heroes, like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, and I can’t write and know what they knew, but I can write and know what I know. I had that epiphany moment and I think Lawson stuck in the back of my head and popped out that way.” While Lawson has always sold like hotcakes amid Schumann’s back catalogue, there was a sense in which it was a little lost in transit from physical form to digital. Plus, being within a bull’s roar of the centenary of Lawson’s death (2 September 2022), it struck Schumann and Minear as an opportune time to rerelease the album. “We thought it was important to just pull it off the shelf, dust it down and put it in a more prominent position,” Schumann explains. “It was something that we were proud of. Essentially, we’re 15 years down the line and a lot of people might have missed it the first time, so let’s see if anybody’s out there, and, interestingly, there is.” Indeed, among other things, a major symphony orchestra is in discussion with Schumann for a large-scale, live production, COVID-19 developments pending.

In the meantime, Schumann’s chuffed anew with the prospect of introducing a fresh audience to the poet’s work upon Lawson’s reissue. “There are many things more important than fame and money, and the chance to immerse myself in the work of Henry Lawson and represent it to Australia in the 21st century is an amazing opportunity.” henrylawson.net.au 49

Young Modern 1977

N O I T A L e v O i t S c I e D p I s D o r N t SPLE Dowler Re n h o J -A w

John Do

Singer/songwriter John Dowler recently released his ninth album, 12 Stitches, the second with his current band, John Dowler’s Vanity Project. We look back at his career with Young Modern, The Zimmermen and beyond. By Ian McFarlane Photos courtesy of the John Dowler Collection and David Laing.

In 1988, John Dowler was at the metaphorical musical crossroads. He’d been fronting bands since 1974 and his band, The Zimmermen, had just signed a lucrative deal with Mushroom Records. Mushroom was one of the biggest labels in the land, having steered the likes of Skyhooks, Ol’ 55, The Sports, Renee Geyer, Split Enz and Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons to major success during the 1970s/early ’80s, then boasting an enviable roster of Jimmy Barnes, The Angels, Models, Hunters & Collectors, The Church and Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls. Oh yes, and they’d just signed a new pop starlet called Kylie Minogue.


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Dowler was unsure of where his band fitted into the Mushroom scheme of things, and was convinced the label had no idea of how to promote his brand of American influenced jangly power pop. The band’s second album, Way Too Casual (April 1989), was a more consistent effort than the debut, Rivers of Corn (February 1987), containing some of his best songs to date: the single ‘What Really Hurts’, ‘Ties That Bind’ and ‘Corsican Dreams’. Somehow it fell through the cracks. “Lobby Loyde produced the album and I think he got Michael Gudinski to sign us as a favour,” Dowler recalls. “We all thought it was a good idea to be on Mushroom but they didn’t really know what to do with us. They spent 20 grand on a film clip for the single and flew me up to Sydney for a day of press and radio interviews, but no one in the office up there knew who I was. At one stage Marty Willson-Piper from The Church walked in and they were all over him. So, they stuck me in this board room with a phone to do these interviews. I felt like a fish out of water. One of the great things that came out of the Mushroom connection was that we got to support Neil Young in Adelaide.” Dowler’s profile has rarely been commercially upfront (i.e. no Top 40 hits) but he remains a pop classicist in the mould of an Alex Chilton, a Gene Clark or a Brian Wilson. Obviously not as well known

John Dowler’s Vanity Project-12 Stitches internationally – or even in Australia, for that matter – but his attention to song detail and presentation is such that the comparison stands. Issued on Nic Dalton’s Half a Cow label, his new album with John Dowler’s Vanity Project, 12 Stitches, keeps up the melodic, jingle-jangle power pop quotient of his past but ups the ante with the tougher guitars and thumping back beat of the band: Justin Boyd (guitar), Mark McCartney (guitar), Stephen O’Prey (bass) and Michael Stranges (drums). Accessible songs with lovelorn lyrics such as ‘Work of Art’ and ‘That’s Not Me’ vie for attention with angrier tunes such as ‘Centipede’ and ‘The Next Voice You Hear’. ‘Free of Wine’ features hilarious, tonguetwisting lines such as “crawling from the wreckage like a rusty terminator with an incandescent fear of flying”. The re-

arrangement of the old Split Enz Phil Judd gem ‘Time for a Change’ boasts a jamming coda like Neil Young and Crazy Horse in full Zuma mode. Before he joined his first band, Spare Change, in 1974, Adelaide-raised Dowler had spread his wings by living in London and Amsterdam. He’d been swept aside by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Donovan, John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, Cream, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac etc. and was keen to experience things firsthand. “I left school in December 1968 and that same month I caught a ship to England. I got there in January 1969. All I did was see lots and lots of gigs. I did have to get a job to make a living but I saw Joe Cocker and the original Grease Band, Status Quo when they were still a psychedelic band, Dave Edmunds’ band Love Sculpture, Bakerloo Blues Line. I saw The Band, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and The Byrds, they all played at the Royal Albert Hall. I saw Lou Reed too, pre his Transformer days. I liked his first solo album and I was a huge Velvet Underground fan as well. I saw Spirit as a three piece, they were amazing. Randy California had so many effects on his guitar it was like a symphonic sound, and he was a really good singer as well.” Dowler met fellow Adelaide travellers Graeme Perry and Chris Langman and having moved to Amsterdam they began laying plans to form a band. Back in Australia in 1973, Dowler was listening to Roxy Music, Big Star and the Flamin’ Groovies. With Perry (drums) and Langman (guitar) they formed Spare Change in 1974, having added Tony Murray (bass) and Robert Kretschmer (guitar). “We were doing songs by the MC5 (‘High School’, ‘Shakin’ Street’), the Flamin’ Groovies (‘Slow Death’) and Dylan. We did quite a few songs of his with a reggae feel ’cause some of the guys were really obsessed with Bob Marley as well. John

Spare Change 1976

Cale’s ‘Sky Patrol’. We did songs by Lou Reed, ‘Sweet Jane’, ‘Rock and Roll’, ‘Waiting for the Man’, ‘Vicious’, all that. I guess we were contemporaries of Radio Birdman but we had a much wimpier sound. They were heavy, we were much more melodic and probably a lot more fiddly in our arrangements with too many time changes. By the time we moved over to Melbourne we’d started writing our own songs. I got to contribute a few lyrics but the songs were mostly written by Tony, Chris and Robert. “We fitted right into the Melbourne scene, we got on really well with all the other bands. People liked the fact that we dressed really well. Other bands generally speaking weren’t sartorially... what can I say, they tended not to dress up, whereas we’d dress up really well. We had blazers and caps, we had back projections on stage and all sorts of stuff. Our music wasn’t really that great frankly. I think The Bleeding Hearts blew us off stage, they were an amazing live band. The Millionaires were pretty good too, they’d dress up and had good songs. The Sports were fabulous, an amazing band. The scene was fantastic back then, there were gigs every night of the week, huge crowds everywhere you’d play.” Spare Change signed to Champagne Records, issuing the single ‘The Big Beat’ in November 1976. They recorded an album at Armstrongs, produced by Aztecs’ drummer Gil Matthews, but Dowler left and returned to Adelaide. The album was shelved (until 1979) while the other guys continued on as Parachute with Rick Grossman (bass; exBleeding Hearts). Before he left Melbourne, however, Dowler

Young Modern MagazineState Library of South Australia Collection

met another aspiring song writer, Paul Kelly. Kelly’s career is a whole book in itself, so while he went on to play with the likes of High Rise Bombers, The Dots, The Coloured Girls / The Messengers and enjoy a long running solo career, the connection remained via the likes of Langman (who played in The Dots), Steve Connolly and Michael Barclay. “With Spare Change, we were all living in a share house on Hoddle Street and a mutual friend of ours, Phil White, had given Paul our address. He pulled up one day having arrived from Adelaide. He played us a few songs and he sounded very much like Dylan. He slept on the floor in my room for a few weeks. He and Chris wrote ‘Fool’s Road’; it didn’t have enough verses so I wrote one more and got a co-credit. Likewise, with ‘The Ballad of Good and Evil’ which Chris and I recorded later with The Glory Boys. Yeah, Paul had some great songs even then. We could tell that he was going to be great. I think he could tell too, so it was cool to have known him so early.” Within a matter of months of his return to Adelaide in 1977, Dowler had his new band Young Modern on the road. Having derived the name from Young Modern, “Adelaide’s magazine for the younger set” (News-Review Publications, 1962-65), Dowler’s focus was strictly on a sixties sound. He imbued Young Modern’s music with a sprightly, tuneful and accessible pop sheen, in contrast to the harder edged kick of the emergent punk movement. The band members – Dowler, Vic Yates (guitar), Michael Jones (guitar), Andrew Richards (bass) and Mark Kohler (drums) – decked themselves out in sharp suits, white shirts and black ties. And Dowler was the first singer in Australia to adopt the blonde Brian Jones / Keith Relf haircut as a way of life! “I loved that ’60s sound of ‘Shake Some Action’ by the Flamin’ Groovies so I was

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keen to do that melodic, Beatlesque type guitar sound. I met these young guys in a school band called Suggestion. They were playing things like Deep Purple, Cream, a pretty heavy sound. I sang a couple of songs with them. I was experienced in these things; I was 25 at that stage and they were all like 18 and just wanting to have a good time. I said, ‘look we can write our own songs, forget about this Deep Purple shit, we’re going to play lighter guitar sounds, be more melodic’. “They sort of went along with it at first but one of the guitarists said ‘nah, I’m not gonna do that’. Then after about two weeks when everyone else had said yes, he came back to the band. I didn’t have many tunes; the guitarist and bass player were the two guys who wrote most of the music. I wrote the words to the music and came up with the melodies sometimes, depending on what they had. It was just one of those really fortuitous things where everything clicked into place and within three months, we had seven, eight songs.” Young Modern played its first show on 26 November 1977, supporting Sydney legends Radio Birdman at Adelaide’s Unley Town Hall. There was the infamous gig review in Adelaide punk ’zine Street Fever which ran, “the support band, the Young Moderns, played to an audience of a single drunk swaying on the floor in time with the music (?). I didn’t like them either”. “Yeah, well, you wouldn’t expect Birdman fans to like us, you know,” is Dowler’s pithy comment now.

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Zimmermen-1986-Photo by Liz Reed Courtesy of The John Dowler Collection The band forged on, gradually becoming an Adelaide institution via their long-running residency at the Tivoli Hotel, a beautiful old pub on Pirie Street. “We played there every Saturday night. We wouldn’t come on ’til one o’clock in the morning and we’d play two sets and we wouldn’t finish till 3.30. We started getting a huge following, big crowds, a really nice vibe. People would get pissed but there was never any trouble. We built up a huge following and then Dirty Pool in Sydney got interested in us because of the vibe the band had at the time.” The Dirty Pool Agency also booked Cold Chisel, The Angels and Flowers. Making the move to Sydney was something of a wrench for the young musicians but they were willing to give it a go. Along the way they issued the classic power pop single ‘She’s Got the Money’ (produced by The Sports’ Stephen Cummings) and recorded a batch of demos that eventually appeared as the album Play Faster (December 1979). ‘She’s Got the Money’ features one of the great opening couplets in “She’s a high class girl from a broken home / She don’t spend too much time on her own”. “We got gigs all the time, we’d be playing seven nights a week. We had our own lighting system, our own PA and truck, e 1979 ern-Jun d o M g n ool-You Dirty P

it was an expensive operation. We’d be supporting The Angels and they’d be raking in $20,000 a night. We’d get paid $100, and have to lug the gear in and out afterwards. Then we’d go down to Melbourne and people loved us. We played the Crystal Ballroom and Laurie Richards asked us to come back. He paid us $1,100 which was amazing, given that we normally got paid a hundred. We drove down from Sydney, headlined that Saturday night and it was absolutely packed, then drove back the next day.” Playing regularly sharpened up the band’s stage craft and they were able to match it with all the other big, as well as up and coming, acts of the day such as Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, Models, Eric Gradman Man & Machine etc. They never got the chance to record many of their stage favourites, such as ‘New Wave’ and ‘Do You Care’. Despite boundless promise and a swag of snappy, finely crafted pop songs on which to call, Young Modern failed to make an impact on a Sydney scene still besotted by the spectre of Radio Birdman and in which Cold Chisel, The Angels and The Radiators currently held court. The band broke up following a gig in July 1979. “We’d been working so much we were pretty burnt out by then. I always seemed to have a bad throat and a bad cold. Michael had left and we got Mark Carroll in. He was a really good guitarist, probably the best musician in the band but it didn’t quite gel like we did with the old line-up. After six months he said, ‘no I’ve had enough, I’m going’. When he left I couldn’t face the idea of auditioning other people. I’d been newly married when we left for Sydney, we were living in abject poverty, it was a miserable existence. I thought ‘ah fuck it, time to move on’. I never liked Sydney, still don’t like it much really, it was a nice place to visit. So, I moved to Melbourne.”

His next venture, The Glory Boys, was basically a Spare Change reunion with Langman, Kretschmer and Perry plus a young Nick Seymour on bass. Seymour left and the band was renamed Talk Show but soon fizzled out. Seymour went on to join Crowded House while Kretschmer became an integral part of Icehouse circa the massive selling Man of Colours album. “I’d started writing my own songs, words and music, by then. I formed Everybody’s So Glad, wrote a lot of songs, rehearsed a lot, played about half a dozen gigs. Then I’d started recording a solo album with producer Martin Armiger. It looked likely at that stage it would come out and I thought I should get a band together and actually try and record stuff and that became The Zimmermen.” The solo album languished unreleased but The Zimmermen became a shining power pop beacon on a Melbourne scene dominated by The Birthday Party, Hunters & Collectors, Corpse Grinders and all manner of gothic, shockabilly and hard funk bands. There were regular line-up changes but the 1984 version of the band – Dowler, Michael Holmes (guitar; ex-Negatives, Man & Machine, Paul Kelly and the Dots, Fatal Attraction), Steve Connolly (guitar; ex-Cuban Heels), Peter Steele (bass; ex-Fatal Attraction) and Michael Barclay (drums; exLittle Murders, Runners) – was a crack outfit playing a mix of Dowler and Connolly songs. An archival live album available on iTunes, Rivers of Q’uorn Live in the Suburbs 1984, displays their ability to deliver a vibrant mix of power pop and tough, country influenced rock. (The gig had been recorded in Quorn, a South Australian township just outside of Port Augusta, hence the pun in the title.) At the end of 1984 Connolly and Barclay left to join the Paul Kelly Band. “Yeah, well, Paul poached them basically,” reveals Dowler. “Things were going well, we’d written new songs and had started recording an album.

Paul talked them into going to Sydney with him and they became The Coloured Girls. So ‘Don’t Go to Sydney’ sort of came out of that. The song’s not about them, but the title came out of all that. It just gave me a chance to vent about Sydney.” Peter Tulloch (ex-Wrecked Jets) came in as Connolly’s replacement and the band finished recording the album, Rivers of Corn, eventually issued on Au Go Go in February 1987. The single ‘Don’t Go to Sydney’ (December 1985) was an instant classic, an exceptional slice of harmonydrenched guitar pop with vitriolic lyrics (“Don’t go to Sydney baby / it’s a city without a heart”). It became one of the most successful independent singles of 1986; even Sydneysiders loved it! Reviews were upbeat: “Protest song of the year!... this is a sublime pop song” (Richard Guilliat, The Age); “The Zimmermen’s ‘Don’t Go to Sydney’ is a lot more than just this summer’s best single” (David Laing, B-Side); “Well written song with all the right ingredients... they also earn a nomination for the best group name for 1986” (Al Webb, Juke). The album included more of their stage favourites, such as Dowler’s ‘I Like to Fight With My Wife’, ‘Ordinary Man’ and ‘I Shall Return’ and Tulloch’s ‘Happy Heart’. The band presented quite a stoic image on stage, content to let the music do the talking. Only Holmes played up his part, with leather gear, low-slung guitar and throwing all sorts of shapes and moves. The Keith Richards of the band, maybe? “More like the Ariel Bender of the band!” Dowler cracks. “He was great, right into all that. He was the only person I’ve played with who wore leather trousers. And that was his regular street gear.” Dowler pulled the plug on the band in early 1990. He assembled a collection of

recordings, going back to his aborted solo album plus a cover of Alex Chilton’s ‘Holocaust’ recorded with The Sunset Strip, which he put out as the album Low Society (1993). He had a band called O’Hara’s Playboys for a while, then there was a brief Glory Boys reunion around 2003. In 2006 Aztec Records released Young Modern’s Play Faster 25th Anniversary Edition, combined with a couple of reunions which resulted in the studio album How Insensitive (on Mick Thomas’ Croxton label, 2006) and the live album Live at the Grace Emily 22.12.2010 (on Grown Up Wrong!, 2011). English writer Kris Needs wrote in Shindig magazine, “Captured live last year but sounding like it could have been recorded back in their day, such is the energy and passion... of course, Young Modern most recall the Flamin’ Groovies which can never be a bad thing”. The singer linked up with guitarist Mark McCartney and together they assembled the Vanity Project in 2015. Debut album Splendid Isolation came out in September 2017. Featuring a mix of new tunes from Dowler (‘Off the Coast of Me’) and guitarist Justin Boyd (‘The Untouchable’), plus covers of Lowell George’s ‘I’m the One’ and Terence Boylan’s ‘Don’t Blame it on My Wife’, the album also presented three leftover Zimmermen compositions, Tulloch’s ‘Sentimental’ and the Dowler / Holmes cowrites ‘Dark is the Night’ and ‘Something Good’ which originally had been lined up for a prospective third album. In my review at thirdstonepress.com.au (Archives) I described Splendid Isolation as “a thing of genuine beauty. With his plaintive, sorrow-laden voice gliding effortlessly over an enticing run of songs, Dowler has crafted an album brimming with jangle pop chime, folk rock melodies and rawer power pop moves”. John Dowler’s Vanity Project keeps him busy for now. Songs still drive his desires. He’s always believed in the power of the song. As he sings in ‘Ties That Bind’, “This is the recipe we choose in the fullness of time / An overpowering sense of trust in the ties that bind”. Zim merme n-Way T oo Casu al cove r


Young Modern-Play Faster 25th Anniversary Edition

o Sydne n’t Go T o D n e rm Zimme picture sleeve


A Vinyl Story - By John Cornell

The process of making Vinyl records dates back to Thomas Edisoninventor of the Phonograph, but the current process is still very similar. Firstly, a studio or live recording is made and from this master a lacquer is manufactured on a record cutting machine. As it rotates, electronic signals from the master recording transfer to a cutting head which holds a stylus. The stylus etches a groove into the lacquer spiralling toward the centre. This lacquer is then coated with metal (usually nickel or silver) to produce a metal master. This metal master, which has ridges rather than grooves, is then used to produce the stamper called ‘the mother.’ ‘The mother’ will be used to make the final vinyl record product by placing vinyl in a hydraulic press sandwiched between stampers. Steam is used to soften the vinyl and finally the disc is then stiffened using cold water. Though this sounds pretty simple, a lot of highly skilled expertise is required to get pressing pressure, temperature and cooling off exactly right. 33 1/3 or LP (Long Player) records were introduced in 1948. They peaked in the sixties and declined in the eighties with the rapid take up of compact discs. Vinyl records are now highly popular again. Some would say they were always popular and never lost their appeal with serious music listeners. With the resurgence in popularity and growth in sales, the pressing plants around the world that are left are having trouble keeping up with demand. This has led to new pressing plants popping up around the globe. Some of the more notable additions are Third Man Records, a new factory in Detroit USA owned by Musician Jack White; Tuff Gong Records in Jamaica (founded by Bob Marley) who have relaunched their Vinyl Manufacturing; and Sony Music have started pressing in house again 54

for the first time since 1989. Other new plants that have opened are: Deepgrooves (Holland) located in an old WW11 prison, Kaneshi Vinyl (Canada), Machang Music (Seuol, Korea), Dublin Vinyl (Dublin, Ireland) situated in an old steel works, and the Vinyl Factory (London, UK) who are using Former EMI RECORDS equipment. They found it difficult to find engineers to operate the 50 year old machinery. Nearly all these plants are focusing on using high quality vinyl to produce 140, 180 and 200 gram LPs with excellent fidelity. One of the reasons for the immediate uptake of Compact Disc, particularly in Australia, in the early eighties was the dramatic lowering of Vinyl quality during the seventies and eighties. Record companies and pressing plants used increasing amounts of recycled vinyl in an effort to cut cost. This produced product that was extremely thin with very high background noise. Some countries never used recycled product for their pressings. Most notably Japan, which made Japanese pressings very sought after prior to Compact Disc. If you are one to haunt secondhand vinyl shops and are lusting after the nostalgia of the original pressing from the late seventies, you could do worse than try one of the re-issues pressed on 180 or 200 gram vinyl. It will be hard to go back after the experience of listening to some of the new pressings. Some personal recommendations of re-issues on 200 gram Vinyl are Jimi Hendrix “ Axis Bold as Love”, The Cowboy Junkies “ Trinity Sessions , Roy Orbison “ Crying” The Beach Boys ‘ Pet Sounds and Cat Stevens “ Tea For The Tillerman”. Happy listening !

By Brian Wise


ne of the results of the lockdown has been the resurrection of the Rhythms vinyl collection, from the cupboard into the front room. If you want to know what I have been doing for the last three month, you now know. I have reorganised some of the collection in some bargain-priced Kallax units perfect for vinyl which I got at IKEA (though I encountered the problem of actually navigating my way out of the store!) Finding the right turntable is a little more complicated. We do have a 30+ year old Technics SL1200 that has never missed a beat and is like a work horse, but we wanted something simpler and lighter for the room front that became available when we found ourselves empty-nesters. Voila, a music room! Research was needed and a whole range of options presented themselves. We ruled out getting the McIntosh MT10 at $24,000 and set our goals about $23k lower. The best way to test a turntable is in store so you will need to find a proper dealer, like Audio Junction who advertise in this mag and who stock some of the turntables here. The other way is talk to friends who can give you advice and do a lot of research, as we have done. This is what we have come up with so far. It is by no means exhaustive, so suggestions and reports are welcome.


This update of the LP120USB features a new DC servo direct-drive motor, along with adjustable dynamic anti-skate

control and selectable phono preamplifier. That’s what you need if you don’t want to buy a separate pre-amp to connect to your stereo. It is a fully manual turntable plays 33-1/3, 45, and 78 RPM records and is equipped with a USB output that allows direct connection to your computer. It also looks a little like an SL 1200 which makes it seem a lot more expensive than it is. The belt drive AT range is available at several hundred dollars cheaper, including the LP60 in USB and Bluetooth models.

best budget turntable in the world. It runs a 24v, low noise, synchronous motor to reduce vibration transfer and the brand new RB110 tonearm. Rega claim that this successor to the RP1 is a completely new turntable and only shares the drive belt, sub platter and dust cover with the old model. The turntable also has a minimalist but futuristic look that makes it very attractive. (There only seems to be one niggle that is the difficulty in changing speeds from 33 1/3 to 45 by having to lift the platter).


TECHNICS SL1210 MK7 ($1599) / SL1500C $1849

This is Project’s belt-driven basic deck but it must do the job very well because it is getting really good reviews from hifi magazines. It is claimed to be easy to set up and seems like a good option for a first turntable. The Primary is belt-drive with an Ortofon quality cartridge, vibration absorbing feet, metal rather than plastic build, a light-weight, high-precision aluminium tonearm and a dust cover with adjustable hinges. Plus, it is hand-made in Europe. The Project Essential II USB is also on sale at $423 and offers that extra facility if you need it. There is also the Pro-Ject Rolling Stones Debut III Special Edition for $479 which gets you the band’s logo and name on the deck. A talking point at least.

Welcome back Technics. The new SL1200/1210 and SL1500C (now built in Malaysia not Japan) have direct drive motors, the trademark S-shaped arms, Ortofon cartridges and a built-in phono stages. They are manual so you will get some exercise. This turntable is also suited to those who want to play DJ and back-cue etc (make sure you get the right stylus for this). The new high-end SLs are beyond our budget and, so is this really, but if you have the funds then I can recommend it. If our current model is anything to go by this might be the last turntable you ever buy.


SONY PS-LX310BT $399

We have seen many great reviews for the Planar 1 and it seems to make just about every list of ‘best’ budget turntables. One reviewer called it the

This is what we got for work after a young relative recommended

it and it does the job very well. We wanted a turntable that had a Bluetooth connection plus USB to transfer vinyl to the computer and this fitted the bill. It is relatively easy to set up but even though all the plastic is a bit disturbing it seems sturdy and it sounds excellent. Plus, it has a built-in phono stage to connect to an amp if you need it (made redundant if you have an amp with Bluetooth). It is also fully automatic which is good if you fall asleep in the armchair! If you want something that is functional and that the kids will be able to operate then go for something like this.


The company says that this is “a step into the future with a tribute to the past.” This is designed for “a new generation of audiophiles,” who can use the futuristic MusicCast system and its multi-room capabilities. The 500 is a belt drive turntable with music streaming services builtin and Wi-Fi built-in including support for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands! The TT-S303 signalled the return of the Yamaha turntable and is a solid piece of equipment with a straight tonearm and rigid body. It is belt-drive with a switchable phono and line output (with a built-in phono EQ amplifier). Not as fancy as the 500 but a good starting point. 55


WAYNE JURY Wayne is a potent force in the blues and roots scene. His impassioned vocals, thoughtful lyrics and driving rhythm make him a standout. His latest recording It’s a New Day is a beauty and adds to his very fine catalogue. It must have been exciting to be signed to Alberts in the 90s. How did that come about and what did it mean to you? Yes, it was so good to be a part of that creative family. I was in a band called Black Cat Moan in Sydney. One of the guitar players – Bob Spencer got the gig in the Angels and in between touring both Bob and John Brewster would play BCM gigs. (John on harmonica). John and I started to write together and he initiated the deal with Alberts. Do you still play any of those early tunes? How has your writing changed or developed since those heady days? I still play a few of those tunes and rerecorded a couple. At Alberts everything had to go through George and Harry (Vanda and Young). George taught me to get to the essence both musically and lyrically. He was ruthless but how can you argue with George Young? These days I don’t write pop songs, so I do waffle on a bit more. Supporting the emotional intention with both the music and lyric is important to me. What initially turned you on to song writing, the guitar and the whole box and dice? My parents had a lot of 45’s and a few LPs - The Beatles, Stones, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry Live in Memphis. I loved the stories, the passion. British bands like Free and Led Zeppelin led me back to Howlin’ 56

Wolf, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. What really got me started as a songwriter was being pissed off about being banished to my room and writing a song about not being heard! It was liberating and gave me an outlet. Do I hear a reflection of your early Aussie Rock credentials in your current work? Something in the vocal phrasing and musical drive? In the 70’s on the road with a rock band at 17, in the middle of the Aussie rock coming of age, we kicked down the gate and gave

the finger to conservatism. It was a lot of fun and very hedonistic, that’s my history and some of it sticks. I am more courageous and honest as a writer these days; I also think a lot more about chords and melodic structure. The newest recording is a bit of a stylistic mixed bag, but I just write what I feel.

Let’s just imagine things are about to get back to semi-normality. What are your plans for It’s a New Day? The COVID 19 situation has further reduced the ability for musicians to sell music at gigs. It’s a new normal and finding ways to negotiate that is difficult. I’ll do a series of launch gigs in venues and online and use social media to tell people about It’s a New Day. Most artists of a ‘certain’ generation are coming under the umbrella of blues and roots now without delivering the traditional fare. What do you think the traditions bring to your work? Blues music underpins pretty much all the music we listen to today. I hear its influence everywhere. The I IV V chord progression is still a hub for writers and the call and response aspect of blues music is the foundation of musical interaction. The human condition is communicated though blues music and its derivatives. Working on new things? Pushing on into the brave new world? Music is my mental health tonic. I always have new songs and projects on the go. I do worry about the de-valuing of music in our society. The streaming services are changing the way musicians deliver music to people and they pay so little to the creators. I think we need to find a more equitable way of sharing music. The title track on It’s a New Day reflects my views on being dumbed down to accept convenience over content. Music is a great connector, it soothes the soul, facilitates empathy, creates community, to me it has a value beyond the commercial world.

By Martin Jones


It would be easy to dismiss Firefall as a less successful Eagles/CSNY imitation. Indeed, my luthier walked into the shop the other day, took one look at the album sleeve and concluded, “Ahmet Ertegun saw Crosby Stills and Nash and The Eagles and said, ‘I want one of those!’” That same luthier rang back two days later and said, “I can’t get those Firefall songs out of bloody head!” There’s more going on here than just breezy West Coast cadence and sunny harmonies. The credentials of Firefall’s founding members immediately suggest that this is not mere fluff (as fluffy as the aesthetics can appear at times). Both Rick Roberts and Michael Clarke were there for the birth of The Flying Burrito Brothers (Clarke also in The Byrds). Guitarist Jock Bartley was in Zephyr and was touring as a member of Gram Parson’s Fallen Angels when he met up with Roberts. They recruited guitarist Larry Burnett and bass player Mark Andes and recorded some demos with Chris Hillman (also of The Byrds, Burrito Brothers, etc). Hillman was also in Manassas and, at the time of forming Firefall, Rick Roberts was playing in Stephen Stills’ band so it’s not surprising to encounter the influence of Stills on this self-titled Firefall album; in fact, there is even a version of Stills’ ‘It Doesn’t Matter’. What is surprising is that it is presented by Roberts with a completely different set of lyrics, and the song is credited to Stills, Hillman and Roberts. Not sure how Roberts talked Stills into that! Roberts’ version revolves around the line “She was just lookin’ at you” and is a slower, prettier arrangement in the style of an Eagles ballad. Listening to songs like ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ and first single ‘Livin’ Ain’t Livin’’ you have to wonder how Firefall didn’t become as big as The Eagles. Multiple singers and songwriters (Larry Burnett was in inspired form with five contributions to the album) and first rate instrumentalists with a clear bent for a catchy song made for a striking debut.

The band went on the road with Fleetwood Mac on their massive Rumours tour, impressing Mick Fleetwood enough to interest him in taking over their management. Perhaps there were too many bands already plying a similar sound. Perhaps, as Roberts admits, it was that the band was “impossible to deal with,” and “probably raging jerks.” After touring their butts off for a few years and making three more albums, Luna Sea, Elan, and Undertow, the band began to crumble in a squall of fatigue, drugs and alcohol. After 1980’s Undertow, Clarke and Andes left the band, followed soon after by Burnett and then finally Roberts himself. Versions of the group have struggled on under the leadership of Jock Bartley to this day. However, Firefall remains a document of bright-eyed hope and coruscating song

crafting that you can hear resonating in modern artists. ‘Sad Ol’ Love Song’, for example, sounds uncannily like something Dan Parsons might have conjured (though Dan would have stopped short at the syrupy sax solo), and with its sunny swing and flute flourishes, ‘You Are The Woman’ could be an Autumn Defense recording. Then there’s ‘Mexico’, another Manassas ode, pushing Roberts’ vocals to a manic edge with a frenetic energy, an aggressive, surprising guitar solo and a mariachi trumpet break! ‘Do What You Want’ continues the more electric and energetic streak to close the album, a bluesy riff that Joe Walsh might have essayed. Is it ever even close to ground-breaking? Nup. Is it cheesy? Frequently. But once these songs get in your head they’re impossible to shake, so why fight it?


BY KEITH GLASS 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.

PRETTY THINGS Cross Talk WARNER BROS BSK 3466 1980 Handed this very copy to sign in October 2018, at the final show of their first everAustralian tour, singer PHIL MAY (R.I.P.) immediately reacted by saying it was his favourite of all (The) Pretty Things albums. Critical opinion for the most part (if not all) begs to differ and even I as a fan of their sixties work have trouble with comparing the two era’s. In the 60’s The PT’s were considered wilder than the Stones – at that time they never made it to Australia even though ‘Rosalyn’ and ‘Midnight To Six’ were charting 45’s (and performed by a plethora of local beat era bands.) Reason being they were thrown out of New Zealand and sent packing prior to arrival in Oz, for extremely bad behavior! 58

Then of course came arguably the first rock ‘concept’ album S.F.Sorrow and later a couple more fairly lackluster releases (IMO) for Swan Song. So by 1980 and the rise of New Wave what would you expect? Not too much, and coincidentally Cross Talk was fairly well ignored. Too late to ask now but it seems May (he wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 10 songs) was re-invigorated by the “Punk” movement and in particular the amazing first two albums of Elvis Costello. Gathering around a mostly new line-up but with the return of veteran (and founder member of The Rolling Stones) Dick Taylor, it seems May had a new lease of life. Straight ahead hard rocking songs with just a touch of quirky new wave sounds to set them apart aptly suited his limited but highly effective voice to a ‘T’. In Peter Tolson he’d also found exactly the right songwriting mate and guitarist. Admittedly ‘Pete’ had been there quite a while after leaving 60’s band Eire Apparent but here he really comes into his own as player and co-writer. On side one of the album the group still seems to be dealing with their legacy. The opener ‘I’m Calling’ is catchy and commercial but still a bit of a fence-sitting piece in style and execution. Slowly over the side (as if by design) the listener is taken in to a new place, new attitude. By Track 4, ‘Lost That Girl’, it’s New Boots and Panties and This Year’s Model all

the way, albeit this song also being a near rockabilly throwback with a call-out to (and fine solo) from co-founder member Dick Taylor. However there is no mere cash-in or copy. May is way too canny for that. He strives to write what is at once familiar and yet so removed from a rock star’s modus operandi. ‘Office Love’ has a sordid point of disdain to make of ‘normal’ lifestyles yet in a matter of fact way. Similarly ‘Falling Again’ loss by circumstance opportunities, It’s So Hard again harks to the harsh realities of a ‘real’ job and the final ‘No Future’ maybe an echo of The Sex Pistols wailing groundbreaking ‘Anarchy In The UK’ chorus line but this time is a much more seedy rough boy / middle class woman hook-up story as befits an ‘ageing’ rock star (approaching his 40’s) looking back. Did this release bring a new lease of life to the band? Not exactly, but to their credit they soldiered on through and beyond the CD era. The band that finally toured Australia had some of Phil’s kids as members. Alas, Phil has left us now forever saddled with that wilder than The Rolling Stones (but nowhere near as rich) mantle – at least those who remember the beginning think of them as near equals. One thing I’ll wager, this album doesn’t suffer by comparison to any Stones album of the 1980 era.






Grapefruit Records/Planet

Sunset Blvd Records/Planet

Over ten albums, frontman Eric Earley has made an art form of detailing his experiences in decidedly esoteric ways upon an Americana fuelled art-rock canvas. He’s not about to change now, and this song cycle deals with the notion of the bardo, “the state of intermediate existence between two lives on earth” – heady stuff, best encapsulated in the wistfully macabre “Dead Billie Jean”. As otherworldly as the narratives are, the alt-country flavoured melodies are heavenly, the overall sound divine.


Pressure Drop/Planet

If 2019’s Porch Sessions was a fine exercise in contemporary field recordings shared with a bevy of guests, Soul Service is all about Holiday’s vocals and harmonica chops taking centre stage. A smouldering fusion of soul and blues, he blows slow and soulfully on the simmering “It’s Gonna Take Some Time”, sashays through “Checkers On The Chessboard”, and dirties things up on “The Hustle”. With Charlie Musselwhite firmly in his corner, the sky would seem to be Holiday’s limit.



Perhaps only Louis Armstrong can lay claim to having as profound an effect upon musical generations as the imperious Roy Byrd, aka Professor Longhair. Taking its title from the nomenclature anointed on Fess by Allen Toussaint, this stunning 36-track compendium of demos and rarities stretches from “Bald Head (She Ain’t Got No Hair)”, a 1950 recording with His Blues Jumpers, to a stomping live rendition of ‘Tipitina” from the 70’s. In between is an ivory pounding masterclass in New Orleans r’n’b, his inventiveness, his genius still lighting the path for all who follow.



Emerging from the hotbed of the 1960’s Brumbeat scene, The Idle Race jostled with limited success despite critical acclaim. Hook-laden Beatlesque melodies, music hall sensibilities and offthe-wall flower-child lyrics failed to infiltrate the charts, yet The Idle Race’s place in rock lore is guaranteed courtesy of the start it gave its ebullient young frontman – Jeff Lynne. From here it was simply a matter of accepting Roy Wood’s offer to join fellow Brummies The Move, and onwards to global domination with ELO. The journey begins here.


True North/Planet

Starting out as a Jamaican mento singer in the early 1950’s, Aitken was a key figure in the global evolution of Caribbean music; not for nothing was he known as the Godfather Of Ska and Boss Skinhead, and later championed by the 2Tone movement. Front and centre of the UK’s reggae explosion as both a performer and producer, Aitken’s complete discography, covering mento/ calypso, reggae, ska, rock steady and dancehall is collected in this spectacular 5-disc package; when too much ska is never enough.


Vizz Tone/Planet

The benefit of hindsight! Without a hit for four years, the Kentucky siblings with the incomparable harmony recorded three albums (The Hit Sound Of…, Sing, Roots) that would polarise critical and public opinion. Re-evaluation now is something of a revelation, for as wildly eclectic and at times un-cohesive as the song choices are, history treats all three albums kindly. With a list of West Coast royalty including Glen Campbell, Larry Knechtel, Hal Blaine, James Burton, Ray Pohlman and Van Dyke Parks underscoring Don and Phil’s impeccable vocals, the brothers dispel the notion they were only a pop hit duo. Indeed, there’s a case to make they were in the country rock vanguard.

The precociously talented 18-year-old displays a musical maturity well in excess of her years. Branching out from her earlier jazz background, the teenager draws inspiration from several people, not least the complexity of her fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell’s jazzier escapades, as well as the likes of Carole King and the phrasing of Nina Simone. Ace producer Steve Dawson (another Canadian) took Rae to Nashville where this fine set was recorded in one take, and the results are truly impressive.

There’s nothing like taking your time; this instrumental blues quartet dabbled around the Boston scene for over twenty years before entering the studio, and then taking another decade to unleash them; the wait is well worth it. Roadhouse blues, Chicago blues, any old blues you like, these hombres can pump it out – as long as it’s instrumental. Richard Rosenblatt’s harmonica is the dominant force across the 14 tracks, but his three sidekicks are no less intrinsic to creating the overall feel good vibe, a set of unadorned pieces in the mood of blue; nice stuff. 59

IS WHERE THE ACTION IS By Christopher Hollow


from Stanley Kubrick’s war film, Paths of Glory, where a German prisoner (played by Kubrick’s wife, Christiane) decimates a room of jeering French soldiers with her singing. It is that type of song. Deep, heavy and emotional. Britta takes the lead vocal and, production-wise, Dean teams up with his old Galaxie 500 producer, Kramer, for the first time in 30 years. It’s a winning combo.



If you follow Australian singer Emma Swift on Twitter you get a spicy feed full of ideas, opinion, family fallout and cats. Unfortunately, her recorded self hasn’t yet been as forthright. (Tap into those obsessions and there’s a rip-roaring original album waiting to happen). Swift gave up reading the news on triple j to be an Americana singer-songwriter living in Nashville. She released an appealing selftitled EP in 2014 but, other than a couple of quality duet singles with partner, Robyn Hitchcock, it’s been a long wait, release-wise. Now comes a very intriguing concept: Dylan songs with a charismatic title, Blonde on the Tracks. I love Swift’s inspired choice of Bob’s most recent number ‘I Contain Multitudes’ (‘I fuss with my hair, and I fight blood feuds’) and there’s also a great version of ‘The Man in Me’ that adds some nice new layers of meaning. Another go-to highlight is the overlooked Planet Waves number, ‘Going Going Gone’, which, with its impulsiveness, feels the most autobiographical of the songs. ‘I been hanging on threads, I’ve been playing it straight,’ Swift sings. ‘Now, I’ve just got to cut loose before it gets late.’ Go!

The sacred-desert-mountain-sun meets white-cascading-jewelled-waters vibe is nailed on a great opening number, ‘Only Lonely’, with its notorious pedal-steel strokes. I can also hear whispers of Jimmie Skinner’s ‘Dark Hollow’ (as done by the Grateful Dead) in the song too. But there are other interesting echoes - ‘Real Long Gone’ has Dylan’s thin wild mercury drumbeat and you can’t listen to ‘Wee Hours’ or album closer, ‘Wildflowers’, without thinking about Dire Straits (in a good way, and it’s been a long, long while since that’s been the case for me).



Picture this: flicking through CD or vinyl racks, clocking this lurid album art, and thinking, ‘This is gotta be worth a listen’. Turns out, Rose City Band is Ripley Johnson’s latest ensemble (he of psychedelic outfits Wooden Ships and Moon Duo) and this time around, Johnson has gone down the Cosmic Americana route. 60

Now is the perfect time for Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips to take on one of our alternate national anthems: The Seekers’ ‘The Carnival is Over’. Of course, the song is about as Australian as a 19th Century Russian folk melody paired with Brit Tom Springfield’s 60s lyrics could be. Dean & Britta’s video utilises the incredible scene

Check out a pic of Damien Jurado - with that hang-dog face, tight-lipped mouth and intense eyes of Providence, this US songwriter looks like he should be in a Prohibition-era moonshine running film. He’d be the third heavy from the left, slow and a little unstable. When he does finally make a move, you wouldn’t know whether it was to shake hands or plug you with six fast bullets. Musically speaking, Jurado is a heavyweight deep into a 20-album career. Back in 2014, he released one of my fave albums of the decade - Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son – and he’s released a bunch of decent ones since. Here’s what I love: Jurado’s got a fascinating way of constructing songs. They feel amazing when you’re deep inside them. But, get to the end of the record, you’ll be hard pressed to remember which melody went with which title. But, listen again, and it’s the exact same joyous reaction, loving the moment. Here, ‘Birds Tricked into the Trees’ and ‘Ochoa’ are perfect examples of songs that send you. ‘Alice Hyatt’ and ‘Arthur Aware’ are the best examples of impossible titles to peg to their captivating creations.


Richmond Fontaine – Where Music Meets Literature When you talk about contemporary altcountry of the last few decades, one name is essential to the discussion – Portland Oregon’s Richmond Fontaine. The band, led by singer, guitarist and songwriter Willy Vlautin, were active from 1994 – 2016, with the core line-up of guitarist/pedal steel player Paul Brainard, bassist Dave Harding, guitarist Dan Eccles and drummer Sean Oldham. Together they released 11 studio albums and a number of live recordings. Though operating with the same musical tools as a million other country and rootsinfluenced rock bands, Richmond Fontaine stood out due to their perfectly executed form of songwriting, which took the stories and characters that one would normally find in Americana noir paperbacks and independent film. Within the space of a song they used that to create a deeply affecting storyline or a vivid, impressionistic snapshot of a scene in the lives of its characters. The band’s earliest releases such as Safety (1997) were primitive affairs musically. Straight out of The Replacements/R.E.M./ The Lemonheads playbook, they mixed indie rock with the midwestern jangle and strum of country rock. Vlautin’s voice was there from the beginning though. Never a versatile instrument, his singing is rarely more than a stone’s throw from melodic narration. The songs were noisier and looser but listen to that album’s title track or the closer Watsonville Waltz and you can hear the band’s core template and Vlautin’s narrative bent already in place. The following year on Lost Son, song

titles such as ‘Fifteen Year Old Kid In Nogales, Mexico’ and ‘A Girl In A House In Felony Flats’ peppered the track-listing. Vlautin knew he was onto a good thing. From 2002 onwards, Richmond Fontaine were in a league of their own. As the Americana scene blossomed they found themselves one of those names that was passed between fans. They weren’t getting the attention of Wilco, Ryan Adams or Drive-By Truckers but with magazines like Uncut in the UK featuring their music on CDs and giving them stellar reviews, the word quickly spread. That year’s Winnemucca and to a greater extent Post To Wire, released the following year, made a big splash, widening their audience and allowing them to tour internationally on the back of critical acclaim. In 2005 the band released The Fitzgerald and it presented a shift in their sound to more of an expansive, evocative and textured approach to their music. Violins, keyboards, accordion and harmonica added to slow-moving desert vistas with filmic qualities that had the effect of placing a greater focus on Vlautin’s lyrics. Words that detailed heartache, broken souls and the struggle of marginalised characters in places like Reno, Nevada and Mexico. Lines such as “Her husband’s fist, her swollen face, her broken ribs and missing hair” on the harrowing ‘The Janitor’ made it feel like a collection of short stories as much as an album of songs. It was no coincidence that the following year Vlautin released his first novel, the critically acclaimed Motel Life, which earned him

the title “the Dylan of the dislocated” (The Independent), plus literary comparisons to Steinbeck, Carver, Fante, and Denis Johnson. That was the start of a literary career that has seen another four novels published, with Motel Life and Lean On Pete successfully made into motion pictures. The band continued releasing albums, with Thirteen Cities (2007), considered by many to be their artistic peak in terms of blending Vlautin’s literary qualities with the band’s melodic and melancholic beauty, that sweetspot where music meets literature. Increasingly though, Vlautin appeared to be spending more time writing and in 2012 he formed The Delines, including singer Amy Boone and Richmond Fontaine members Freddy Trujillo and Sean Oldham. With Boone taking lead vocals it allowed Vlautin to step back from being the front-person and singer and focus on the songwriting. The group’s swansong album, You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, was as majestic as everything else they released and they went out on a high, with Vlautin stating, “We’ve stopped with a record that we all really like and it’s one of my favourites. We all get along so well, but it’s getting harder and harder to get each guy in the van.” (The Independent). As a last parting gift, they surprised fans with one more additional album, Don’t Skip Out On Me, the beautiful instrumental soundtrack to Vlautin’s most recent novel. Fittingly it signalled the final separation between the music and the literature of the band Richmond Fontaine. 61

Billy Pinnell



EVERY ONE OF US When The Animals imploded towards the end of 1966 Eric Burdon lost no time in putting together a new group to be called Eric Burdon & The Animals. Relocating to California, Burdon, drummer Barry Jenkins (who'd replaced John Steel in the original Animals), guitarists Vic Briggs (ex-Brian Auger's Trinity) and John Weider (formerly with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and Family), keyboard player Zoot Money (credited as George Bruno) and bass guitarist Danny McCulloch who played with Screaming Lord Sutch and The Carl Douglas Set, hit the ground running with a quartet of Top 10 singles - 'San Franciscan Nights' and 'When I Was Young' (1967), 'Monterey' and 'Sky Pilot' (1968) - and as many albums. Long out of print, two of these strange, musically adventurous albums recently re-released in a four CD Box Set with Winds of Change (1967) and The Twain Shall Meet (1968) are nothing like anything Burdon had recorded with his old band. While maintaining his black American R&B influences, Burdon's embracing of the hippy ideal found him exploring psychedelia, jazz, melodramatic covers of 1960's hits and epic-like pieces with spoken word sections. The final track of Every One Of Us, 'White Houses' mixes political statements (urban sprawl, displacement of Native Americans, safe sex, distorted television coverage) over a Latin rhythm and a blistering guitar solo. 'Uppers and Downers', a 20-second recitation based on 'The Grand Old Duke of York' segues into Weider's

glorious jazz instrumental 'Serenade to a Sweet Lady.' Anchored by the band's versatile rhythm section, another Latin groove lays a sympathetic foundation allowing for both guitar players to shine. Most of the soloing during the first half presumably from Briggs on acoustic guitar eventually morphs into a paean to jazz legend Wes Montgomery. Weider's chiming chords in support of Briggs and his own solos towards the end of the track are equally impressive. Burdon, who doesn't appear anywhere, was obviously well aware of the quality and virtuosity of his new musicians, this wasn't the last time he would generously allow them to take centre stage. The album's following track 'The Immigrant Lad' tells the folky tale of a Newcastle lad (Burdon) who escapes the life of a coal miner's son to sail down the River Tyne to London in an attempt to find his girlfriend. The second half of the song is a pub conversation between the newly arrived Geordie and a Cockney local who explains the many pitfalls that lay ahead of the newcomer. As the publican declares 'time gentlemen please' the band leap into Burdon's cynical rocker 'Year of The Guru' an expose on the 'follow the leader ' mentality of the 1960's inspired by the Beatles' misguided admiration of the Maharishi. Brilliantly arranged, the buzzing guitars and Money's upfront piano push Burdon's vocals to the limit, his 'being the leader is really where it's at, but just how long can a good thing last' ringing true to this day. On the New Orleans' blues anthem ‘St James Infirmary' popularised by Louis Armstrong in the late 1920's, Burdon demonstrates yet again his ability to interpret classic black American music as well as any white singer of his time, of any time. The final track on Everyone One of Us, the 19-minute 'New York 1963 - America1968' begins with the tale of Burdon's epic journey from Newcastle to London and New York. 'And when I got to America it blew my mind,' he declares in a folky style backed by soft jazzy guitars and Jenkins' pulsating drums. He recalls finding Harlem's Apollo Theatre, meeting his first American girlfriend, hearing of President Kennedy's assassination and seeing a young Bob

Dylan for the first time in Greenwich Village. Then comes a conversation with a black ex-fighter pilot who talks about growing up in the ghetto, racism and his search for self-expression. The track is pretty much a political speech and was quite a bold step on what was essentially a mainstream rock album. Finally, the song moves into a long jam and a debate between Burdon and Zoot Money on their quest for personal freedom. Soon after the release of this album, Briggs and McCulloch jumped ship, to be replaced by guitarist Andy Summers, (later to make his name with The Police), who'd been playing with Soft Machine, while Money took over on bass. For the 1969 release of Love Is, Burdon took on a more mainstream approach reverting to his soul and R&B roots. The material includes re-workings of 'River Deep Mountain High' with Burdon changing the lyrics somewhat while repeatedly endorsing the song's original singer Tina Turner. He shines again on the Johnny Cash hit 'Ring of Fire' offering a passionate reading of June Carter's lyric. The Bee Gees' 'To Love Somebody' featuring an unnamed female vocal chorus is the band's tribute to Otis Redding for whom the song was originally written. Traffic's ‘Coloured Rain' punctuated by a brass section includes an outstanding Andy Summers solo. Both guitarists (Weider was still in the band) dominate the Bobby 'Blue' Bland classic 'As The Years Go Passing By' each taking long solos while Sly Stone's 'I'm An Animal' is great fun with Burdon again changing the lyrics, declaring 'I'm an animal of the English kind! Eric Burdon who turned 79 in May of 2020, continues to tour and record.




Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl Charley Crockett was forced to cancel his Australian tour last year because he suddenly found out he needed open heart surgery, that ended up saving his life. Rather than take it easy after recovering he threw himself back into his work, recording a new album saying that he “wanted to make an album that would change the entire conversation about country music.” Welcome to Hard Times is the 8th album in five years for the distant relative of Davy Crockett. It is also the title of a 1968 Henry Fonda Western and was produced by Mark Neill, who has worked with the Black Keys and JD

McPherson and heard the album’s songs as a movie soundtrack. In fact, when I caught up with Charley by phone to talk about the album, he was out in Colorado busy shooting a video for the second single, ‘Run Horse Run.’ I love the video for your first song from the new album and you’re continuing on the short films. That’s right. That’s what we’re doing. When I played all my little tunes for Mark - I like to call him Dr. Neill because, he’s the best - and he said, “Man, this is visual music. It’s cinematic. We’re going to make a movie for the blind, and then, you’re going to go out and get visuals to match that audio movie.” That’s what I’m set out to do, and I’m not necessarily educated in any of this stuff, but because it’s my life, I think I can get out and paint a picture for people that they can understand what I’ve done. So, I want to know about Charley Crockett, a young guy and at 17 his mum buys him a guitar. You teach yourself to play guitar and pretty much, within that year, you leave home and hit the road. Is that the story?

Yeah, that’s right. My mama got me this Hohner guitar out of a pawn shop in South Irving. That’s a small town, outside of Dallas, Texas. And I wasn’t any good at it, but I started playing it and I just took to the road, because I had been getting in a lot of trouble, in my life. I used to ask my mama, I’d say, “Mama, am I any good at this?” And she would say, “Well, son, I’ll tell you this. When you sing, people believe you.” She wasn’t going to lie to me and tell me I was any good. But she knew that I had something to say. I got out on the highway, and that’s all I started out with. I’m a slow learner, but I stick to something for a long time. I’m like, a late bloomer. So, I done stuck to it. I was 17, I’m 36, that’s nearly 20 years, Miss Denise, just rambling, messing around with the guitar. At this point, I got it down, for country music and blues. And learning to play by the ear, and picking songs up off of other street players, and blues musicians and people in honky-tonks and beer joints, and stuff. I done figured out my thing. And when I was younger, I was influenced in the Valley and stuff, and living in Dallas and all that, I was influenced by what my mama was listening to. And she listened to a lot of folk music, and a lot of old jazz and blues, a lot of old rock and roll. She had a lot of really cool CDs, and stuff she liked listening to in the car, and all that stuff and that just kind of bled into me. So, when I got out on the street, I was playing a lot of soul, and R and B, and all of that type of stuff, which I still carry all that music with me. But when I started hearing folk music and traditional music, and all the different types of stuff that travellers was playing on the street, I fell in love with the old time sound. Blues and honky-tonk, and swing. And just, gospel music. All of those things that make up American music. Well, I should mention that, a couple of your friends are Dan Auerbach and Dan McLaughlin, who have co-written with you on this album. So, it’s all sounding pretty good to me, this album. An album of heartbreak songs, right? From different perspectives and different people, in different situations. Hey, I don’t know, I’ve been through a lot. My heart was literally broken, for real. So, it’s like, I’m talking about heartbreak in a lot of ways. I think everybody in the world understands that, and you can relate a lot of life’s trials and tribulations, to love and loss. Ain’t nobody in the world don’t know about heartbreak. Ain’t nobody in the world don’t know what it is to truly be in love. Welcome to Hard Times is out now through Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl. 63





Gretchen Peters’ tribute to Mickey Newbury steps outside the mould of the usual covers album in that it not only showcases the great writing of a relatively unknown artist – to the mainstream audiences – but resurrects songs that a really worth revisiting – or for many people, discovering. Newbury might be best known for singing ‘An American Trilogy’ – a medley of songs that he didn’t write but that Elvis Presley

adapted and performed on Aloha From Hawaii. But there were plenty of great songs to issue from Newbury’s pen and many of them are showcased here, especially some from his acclaimed trio of albums from 1969 – 1973: Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy and Heaven Help The Child. Peters is also a long-time fan of Newbury’s. In fact, she shares a lot with him. They were both successful songwriters before pursuing solo careers and they both ended up going to Nashville (decades apart). She brings an affection to the album that is evident from the first song and she interprets the songs to bring new meaning to them. Not only that, Peters recorded at Cinderella Studio, where Newbury recorded his great trio of albums in the late 60s/early 70s. Guests include Buddy Miller, studio founder and legendary guitarist Wayne Moss (Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt), Country Music Hall of Famer and renowned harmonica player Charlie McCoy (Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley), Will Kimbrough, Barry Walsh (Peters’ husband) and more. Can you tell us how you first became a fan of Mickey Newbury? How did you first get to know his music? Well, I was just discovering country music when I was about 18, 19 years old. I lived in Boulder, Colorado. I really had grown up listening to rock and roll and folk music. I didn’t really know much about country music, but I had started sort of discovering it. There was a guy that had a record store in the university area there who knew this and he had lived in Nashville. He would just shove a bunch of records into my arms and say, you need to go listen to this. He was the beginning of my education and I just kept noticing Mickey Newbury’s name on a lot of the records, that was a songwriter. So, at some point I asked him who this guy, Mickey Newbury was, and he gave me his solo albums and I was blown away. I was blown away that he wasn’t a huge star. Because his albums were just stellar. They were great. But I was really enchanted with his voice. It wasn’t even his songs at first, although that came later for me, but it was those records and that voice, there was something about him that really spoke to me. I think he was kind of a bit like a bridge, because he had a folky side to him. He was a little bit of a bridge from folk music to country music in a way. He wasn’t George Jones. He was some kind of a hybrid. Really, I think he was genre-less. At one point, I think he’s the only song writer that’s ever done this, but he had a number one song on four different charts. If that doesn’t tell you something about his ability to stretch between genres, I don’t know what does.

He was said to be the first hippie cowboy and apparently convinced Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt to become songwriters. Yes - and to come to Nashville too. He really was a forerunner to all of those guys. If you were to be able to ask Guy and Townes and Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, and a lot of others that were considered Outlaws, who were their big influences Mickey’s name would invariably come up. But somehow, he’s not as well-known as they are. I think honestly, that was one of the reasons I wanted to make the record was I feel like people should know who Mickey was. They should know his music. In some ways your career parallels Mickey’s in that you both moved to Nashville and you were both songwriters before you became singers and recording artists in your own right. Right. I identified with him a lot that way once I got to town especially, because I didn’t really think of myself as someone who was going to move to Nashville and write songs for other people. I didn’t even really know that that was a job description honestly. I patterned myself after all the singer songwriters that I loved. I wanted to sing. I wanted to record. I wanted to tour. I wanted all of it. I wanted to play. But I found success as a songwriter first. I don’t know how exactly Mickey went about it. But I feel like he was always an artist. I feel like you can listen to those records and you can hear the artist in there. But those guys back in the day when he came to town, the way that you made rent money was to get a publishing deal. Well, the other parallel is that you both had really successful songs for other people before you started your careers. Yes, absolutely. I felt the fact that his records never did well commercially, but he was on a path, there’s no question. He kept recording, he kept going on the road. And he really went independent really early, early on. That was inspiring to me. I suppose a lot of people would know him because of Elvis’s recording of American trilogy, but he wrote a hell of a lot of songs over the years, didn’t he? Yes. Ironically American trilogy is his most recorded piece of work and it’s a medley, but he did not write any of the songs in the medley, which I think is ironic because the rest of his catalogue is so astonishing. It’s huge. The other one I think that people know is ‘Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In.’ It’s melodic and if they don’t know Mickey, most people know that one. But the catalogue of songs that he wrote is just, it’s vast.

Would Frisco Mabel Joy be his most acclaimed album? He did three albums around the same time, the late sixties, early seventies, didn’t he? I think so. And those three albums that you’re talking about were made at Cinderella studio where we recorded this album. And they’re considered, I think his three finest albums. He was on a roll. But I think Frisco Mabel Joy probably would be considered, for a lot of people, the classic. I know that Will Kimbrough, who played on my album, for him Looks Like Rain, which is I think, well, it’s in those three. I’m not sure what the order was, but that’s another one that’s considered one of his great works. But Frisco Mabel Joy is just a masterpiece. So how did you choose the songs, particularly the title track, ‘The Night You Wrote That Song’. How did that come about and where did you find that? I found that on a later album and I thought, I always loved it, but I also thought that’s the perfect title for this album, because of the line “you never knew how right you were the night you wrote that song.” I just really went for the songs that I loved and that I felt I could bring something to. So, that included songs that were very popular, like ‘Just Checked In To See What Condition’ and ‘San Francisco, Mabel Joy.’ It also included some pretty obscure songs that not many people have probably heard. You recorded it in the same studio that Mickey recorded in and you used some of the same musicians, including the legendary Charlie McCoy. Yes, and what a treat it was having him come into the studio. I wanted as much connection as I could with the people that knew Mickey and worked with him. My husband, Barry has had such a long career as a musician before he was a session musician for 20 years before that he was a touring musician, played with Waylon, played with Roy Orbison and lots of people. Charlie played with not just Mickey Newbury but Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and just everyone. So, that connection was really important to me. It was really great. We told a lot of stories. The first time I went into the studio, I don’t think I recorded a thing, I just sat with Wayne for an hour and a half and talked to him and got him to tell him stories about what it was like. That was so meaningful to me and it was so great to make those connections. I have a lot of reverence for those musicians being around that long and still doing it. It’s just really inspiring to me. Mickey had a very interesting outlook on life and a bit of a wry sense of humour as well, even on a song like ‘She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye’.

I think that there’s so much humanity in that song. He definitely had a wry sense of humour. Very dry. You could almost miss it if you weren’t really paying attention. Also, in that, similarly, is this incredible empathy. I mean it’s a breakup song, he’s losing this woman. And yet he empathizes with her, in the song he says, “we both know she tried” I mean that line to me, that line kills me because it’s just so revealing of him and where he’s coming from. On the other hand, a song like “Heaven Help the Child” when you listen to the lyrics, they’re as relevant today as when he recorded them, aren’t they? Very much so. We were in the studio recording that and when the line came up, “we’re all building walls, they should be bridges”. My husband looked at me and he said, God, this could have been written last week. It’s just, it’s so relevant. But then again, that’s the thing about great songs is they prove themselves to be relevant over and over again. Over the course of decades sometimes. Are you hoping that your album will bring a little bit more attention to Mickey? I know there’s been a previous tribute album. I hope so. What I felt was that, I know that a lot of my fans and listeners probably don’t know much about him. I thought, well there’s a group that I can bring to the fold and I envy them the joy of discovering all of his records. It was a labour of love. I’ve been wanting to make this record for over 10 years. So, it was something I thought about a lot, and long, and hard about. I would be thrilled to be able to make connections with some of the Mickey Newbury fans, because I felt such an affinity for him. That’s important to me. I think the older I get and the more I do this music thing, the more I realize it’s all about connection. One of the things that makes me happiest is feeling the connection to the people that inspired me. It’s a continuum.





Los Angeles-based musician Alex Izenberg talks about his first album in four years. As a musician, with the world going into lockdown, your livelihood was almost obliterated overnight, with your ability to share your music in the live setting, gone. How have you missed that important aspect of your craft, that sharing of both music and energy with a live audience? It sucks, I was looking forward to start playing shows, but people’s safety is more important than a concert, even if you are Bob Dylan, ha ha. If this whole virus gets contained soon enough though I’d like to play shows though, I mean that’s obviously like one of the main ways to turn people on to your music no matter who you are. I imagine that music has played a large part in getting you through these times… how has that manifested itself? It hasn’t really changed my relationship with music. Music is my wife and when you have a spouse it’s till death does you apart. NME could come out and say I’m the worst musician alive, but it will just make me fall in love with music even more. Every musician is in the same boat right now, it’s really just an opportunity to create more music and continue to grow as an artist. To my mind, this is an incredibly important time for people to be making and ingesting art, perhaps more important than ever before… your thoughts? 66

Like I said before it hasn’t really changed for me personally but I’m also a privileged white guy so who am I to say? I think black artists are getting more write ups about music stuff they do, so I mean that’s good. My relationship with music is fine. Speaking of art, we have from you a new record in Caravan Chateau, your second release after 2016’s Harlequin. I gather it’s been some time in the making, that the whole ‘difficult second album’ thing became an issue. Tell me where you were at, prior to beginning work on this new record? I can’t really remember ha ha, it’s been a minute. I felt pressure to improve but that’s natural even if you get good reviews even though the critics are very irrelevant. I started listening to more new music after my first record came out but I can’t put my finger on it, I just wanted to move forward with my art. What then changed, and had you in the right space to begin creating again? I don’t know I was just excited to be releasing music on such an esteemed label as Domino as I still am now. I like to stay focused on music and not pay too much attention to other musicians I see and meet, it usually makes me upset because I’m very anti-social and I like being at home and being in my bubble and eating good food. At that early point, what was your vision for the record? I wanted to make a record as good as Crack Up by Fleet Foxes. When that record came out it turned my world upside down. The lyrics just hit my soul like a ton of bricks and they still do to this day and it made me want to push myself to make a record that good if not better. I’ve read that, in the interim, the album came together over three years, was recorded in four different studios, with four different producers. This, to me, seems quite disjointed and perhaps distracting how was it for you? Yeah, it was natural at the time because that’s all I knew. I mean it really had to do with circumstance, my friends have cool studios and they’re down to make music with me so I’m very lucky in that way. It was what it was I don’t know if I’ll ever do it like that again but I think it turned out for a good album in the end. A few of the people you worked with included Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear) and Jonathan Rado (Foxygen) - what’d they bring to the album? Chris Taylor is one of my heroes so it was really cool getting to work with him and collaborate on my songs. He was super nice

and very respectful and considerate of my needs for the songs. It was cool, I’d like to work with him again eventually. Working with Rado was cool but we only spent one day in the studio together, so it was pretty brief. I didn’t sleep the night before, so I was in like zombie mode, but it turned out for a good song I think. As you began nearing the end of the process, how had your vision changed? That’s a tough one. For one thing there were a ton of B sides to the album that didn’t make it, ha ha. I think I was just excited to be closer, closer to finishing the thing. After all it took a while to come together so I think I was just excited to share it with people. Caravan Chateau is a very mixed bag in a sonic sense: sounds and styles are layered all throughout (I particularly liked the odd blues and country motifs) It would have required a deft touch to get it right, and sounding as it does, yes? I don’t really hear any country on the record, ha ha. And yes, I’m pretty deft! It wasn’t hard though I mean it wasn’t an obsessive process like someone like Tame Impala or someone, it just came together organically, and I stand by the music. It is eclectic though I agree, that’s just the product of working on a bunch of different studios over the course of a few years and picking my favourite songs. Your vocal is very much front and centre, an instrument in itself - was this a conscious decision? Yeah, I love the voice as an instrument. Specifically, bands like The Beach Boys and The Beatles do it for me because vocals are what made those bands, for me anyways. It’s not all about the vocals in my songs though at least for every song. It’s about creating a mood. Lastly, what’s next for you? I’m working on a new album right now with my neighbour at his studio. No commute - so that’s cool.




Accommodating his wife’s desire to live closer to the grandchildren and somewhere warm – they’d lived in Medlow Bath in the NSW Blue Mountains for a decade – singersongwriter Allan Caswell has been living on the Gold Coast for a year now. Medlow Bath, population just over 600 souls, probably reminded Caswell a little of Gwernaffield, the little town halfway up a mountain in north Wales where his mum, dad and brother Brian lived before the family headed off to the other side of the world in 1966, when he was 14. By then he’d already been writing songs for a year he tells me. He couldn’t have imagined that, 54 years later, there would be more than 750 recordings of songs that he’d written or cowritten, let alone that he could now boast 20 Allan Caswell albums under the belt. Or his winning an eighth Golden Guitar, 40 years after receiving his first. Like its predecessor, 2018’s Mexico, Tequila Amnesia was produced by multiinstrumentalist and member of Frankstonbased Americana group Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes, Damian Cafarella. This time however, Cafarella has also played everything on the album and cowritten three of the songs, duetting with Caswell on one of them, ‘Waste of Good Whiskey’, a hilarious “good ol’ boy” tune with the requisite weeping guitars as an old drunk advises a young drunk of what it is that makes women tick. Thankfully, not every singer-songwriter sings of their own lives! Some Caswell songs are personal of course, others are, well just telling stories, just enjoying the process of writing songs – and he loves writing songs. And it shows. “‘Too Blue For Right Now’ is really personal,” Caswell admits, “because I wrote it the day after mum’s funeral last year and that’s what it’s about. Grumpy Old Pickers Like Us pretty much sums up my attitude to the ageist music industry” – there’s a great line in that song: ‘We’re critically acclaimed and corporate proof’ – “But a song like Hard Time And Struggle was just (Queensland singersongwriter) 8 Ball Aitken and I going crazy writing this really bent take on those talking songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s like Big Bad John and Ringo, stuff like that. We just wanted to see how it would turn out if we tried to do that, you know. So, some of them are my stories, some of them are other people’s. It’s interesting comparing what I do with

people like (fellow singer-songwriters) Pat Drummond and Graeme Connors. When Pat writes, he writes like a journalist – I know that’s his thing that he does, but he always writes from the outside and describes the action, whereas I write from the heart out. If I’m writing someone else’s story, it’s basically a form of method acting, so I become that character and react to those situations as if I was that person. If I’m writing for a woman to sing, I write it like a man so that when she sings it she sounds strong. If I’m writing for a man, I write it like a woman so that he feels it sensitively.” That approach to his subject matter is particularly clear in a song titled ‘Bastards at the Bar’, which anyone who’s played to an indifferent crowd will “get” straightaway. “The reason we took the female perspective on that,” he explains, “it was based on a lot of mine and Drew’s friends who are girls who are out there trying to do a solo thing in pubs and having to put up with crap. I’m in a position where I can do stuff to get their attention but I don’t have to put up with the extra stuff that’s dumped on young girls. It’s more an attack on the Bogan men of Australia. What was that saying? How do you make a dickhead? Just apply alcohol!” There’s one line I particularly love: “She’s out of time and out of tune with the pokies in the other room.” Tequila Amnesia opens with a beautifully poignant song titled ‘The Love I Leave Behind’, which addresses that whole thing about mortality and the choices we have with regards to the kinds of legacies we leave behind. It’s the sort of song I suppose you might expect to be written by a songwriter of a certain age, and Caswell is certainly aware of that – “When you get to my age, every album’s potentially your last album, so I make a point on every album of getting together with people I really like write with, people that would something different, something special.” But the story behind ‘The Love I Leave Behind’ – and like all good singersongwriter albums, regardless of genre, Tequila Amnesia is all about storytelling – goes a little deeper. “I wrote it with Drew McAlister and we started it three days before my step-father died and finished it three days afterwards and I actually read the lyric as the eulogy at his funeral. Then Graeme Connors was doing an album – basically the concept of his album was he wanted to do an album of all his favourite songwriters and I was really proud that he wanted to do one of mine. Anyway, I sent him this song

and he loved it, recorded it and it became the closing song of his show for over a year, and it’s been used at several funerals. It’s kind of weird to open an album with a funeral song, but it’s about life, you know? I’m really proud of that song and so is Drew. So, it’s actually my Graeme Connors cover, but I don’t suppose it counts as a cover when I wrote it!” And about that whole genre thing – like all good Allan Caswell records, and this is a very good Allan Caswell record, because it’s all about telling stories, and every story is different, every song is different. Long ago, The Beatles taught the world they weren’t just a pop band and made the most amazingly diverse collection of albums to prove it. It’s a lesson Caswell took to heart. “An Allan Caswell album for me is, okay, it’s gonna be like a traditional country album, but that’s so not limiting. I can do a bluegrass track, I can do a bush ballad if I want to, I can have honkytonk songs, I can have ballads – I can have anything. Every album I do, I try and get all these bits on because it’s fun. My whole thing about writing songs, I want to touch people in some way, so they feel something, whether that’s making them laugh, cry or whatever – I just want to get some emotion happening. The best example is The Love I Leave Behind. The Graeme Connors version and my version of the same song are totally different. And for me, that’s what makes it work. As a songwriter, all you’re doing is presenting the raw material for the artist, and it’s up to them to be creative on top of that and turn it into their record.”




Bandcamp Nick Shoulders Is Putting The ‘Try’ In Country And Calls It Unamericana!

If you go out in the woods today…well if you happen to be anywhere near the Ozarks or Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas, there’s a good chance you’ll hear some dude yodelling and whistling amongst the mountain ranges. And there’s a good chance it could be Nick Shoulders, the Ozark songbird, the Ouachita warbler…Yep, he yodels, whistles, warbles, and while is fresh and relevant it’s drenched in the old traditions of country music. I spoke to Shoulders while he was packing his car to leave New Orleans and head back to the comfort of the backwoods of Arkansas to wait out the pandemic. Tell me about where yodelling came from to you, because it seems like an unusual thing for a young guy to be picking up and putting in his music, although it works… Well, thanks I got to grow up with a lot of space and with a lot of space, you get more comfortable in volume. We have a whooping call that we’d do across to each other as kids, and that’s sort of how whooping yodel call thing ... I figured out I could make my voice break, do that little jump. I started really getting into traditional country and seeking out more of that. I started to realise that some of that traditional country seemed to be informed by that same skillset, by having all that space. You learn how to make your voice do funny things. So, I kind of started applying what I picked up doing that to the old country I was listening to. By 17, I was just sort of a Hank Williams impersonator. Being influenced by Hank Williams makes a lot of sense, how about Slim Whitman? And to take it a little further, the movie Mars Attacks, it was Whitman’s voice that was used to repel the aliens… 68

Yeah. That totally inspired me as a kid because I watched a bunch of sci-fi and horror movies and monster movies and stuff. Of course, I was obsessed with Mars Attacks when it came out. I had a little tape recorder and I would tape record my favourite theme songs in movies, so whatever weird thing I was into at the time. One of them happened to be Slim Whitman in Mars Attacks. That got me started on it and I started to realise my family knew a lot of that music. My grandparents all sing and play instruments and do stuff. So, I got this window into, “Oh, this isn’t just a Tim Burton movie. There are people that you’re close to that know this music.” So, I went from sci-fi to the woodland yelp and then also having that family connection. So, tell me about your family, were they musicians playing southern country music? Yeah, more or less. My grandparents on my mother’s side down in Arkansas, they were singers. They did old deep south gospel kind of stuff and some country, but mostly old weird warbly deep south gospel music. Then my grandfather on my dad’s side was a fiddle player and he was just a multiinstrumentalist. He played a lot, but they all sang. It’s the most important thing that they did. That’s been my real takeaway from that is being able to hear them when I was young, singing and take that sort of style and run with it. I did read a quote from you that said… “When you hear my voice, you’re hearing the accumulation of thousands of hours of listening to old, weird country music.” That is entirely accurate. Yes, I have to admit that is ... Yeah, a candid admission because that also means admitting to thousands of hours doing nothing but listening to old country, which I don’t think a lot of people do. Tell us about some of the weird country music ... Slim Whitman, I suppose we

shouldn’t call him weird, but what he was doing vocally was pretty out there, as we’ve established. It’s something that is quite traditional. Anything else that was a major influence in your yodelling and whistling? Well, the whistling is something I picked up from my dad. Then his dad and grandfather apparently were also good whistlers. That’s something I’ve been hearing my whole life, but as far as really weird old country performers, I discovered The De Zurik Sisters A.K.A. The Cackle Sisters a few years ago. They’re totally out there. They make crazy bird noises and they harmonise their yodel. They do really bizarre sounds. When I was listening to it, I was like, “Oh, crap. This is totally what I used to do,” making novelty sounds, impersonating chickens and whipper wills. The things that I could hear. I’ve realised that there has to be just this type of nerd that exists out there that I happen to be one of that absorbs these sounds. I guess they’ve got bowerbirds and I guess I’m just a bowerbird that makes weird Ozark sounds and I picked up on them. So, you’ve only been Nick Shoulders the yodelling whistling country singer for the past few years. So, to get started you hit the road and travelled around in your van house with your 130-pound dog Moose. That’s the story. Yeah. I went out west after a whole lifetime in Arkansas of being an Arkansas guy and tried out California and Washington and Oregon and just played a bunch of street music. I was living out of the van and busking for tips. That really kind of helped me realise there’s a lot more people out there that listen to weird traditional country music and want to hear stuff that’s rooted in that style. I had to leave the south to know people wanted to hear it. I’m sure busking on street corners yodelling and whistling and singing your songs would have attracted some attention?

That was immediate feedback. I played in a bunch of different types of bands. I’ve been in metal bands, punk bands, a bunch of random stuff. Mostly been a drummer. I took the songs that you’re hearing now in their infant stages and was playing them in front of strangers for tips while it’s raining. Very unfun circumstances. I was getting just very positive feedback and I was like, “Whoa. I thought this stuff was kind of corny and novelty,” and I was not really stoked on it. I thought people thought this was a little antiquated, and then it turns out folks are really into it. So, it’s been nice… I feel like all these things that I wasn’t necessarily excited about when I was young are now things that I can own and be into. You’ve made New Orleans home for the past few years and become part of the local music scene. Tell us about that scene. Well, I cannot overstate the quality of company I keep down here. I’m so grateful for the city for taking me in and helping me put music out, but also I’m a drummer, so I get to play music for my friends and be

in their band. Like Sabine McCalla, I play drums for her, and our band Sabine and the Dew Drops got to tour last summer, but really what’s cool about New Orleans’s “country music,” whatever you want to call country music, is it’s got this rhythm and blues backbeat on it. It’s got the influence of southeast Louisiana. It’s not just strictly honky tonk. It’s honky tonk with a little dirt on it. So, it’s got that New Orleans flavour to it, but I actually made a Spotify playlist if anybody out there is curious in that regard. It’s just called Unamericana, and it’s all New Orleans dirty country artists. All the stuff that I get to hear on a regular basis and be a part of and play with. You released the album Okay, Crawdad with your band Okay Crawdad. How does it feel to make a record of your songs? Yeah. Wonderful. So, I didn’t have much experience with taking music from an idea all the way to a full-length album. this was really pretty wild to get in and do it, but we knocked it out all live and to tape. It happened in about four days. We just did the dang thing. I can’t overstate also the quality

of the band. We made a record. I didn’t really expect it to happen as quickly as it did, but folks have been responding incredibly positively, and the stuff on YouTube and whatnot that’s been taking off is just beyond my wildest dreams. The album was initially only released digitally. Are there plans for other formats like vinyl, cd, etc? I still am a one-man operation. I’m the merch, the design, the booking, all of it for this entire band. Since things have blown up in the last couple months and there’s been more attention, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Yeah. Where’s the vinyl? Where’s the CDs and the tapes?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s just me.” I’ve got to gather this stuff and pay for it. Whatever happens, I’ll let y’all know. Essentially, I was playing dance shows in New Orleans and now people all over the world want to hear and talk about the music, and that’s amazing, but it’s happening very quickly. Nick Shoulders & Okay Crawdad’s Okay, Crawdad Is Out Now, And Available Via Bandcamp 69

CD: General COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS OLD FLOWERS Fat Possum Records / Inertia

The evolution of one of the most consistently rewarding songwriters in recent years continues with this devastating treatise and rumination on heartbreak, despair and emotional renewal. Courtney Marie Andrews has taken the tried and true subject of the end of a long-term relationship and bled new life into it with a sharpened pen and plenty of melodies that are full of sublime grace and beauty. Old Flowers is Andrews’ reflection, dissection and way out of a nine year relationship in which “we taught each other, grew up together, we were family.” Her approach is to use a minimal instrumental palette of sparse drums, guitar and piano – the bare minimum to provide a canvas for her lyrics. There are lines that hang heavy in the air – “Distance doesn’t help” (‘Break The Spell’), “Will I ever let love in again, I may never let love in again” (‘Carnival Dream’) and “You stay with me, you never really go” (‘Together Or Alone’). Across the album she’s singing to her ex-partner but she’s really singing to herself. She’s processing and looking for answers and understanding, and ultimately the feeling that the album creates from its creative catharsis is one of strength, optimism and independence. CHRIS FAMILTON 70


Everything that’s truly timeless and magical about the popular music that America has given the world in the past 50-odd years is here to be savoured, to amaze and inspire and entertain the synapses between your ears and the pleasure centres within your brain. Nicole Atkins – singer, songwriter, pianist, guitarist, stylist and artiste is the complete package and in Italian Ice, across 11 songs, she’s unashamedly distilled all that magic in the most wonderful of ways. You want groove with just a hint of the dark side wrapped in Blood Sweat & Tears? Cop a dose of ‘Mind Eraser’. You want the nostalgic romance of Mama Cass Elliott as she might sound if she were to be recording today? Check out ‘These Old Roses’. Or does your nostalgia only stretch back to ‘80s Belinda Carlisle? ‘Forever’ is for you. A bit of honky-tonk wrapped up in some longing? ‘In The Splinters’ is for you. Atkins can even serve up a bit of ‘60s soul searchin’ social commentary wrapped in a paean to ‘AM Gold’ – “We’re standin’ in the garbage of Eden/We’re starvin’ what we shoulda been feedin’.” Too heavy? Be caressed by ‘Domino’. Melody is all, and all beautifully delivered, whether accompanied by buzzy guitars, sweeping harmonies, weeping lap-tops or quirky keyboards. It doesn’t hurt to have 20-odd years of gigs, bands, records and life experience to draw on to write this fifth solo album, Nicole still just 41. And it doesn’t hurt to gather together some of the

finest exponents of each genre in the one room and start rolling tape – keyboards player Spooner Oldham and bass player David Hood from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section; Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos, Midlake drummer McKenzie Smith, DapKings guitarist Binky Griptite and keyboards player David “Moose” Sherman. Spoon’s Britt Daniel sings along with her on the swooning country ballad ‘Captain’. Italian Ice is just every flavour of classic Americana you could want. Like the man used to say, “Do yourself a favour…” MICHAEL SMITH


The recent reissue of the band’s outstanding 2010 Wildwood (Yep Roc/Planet) album provides the perfect touchstone for the continuing evolution of the North Carolina bluegrass hotshots. Strange Fascination is a glorious excursion in blurring the bluegrass boundaries, of stretching the parameters of the traditional string band. Two changes are pivotal to the new sound; firstly, they have moved away from the renowned traditional bluegrass set-up of all four members standing around a single centrally placed microphone and, critically, Yan Westerlund has been enlisted to provide percussion. It all works a treat. Innovation brings its own rewards, and regardless of the shapeshifting that also includes keyboards

and a whiff of electronica, the band’s bedrock is firmly based on superb song-writing and stellar musicianship. The album kicks into life with the softly shuffling ‘Oh Me Oh My’, and all is good, really good, as Westerlund’s brushes caress the tom toms; ‘Station To Station’ follows, an eruption of piano, fiddle, harmonica and a rock steady rhythm. Another new chapter is ushered in with the introduction of Sharon Van Etten’s backing vocals on the lilting title track, drenched in mandolin and mournful pedal steel flourishes. Greg Reading’s droning pump organ introduces the freewheeling ‘Leave This World’, a narrative on dying with dignity that takes on added relevance in these sombre times. After two decades with the band, founding member and banjo virtuoso Chandler Holt has declared Strange Fascination will be his final outing; clearly, there will be further evolution as Chatham County Line forge new boundaries for contemporary bluegrass. This is a beautiful record. TREVOR J. LEEDEN


Bridge To Terabithia is a 2007 film about two kids who discover an abandoned treehouse and create their own fantasy world to escape the trauma of their daily lives. Darren Cross has dialled into his own sonic Terabithia, in this unprecedented time of upheaval, and created a musical

CD: General oasis that blends American Primitive acoustic guitar with pastoral British folk and Harold Budd/Eno-like ambience. A cleverly spliced sample of Trump on the opener ‘Giant Wave of Instant Coffee Crushes Capitalism’ is the only voice you hear on the album but it’s quickly erased by the sublime music that follows. Ecstatic Racquet, Cross’ previous album of instrumental guitar reveries was a more traditional affair. Here he heads further out into the cosmos – most likely an internal universe where shimmering flights of fancy are taken on dreamy astral planes, searching for calm amid the digital and societal noise of the 21st century. It’s always hard to pin song titles to instrumental tracks and discern meaning but here there are references to cell towers, conspiracy theories, capitalism, medication – all things that feed into the modern malaise. Cross’ lodestones such as Fahey and Jansch and present again but he’s sounding much more relaxed and intuitive. Amid textural field recordings he filters his playing through billowing, weightless reverb which adds an ambient shroud of nostalgia to the music, like an organic New Age meditation tape that tugs on heartstrings and memory - that innate urge to return to comfort and safety. CHRIS FAMILTON


The first sound you hear on Steve Earle’s new album is his solo voice, all gravel and grit as he leads a group chant which sits somewhere between the church and the railroad. It sets the scene magnificently for an album of songs composed for a play that centres around the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that killed twenty-nine men in West Virginia in 2010. Recorded and mixed in mono, the album is one of Earle’s most concise albums of the last decade, with an economy in sound and songwriting that gives it a directness and immediacy. It’s folk music at its core, with a country twang and a bluegrass vivacity. The playing from The Dukes is superb throughout as Earle paints an unfettered picture of the life and death of the miners and the residual emotional tsunami that swept through the community. ‘If I Could See Your Face Again’, sung by Eleanor Whitmore from the perspective of one of the widows is a touching and personal moment, while ‘Black Lung’ is a rough blues workout, ‘Fastest Man Alive’ is a Dylanesque lyrically-dense thrill ride and The Mine is Earle sounding like his son Justin. The real ace of Ghosts Of West Virginia is that Earle is not only singing of the events and repercussions, the music he’s written conjures up vivid images of the dirt, dust, sweat and tears at the core of the tragedy. CHRIS FAMILTON


A reference to Tom Petty’s Wildflowers drew me to Mitch Dean’s debut solo album. The Melbourne singer-songwriter talks about how that album was an inspiration for this record. I remember buying Petty’s album in 1994. The sticker on the CD cover reveals that I paid $32.95. Things were different then; we valued the album in more ways than one. I’ll never forget my initial reaction to Wildflowers. I was … underwhelmed. But for some reason I kept returning to the record, and repeated play led to rich rewards – it’s now one of my all-time favourite albums. There’s a similar simplicity and subtlety to Mitch Dean’s work. These are story songs that reveal their secrets over time. Of course, he’s standing in the shadow of giants – as well as Tom Petty, he cites Neil Young and Bob Dylan as influences. “Now it cast a shadow,” he sings in ‘Let It Fall’, “that makes us feel so small.” But with this exquisitely produced and performed piece of work, Dean more than holds his own. Produced by Colin Leadbetter (Whitley, Sarah Blasko, Lester The Fierce), Dean is backed by some legends, including James Gillard (Mondo Rock, The Flood, Mental As Anything) on bass, and Sam See (Sherbet, John Farnham) on piano and organ, while The Flood’s Kevin Bennett pops up on the title track. “If this is a dream,” Dean sings, “please don’t wake me from my sleep tonight.” The Mornington Peninsula has given us some fine songwriters, including James Reyne and The Fauves’ Andrew Cox and Phil Leonard. Add Mitch Dean to that list. JEFF JENKINS


Conservatorium-trained musicians should always be approached with caution. Sure, they have an A-grade level of music theory and playing expertise but sometimes that can come at the expense of heart and soul and the requisite rawness that so often makes folk and country music so compelling. On her fifth solo album, Sarah Jarosz’s folk and bluegrass songs do sometimes drift into that territory – middleof-the-road strumming and plucking beneath earnest poetry, but when she gets the balance right the results are wholly rewarding. Across the album she sings of small towns and the conflicting desires to stay versus the pull of the big city and new opportunities. ‘Hometown’ and ‘What Do I Do’ convey that effectively over plaintive and wistful picking while ‘Pay It No Mind’ takes some nice melodic flights of fancy, not dissimilar to Bobbie Gentry in style. ‘Johnny’ takes melodic influence from Alice In Chains and filters it through Juliana Hatfield and Liz Phair making it a satisfying outlier. At times too slick and polished, World On The Ground is still a strong addition to Jarosz’s discography and often a masterclass in restrained virtuosity without losing sight of the song. CHRIS FAMILTON 71



XOXO Sham Hawk/Thirty Tigers/Cooking Vinyl Australia


spelt out in the song titles – ‘Buildings’, ‘Edge’, ‘Fire’, ‘Bird’, ‘Dog’. MICHAEL SMITH


She couldn’t have known what 2020 would bring to humanity, yet couldn’t have expressed the emotional challenges better. Lucille also once lived in NZ. Accompanied by a gorgeous video, ‘Kerikeri’ speaks for all who dream of distant homes. “When will the sky be as blue... my heart be as free/ as it was then when we were up in Kerikeri?” A tonic for the times. CHRIS LAMBIE

BLAKE MILLS It’s album number 11 for the Minnesotan band, still led by Gary Louris who has endured line-up changes and a five-year hiatus through the band’s 35-year career. XOXO is The Jayhawks’ fourth album since they reunited in 2009 and it finds them still mining their idiosyncratic seam of Americana-infused power pop, with mixed results. Louris and co mastered hypermelodic guitar pop-rock many moons ago and they can still knock out those songs with an effortless jangling power-chord swing of the arm. There are plenty of those on XOXO but too often they’re let down by sub-par lyrics that deal with usual relationship themes. Where it gets more interesting is on songs such as ‘Society Pages’ which sounds like Elliott Smith in relaxed jam mode with Sparklehorse. The vocals are less eager and upfront and the guitars jangle and sparkle gorgeously in a restrained fashion. ‘Little Victories’ rides a great bass-line with a soulful STAX feel and a dark and moody palette of sound that blossoms into soaring vocal harmonies before retreating to the wings. Closer ‘Looking Up Your Number’ is a beautiful parting note to a past lover – a bare and tender psych-folk song. With all four members contributing to the songwriting there is definitely more variety across XOXO but not the required level of quality control to filter out its weaker moments. CHRIS FAMILTON 72

Ethereal keyboard sounds washing across choppy downstroke guitars, vocals languid as the melodies, disconnected images tumbling past as if noticed from the corner of the eye as a screen flickers or a landscape drifts past. Welcome to the world of Sydney threepiece Key Out – Paddy Haid, Rohan Geddes and Caroline Wake – a world immersed in the sonics, aesthetics and sensibilities of the 1980s, at once angular and dissonant and yet flowing melody and disembodied beauty. Their press release cites New Order and Daft Punk as major influences, but there’s a hell of a lot of early Church/Steve Kilbey with more than a dash of Triffids and Go-Betweens – a subconscious Australian aural landscape unnoticed perhaps but very much there – “It’s a chorus I knew/It’s a chorus of my mind” (‘Chorus’). The title implies the album’s contents ponder the ways in which we humans have shaped the world in our own image and how we then see that transformed landscape, our perceptions hardwired to discern connections, shapes, designs. Humans make maps after all, and what’s that but our attempt to pin down the landscape around us. By contrast, the animals we allow to share that landscape – birds, dogs – and the elements that shape that landscape – fire in particular – only seem to allow their being “shaped” by we humans, when it suits. The loose concept is

MUTABLE SET Verve/Caroline

Like so many of her peers, Melbourne singer-songwriter Lucille postponed her album release when the world turned upside-down. Turns out, the lyrics hold even more relevance now. The title track from her full length debut speaks of the experience of disconnection, longing and the power of resilience. The Country-tinged title track reminisces: “And it’s times like these...I wonder if it’s going to ache forever”. Referring to her birthplace of Berlin, the song laments the separation of walls, physical and metaphorical. Inspired by her former ‘struggle town’ neighbourhood in Melbourne, ‘The Pines’ shines an empathetic light on the disadvantaged among us. Baritone guitar (Stewart Kohinga), Dobro (Shannon Bourne) and junk percussion (tissue box beats) infuse a melancholy air. Goanna’s Shane Howard appropriately lends guest vocals on ‘Wise Man’ celebrating the success of a friend who eventually finds happiness against the odds. ‘Fire, Rain’ talks of a total belief system overhaul with a rocking refrain. ‘Last Release’ mourns the effects of mass workforce redundancies. Raised on folk, gospel and classical music, Lucille reworks those influences and more with her melodic vocals, captured nicely by Mitch Cairns’ production work.

Touring Australia recently, Laura Marling asked us if we’d heard of Blake Mills. To the underwhelming response she retorted, “Well you should, he’s the best living guitarist in the world.” Tellingly, there’s barely a guitar solo to be found on Mills’ breathtaking fourth album Mutable Set. All hushed tones and unidentifiable ambience that owes something to Brian Eno (don’t we all), Mills presents us an oasis of calm, considered meditation for a world in chaos. Mills himself describes it as an ode to things that are precious and the realisation that they can be lost. That fits with the dreamlike (as in music that you could imagine conjuring only in a dream) nature of the music, flitting between the concrete and the unknown. Vocals are distant and ethereal. Acoustic guitars are paired with otherworldly amorphous sounds. There are melodies, but structures are fluid and roaming. It’s part Disney, part David Lynch.

CD: General An inspired producer who has been recruited by Marling, Fiona Apple, Alabama Shakes, even Randy Newman, Mills exercises his studio powers to create a disarming tone in which the listener can never be certain what will happen next. As a writer, he recruits Cass McCombs to help him compose affecting vocal melodies and lyrics. As an instrumentalist, Mills makes a beeline for whatever will serve the song and its tone, even if that means leaving the guitar untouched. Piano and keyboards are more prominent throughout Mutable Set than guitars (though forensic investigation reveals layers of guitar not obvious on the surface). The dissonant plunk of untreated piano chords take the spotlight in the climax of the foreboding ‘Money Is The One True God’, for example. And ‘Summer Is Over’ features little else but piano chords and Mills’ almost muttered vocal (though as always there’s something not quite identifiable floating about in there as well). The centrepoint of the album follows – ‘Vanishing Time’ is like a six-minute Elliott Smith composition performed in slow motion underwater and features the closest thing to a ‘guitar solo’ on the album in a distorted, treated moan that intertwines with strings. Wow. MARTIN JONES

WILLIE NELSON FIRST ROSE OF SPRING Sony Music Willie Nelson just keeps on keeping on, churning out albums more regularly than artists a quarter of his age. Invariably they all hit the mark too, based on song selection, the worldly and weary tone of Nelson’s voice and his trusty six-string sidekick Trigger. First Rose of Spring, his 70th album, is another quality release but this time it shifts attention away from the passing of time and mortality

and remembers and celebrates friends and family – past and present.

Chris Stapleton and Toby Keith contribute songs and Nelson covers Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘We Are The Cowboys’ but he also throws in some new originals such as the slow waltz of ‘Blue Star’, that recalls his Stardust album cover with its interstellar theme. The playing across the album is perfect in tone and temperament. It’s essentially an easy listening country album that draws on light honk-tonk and on a song such as ‘Just Bummin’ Around’ you can hear Nelson’s beloved jazz influences seeping through the country cracks. The most upbeat things get is with the brilliantly titled ‘I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised’, made famous by Johnny Paycheck in 1977. The emotion and weight isn’t as heavy as his other recent albums but he’s corralled a wonderful set of songs and put the Willie stamp on them with that voice and sense of musical timing that show no signs of waning. CHRIS FAMILTON


There’s a subtle ache running through a number of the songs on Midnight Lights, the fourth album from indie folk-rock fivepiece Josh Orange, something lighter and more delicate than simple world weariness. I suppose you can simply put it down to life experience, which is as it should be on an album that, as singer, songwriter and guitarist Gordon Burke puts it in the band’s press release, “deals with the joy and pain we face growing up.” It’s obvious a lot of thought and care has gone into not only the lyrics but also the sounds over which Burke delivers those lyrics, limpid, sensitive, full of air when that’s called for, shimmering and dynamic as the stories dictate. Guitarists Andrew Wass and Shane McLaughlin, bass player Blaine Munnings and drummer Alex Miller support those stories with an understated understanding that speaks volumes in terms of their commitment to quality and the vision of expat Dubliner Burke over their 15 years together. Those years have long since seen Josh Orange move beyond any lazy U2 comparisons to create a collective voice uniquely their own, even if, on opening song ‘Little Miss America’, there’s more than a little Mark Knopfler in Burke’s vocal delivery. At other moments his voice recalls the more vulnerable moments in the Peter Gabriel oeuvre. Atmosphere – that’s the word I was looking for – there’s a really evocative atmosphere across this album, whether delivered with a warm, languidness or, on songs like ‘Straight Lines’ and ‘After I’m Gone’, with a rhythmic jauntiness, despite the subject matter. That subtle ache… It’s somehow remarkably consoling. “There is beauty in the pain/And love is the answer for all of us” (‘I Feel Love’) It’s all been said before, but it’s comforting to be reminded in so melodically enchanting a way. MICHAEL SMITH


When an artist, whose own songwriting and recording career is at its creative zenith, chooses to pay tribute to a singer-songwriter of legendary stature, then it’s beholden to take notice. Peters is a singular talent who transcends genres, critically acclaimed and deservedly lauded by her fans, possessed of a gloriously expressive voice and an inductee of the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Putting aside her universal popularity, Peters’ CV bears an uncanny resemblance to Newbury’s, and with empathetic support from Buddy Miller, Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss and Wil Kimbrough, these unadorned recordings of her favourite Newbury songs are breathtaking. From 1969 to 1973 Newbury released a trilogy of albums – It Looks Like Rain, ‘Frisco Mabel Joy, Heaven Help The Child - that garnered universal ‘masterpiece’ accolades, yet none attracted large sales. Only five songs from this trilogy have made the cut, including the peerless ‘She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye’ and ‘Heaven Help The Child’. Instead, illustrating the greatness of his songwriting, the majority are drawn from Newbury’s later 70’s recordings through to 2000’s melancholic ‘Three Bells For Stephen’. A songwriter’s songwriter, Newbury shunned efforts to pigeonhole him (particularly with regard to being a 73

CD: General founding father of ‘outlaw country’), indeed the eclectic nature of his elegiac songs may have been an impediment to greater success. Gretchen Peters’ homage is inspirational and thoroughly engrossing, and will perhaps inspire renewed interest in the phenomenal body of work by the writer the late John Prine described as “probably the best songwriter ever”. TREVOR J. LEEDEN


Wyatt’s plea for an easier life. Stylistically she fits comfortably alongside local songwriters Tracy McNeil and Ruby Boots, while on ‘Just A Woman’ (featuring Jessi Colter), she embodies the tone and spirt of K.D. Lang. The old and the new, the tough and tender. This is one of the finest contemporary country albums of 2020. CHRIS FAMILTON


NEON CROSS New West Records

Moore; an embarrassment of 6-string riches unlikely to be matched again. Acoustic blues is represented by Mike Cooper’s fingerpicking, Ian A. Anderson’s trio and the tragically ill-fated Jo-An Kelly who later rejected overtures from Johnny Winter and Canned Heat to join their ranks. The inclusion of two rarely heard parodies from the era provide an entirely different perspective from those plying their trade in the vortex – the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s “Can Blue Men Sing The Whites?” and the Liverpool Scene’s totally unhinged “I’ve Got Those Fleetwood Mac Chicken Shack John Mayall Can’t Fail Blues” – seal the deal; heady days. TREVOR J. LEEDEN


Back in 2017, Jaime hit the scene via her Felony Blues EP which documented her rocky road through drug addiction and jail time. She’s taken that statement of honest and raw songwriting and put her name up in lights with its exceptional follow-up Neon Cross. Produced by Shooter Jennings, Neon Cross is an album that takes classic honky tonk, latenight bar laments and lush 80s country heartbreakers and polishes them with a modern sheen. It all works perfectly as Wyatt (and guests, Jennings, Jessi Colter and Neal Casal) looks back on the trials and tribulations of her past, including coming out as a gay woman – subject matter she sings about on ‘Rattlesnake Girl’, with lines such as “I see my sweet friends out on the weekends, they all look happy and gay / They keep their secrets all covered in sequins, people have too much to say.” One of the many highlights is the devastating ‘Mercy’ with its atmospheric guitars, piano and pedal steel elevating 74

Sub-titled A Journey Through The British Blues Boom 1966-71, this fabulously annotated 3-disc box set explores the second wave of British blues heroes, travelling down a welcome road of less exposed performances. Tracks from the likes of Blodwyn Pig, Stone The Crows, Steamhammer and the Edgar Broughton Band rub shoulders with Alexis Korner (featuring a nascent Robert Plant), Brunning Sunflower Blues Band (featuring Peter Green) and the Christine Perfect (later McVie) Band. Whilst the initial blues boom led by Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner laid the foundations for what was to come, what followed was a tsunami of virtuoso British and Irish blues guitarists destined for greatness, and this fine retrospective captures them all in the embryonic stages of their careers. Apart from Green’s band, there are tracks by Eric Clapton with Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Alvin Lee with Ten Years After, Dave Edmunds’ Love Sculpture, Rory Gallagher’s The Taste, Savoy Brown’s Kim Simmonds, solo tracks by Jeff Beck and Jeremy Spencer, as well as Paul Kossof, Mick Ronson, Stan Webb, Clem Clempson and Gary

BRIDGE OF ANGELS Foghorn Records Now living back in his hometown Adelaide after some years in Sydney, late last year singer, songwriter and multiinstrumentalist Tim Walker took himself into the studio to sketch out some impressions gathered during a trip to Europe, a musical diary of sorts, though in the end, it’s only the central song ‘Streets of Rome’ and perhaps, tangentially, ‘Fly Into The Sunrise’, that really reference

his travels. Bridge of Angels is far more a collection of impressions, about life in general than places and faces. ‘The Loving Arms’ and the unexpectedly jaunty ‘Mirror of Love’ for instance are about trust rather than love, while ‘Every Story Tells A Picture’ throws up a succession of disparate images – creatures seen in the half-light, killers and sleepers, forests cut down unnoticed, green fields and fresh air turned into concrete and smog. I mention jauntiness and to be honest I was quite surprised, considering the occasional darker lyrical reference, just how often Walker’s melodies recall those classic mid-‘60s pop songs of, say, The Small Faces and The Kinks, whatever subtle bite in the odd line leavened by a light, bright melody. There’s also a hint of McCartney’s gentler moments in ‘Face Without a Name’. When Walker steps away from the microphone and just plays, there’s a solidly lyrical, supplely traditional English folk seam to the instrumentals ‘On the Bridge’ and ‘The Bolshie Swing’. There’s something about Walker’s occasionally clipped vocal delivery that recalls, to my ears at least, something of Canberra singer-songwriter Fred Smith. Walker’s worldview seems more quietly romantic. MICHAEL SMITH

CD: World Music & Folk BY T O N Y H I L L I E R


seminal Irish-American folk band he’s led in the intervening period, this magnificent multiinstrumentalist and all-round musician shows admirable panache as a player, producer and composer in his own right.

maestro Bobby Singh lends similarly simpatico and subtle Indian percussion flavouring behind Wright’s intricate traditionally informed flamenco falsetas.


Fiona Ross exhibits discerning taste in her choice of guitar accompanists. For her follow-up to 2017’s excellent Clyde’s Water, in which she was supported by the incomparable Canadabased Scottish string-bender Tony McManus, the Glasgowborn singer, who these days calls Melbourne home, puts her spin on another selection of traditional Caledonian classics in the company of one of Australia’s finest acoustic players. Shane O’Mara does a fine job throughout with his consummate fingerpicked tapestries, excelling on the comparatively up-tempo centrepiece ‘Cam Ye O’er Frae France’, which matches Steeleye Span’s 1970s rendition. The folk songstress is at her most emotive and evocative in several other 18th century songs relating to the Jacobite Rising and in the compelling ghost story ‘The Wife Of Usher’s Well’. The crystalline tone of Ross’s singing, her phrasing and enunciation — in the robust Scottish dialect of past centuries — is impeccable from whoa to go, but especially so on three songs based on the bard Robert Burns’s poetry, including an imaginative reading of New Year’s Eve perennial ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

SEAMUS EGAN EARLY BRIGHT THL Records Seamus Egan’s first solo album in more than twenty years spectacularly makes up for lost time. Building on the traditional folk roots and adventurous arrangements that underpinned Solas, the

Early Bright is a cracker of a craic, a tour-de-force set replete with terrific contrasts that extend from a neo-baroque piece featuring interlocking figures from the maestro on mandolin and nylon-strung guitar to a funky and mesmerising dance number, in which he duels with himself on guitar and banjo. Egan’s expertise on whistle is evident in a tune that starts as a stately air and finishes with reel flourish.


Damian Wright is among a small band of professional Australian guitarists dedicated to flamenco. But that doesn’t stop the NSW-based tocaore from blending the passionate gypsy music of Spain’s Andalusia region with other genres. Two of the seven self-composed tracks on his long overdue eponymous debut album display classy jazz colouring, through the auspices of electric bass whiz Steve Hunter, gun pianist Matt McMahon and the Hauptmann brothers Ben and James on 12-string guitar and drum kit respectively. Elsewhere, tabla

Legendary Roma songstress Esma Redžepova passed away late in 2016, but not before passing the baton to her adopted daughter. While Eleonora Mustafovska palpably isn’t yet ready to share the pantheon occupied by the much-missed Macedonian gypsy queen, she nevertheless does a passable job out front of a band that contains members of Redžepova’s renowned orchestra. In this ‘Next Generation’ tagged release, Esma’s Band draws on the mesmerising rhythms and general vibrancy associated with the Balkan Romani tradition while introducing elements of pop and funk — wah-wah electric guitar on one track. Virtuosic accordion, clarinet and trumpet players provide the lead pyrotechnics that are endemic with this genre, propelled by pounding frame drum and bass.


London’s Iyatra Quartet performs boldly experimental original music that fuses its

collective classical chops and instrumentation with a heady mix of global grooves and extended techniques. Influences exhibited in this violin/cello/ clarinet/percussion configuration range from the Carnatic sounds and glissandos of southern India to Cuban dance rhythm and from British to Middle-Eastern folk traditions. While their boldness backfires here and there, the band’s solid neo-classical bedrock generally supports its scattershot approach and improvised feats of derring-do, which include adding African kalimba and Andean charango to an English renaissance tune, utilising detuned cello in an Arabic love song, and combining scordatura violin and singing bowls.


Singer, songwriter and guitarist Fadhilee Itulya might well be the most notable Kenyan musician to gain an international release since the late Ayub Ogada. His debut album is a delightful melange of styles, an African all-sorts set that references influences from Mali, Cameroon and elsewhere in addition to his homeland. Kwetu features driving, syncopated, and eminently accessible acoustic folk, pop and rock grooves interwoven with four short chants and percussion tracks that showcase the traditions of Itulya’s native Western Kenya. Elsewhere, this talented troubadour draws inspiration from a style of Kenyan guitar music known as Omutibo and, lyrically, from environmental concerns. 75



Traditional Chicago blues, an amplified ensemble-based urban interpretation of primal Delta blues, would have to be the genre’s purest, most recognisable style. Thanks to performers like guitarist/singer John Primer and harmonica player Bob Corritore it still thrives today in its totally undiluted form the way it evolved over 70 years ago. Though each musician has been actively recording and releasing material with other well-known blues artists over the last 20 years, this title is the third collaborative effort since 2013 by these veterans of the genre, both fluent in its expressive vocabulary. Backed by a roll-call of A-list players including guitarist Billy Flynn and pianist Bob Welsh, there is a clear chemistry at play as Primer and Corritore hit their stride reviving chestnuts from Muddy Waters, Chuck Willis, Little Milton, Rice Miller, Jimmy Reed, Sax Kari, Jimmy Rogers and James Cotton. The energy and soulfulness of Primer’s ‘Little Bitty Woman’ has an impact similar to Junior Parker’s ‘Mystery Train’ while his voice takes on the emotional force of Waters on the all-acoustic ‘Walked So Long’, another original that confirms the duo’s deep roots in post-war Windy City blues. 76




STAND UP! Ruf/Only Blues Music



Four-time San Diego Music Award winner Whitney Shay began her singing career in musical theatre. By the time of her debut CD release in 2012 the vibrant songstress had made a transition to blues and jazz, cutting her teeth with top tier hometown musicians in local clubs on a regular basis for three years. Shay’s 2018 follow-up CD A Woman Rules The World, recorded with a crack band at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios, demonstrated her noteworthy skills as a songsmith. Having received wide acclaim, that disc saw Shay touring internationally eventually signing with renowned German label Ruf Records for a global release of her latest outing. Produced in Austin, Texas by noted tenor saxophonist Kaz Kazanoff, Stand Up! boasts another star-studded backing band, this time led by indemand guitarist Laura Chavez. Also contributing to the high energy soul blues set’s dynamic arrangements are session guests pianist Marcia Ball, singer/ guitarist Guy Forsythe, slide guitarist Derek O’Brien and the Texas Horns. Shay wrote or co-wrote all the material except for one by The “5” Royales and another by Etta James. A powerhouse blues vocalist who sings with confidence and gusto, Shay’s career is on a rapidly rising trajectory.

Jimi Hendrix once referred to Rory Gallagher as the best rock guitarist in the world. The critically acclaimed Irish musician who sadly met an early demise in 1995 aged 46 was unquestionably one of the most talented guitarists of his generation. Whether performing his blues-worthy rock originals or recreating the songs of his blues heroes Gallagher remained true to his own musical vision. Despite touring worldwide and selling 30 million albums, mainstream success eluded him. Gallagher’s raw, unfettered vocals ideally suited the amazing dexterity he displayed on slide, electric and acoustic guitars. When it came to blues music, the magic of Gallagher’s improvisational ability put him head and shoulders above his peers. This three CD collection compiles rare or previously unreleased blues recordings from 1971 to 1991 that capture the essence of the man – three chords, a bagful of razor-sharp pyrotechnics and a mountain of soul. A dozen cuts are heard on each CD, one electric, one acoustic, and another live. Spots with Muddy Waters, Albert King, Lonnie Donegan, Jack Bruce and Chris Barber are also included, but it’s Gallagher’s impeccable musicianship in the studio, on radio and in concert that makes this trawl through the archives so worthwhile.

Up until 2018 Sunshine Coastbased slide guitar and lap steel player Josh Cheyenne had been honing his chops mainly as a sideman. He made his first appearance at the Sunshine Coast Blues Club monthly jam a few years back and now plays an integral role in the Club’s house band as an exemplary singer and guitarist. Cheyenne has also made his mark on the Brisbane blues scene, appearing regularly at jams and eventually fronting his own band at local blues events. These connections led to the recording of this his debut album. An accomplished interpreter of 1950s early electric blues, Cheyenne here realises his dream of recording an allanalogue CD playing live in the studio with three microphones onto eight-track tape. Having Cheyenne’s Brisbane band mates available for the session really worked well as they were already familiar with his material which was sourced from the songbooks of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Maybelle, Guitar Slim, Lazy Lester and Robert Johnson. Recording engineer Steve Robin produced the album and played drums alongside guitarist Mike Frost, harmonica player Mark Doherty and bassist Dr. Bob Harley, all widely experienced blues stalwarts.



Contrary to the eponymous title, this is actually the Manchester act’s sixth full-length album. With its third release on American jazz’s premier label, GoGo Penguin not only reinforces its reputation as the “Radiohead of British Jazz” but also as one of the world’s most progressive trios, alongside Australia’s The Necks. Combining rock dynamics, classical influences and jazz chops with electronic enhancement, they expand the parameters of the standard piano-bass-drums configuration with their penchant for innovation, which includes circumventing the traditional verse-chorus-bridge format in favour of a more free flowing Philip Glass-inspired approach. Beats and beauty are bed mates in GGP’s mesmerising set.


Having recently been hailed as a genius by blues/rock deity Eric Clapton, jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel’s reputation has never been higher. With Italian bassist Dario Deidda and drummer Gregory Hutchinson supporting

with power and precision, the American confidently caresses contemporary musical frontiers while remaining rooted in mainstream idiom in this 13th album as a band leader. Mention of Clapton, there’s Cream-like dynamics in Rosenwinkel’s delivery of the title track and another selfcomposition. His acumen as an interpreter of standards is implicit in imaginative readings of Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans pieces. The guitar gun shows his be-bop paces in hard-swinging renditions of Joe Henderson and Paul Chambers tunes. The trio’s beefed-up ‘bonus’ version of an Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova is alone worth the price of admission.


Adhering to the format set in earlier concept albums in which he strived to modernise the legacies of Wayne Shorter, Mary Lou Williams and Booker Little, American trumpet ace Dave Douglas ups the ante here by re-interpreting a couple of Dizzy Gillespie numbers alongside his own originals inspired by that revolutionary giant of be-bop trumpet. With a sextet in tow, the prolific American musician, who has made more than 50 recordings as a bandleader and published 500-plus compositions, imbues the Dizzy ground breaker ‘Manteca’ — a forerunner of AfroCuban jazz — with 21st century edge. Drawing inspiration from Gillespie’s harmonic flair and creative spirit, Douglas plays in spine-tingling tandem with fellow trumpeter Dave Adewumi on the standout tribute tunes ‘Cadillac’ and ‘Subterfuge’.


As the title might suggest, upand-coming Nashville singer/ pianist Kandace Springs covers songs popularised by some of her favourite female vocalists and role models on this fourth album release in as many years. This she accomplishes for the most part with admirable acumen and aplomb, accompanied by some stellar instrumentalists. An outstanding reading of ‘I Put A Spell On You’ that’s closer to Nina Simone’s rendition than Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ original, cleverly incorporates the classical strains of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ with steamy jazz-blues. ‘Strange Fruit’, on which Springs supports herself on her trusty Rhodes, lacks the gravitas of Billie Holiday’s original, but she makes a good fist of other 1930s’/40s’ standards ‘Solitude’ and ‘Angel Eyes’ — the former featuring a superlative sax solo from Chris Potter; the latter in duet form with Norah Jones.


British-Barbadian saxophone supremo Shabaka Hutchings’

second outing with a South African crew is also something of a concept album, one that supposedly narrates, via vocalist Siyabonga Mthembu’s poetry recitations and raps (in Zulu and Xhosa), the build up to an apocalypse delivered by a mutant virus in the distant future. While eerily prescient given that it was conceived and recorded prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the set only truly engages when Hutchings is soloing or quoting John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins on his tenor sax or swapping edgy lines with alto saxophonist Mthunzi Mvubu, although it does manage to build momentum despite dalliances with free-form.


To be candid, it’s a crying shame that Rejoice — released shortly before Tony Allen’s sudden passing in Paris in late-April — will go down as the great drummer’s parting shot. Fela Kuti’s partner in the foundation of Afrobeat back in the 1960s/70s actually cut the album with the equally influential Hugh Masekela back in 2010, eight years before the South African trumpeter died. That the duo’s “swing-jazz Afrobeat stew” — as the Nigerian described it — was little more than a jam session wedged in between tours is apparent from the looseness of the compositions and arrangements. The Source, the 2017 amalgam of Afrobeat and jazz that Allen recorded with a gun French octet, would have been a superior swansong in every way. * Tony Hillier’s Tony Allen tribute is on line at rhythms.com.au 77




THREE Fish of Milk

THE DARK PATTERN Earshift Music Sydney trumpeter Phil Slater can be considered a ‘musician’s musician’. Despite maintaining a relatively low-key presence on the scene, he is widely respected by his peers, and is a past winner of the National Jazz Award and the Bell Award for Australian Jazz Musician of the Year. Which makes the release of The Dark Pattern something of an event. A double album, with over two hours of music, it has the feel of a bold statement of intent. For the recording he is joined by pianist Matt McMahon and drummer Simon Barker (both from his longrunning trio Band of Five Names), along with bassist Brett Hirst and saxophonist Matt Keegan. Together, they forge a music that is restless and ruminative, inspired by the landscapes of the Illawarra region, where Slater lives and works. The opener ‘Mnemosyne’ sets the template. It is ushered in by McMahon’s piano, which lays down a steady pulse over which Slater’s brooding trumpet meanders. Hirst’s bass is sparse and gentle, Barker’s percussion a liminal beat. Keegan’s saxophone is used sparingly throughout, a haunting presence on the landscape. The piece advances by degrees, by jabs and feints, highlighted by a restrained and minimalist clarity. While there are few fireworks on the album, and fewer obvious melodies, Slater’s emphasis on mood and fine-grain texture is exemplary. As such, the album has more in common with the sonic explorations of Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way, or the music of Tomas Stanko, than it does with mainstream jazz. Like them, Dark Patterns is an ambitious album that demands close listening, resonating long after it is finished.

Three is the Necks’ 16th studio album since debut Sex, recorded over thirty years ago. That is some dedication and tenure. It takes its title from the simple fact it comprises three extended tracks, each around the twenty-minute mark. As such, these pieces are briefer than the standard hour-long sets the Necks deliver in concert. And that raises a critical point – increasingly, the trio’s studio output has begun to diverge from their live sets. With Three, the studio is treated as an experimental tool, allowing for a much denser layering of electronics and sound. Other than that, they have not tampered with their winning formula, and the trio’s commitment to unfettered improvisation remains solidly in check. Three’s opening piece ‘Bloom’ is a tour de force, dominated by Tony Buck’s urgent repetitive percussion, which never lets up, like a heartbeat in overdrive. Chris Abrahams unfurls a delicate series of motifs, his piano buried in the mix. The second track ‘Lovelock’, a lament for the late Celibate Rifles singer, strips it back, an ambient mood-piece made up of metallic sounds and gentle pings, broken only by the resonant staccato of Lloyd Swanton’s bass. The closer ‘Further’ is fuelled by a deep groove laid down by Swanton, bass-heavy and mesmerising, that advances like a slow-burning fuse. While all Necks albums demand to be heard, some feel more essential than others. This one, to my ears, feels essential. 78


This album represents a first meeting by three luminaries of the Australian jazz scene: guitarist Carl Morgan, 2014 winner of the National Jazz Awards; bassist Sam Anning, whose 2018 recording Across a Field as Vast as One counts as one of the finest Australian jazz albums of recent times; and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera, currently based in New York. So, what do these three musicians bring to the table? The 56-second ‘Intro’ sets the scene, its languid guitar refrain recalling the gentle beauty of Peter Green’s ‘Albatross’. Sam Anning’s ‘Datameta’ continues to mine this rich, otherworldly sound, with Morgan’s guitar alternating between clean lines and exquisitely honed rhythm. Rajiv’s composition ‘Kleine Ahnung’ adds Sean Wayland’s synth, which roams freely across Morgan’s languorous playing. The album’s standout is Sam Anning’s sun-drenched ‘Ripples’, which kicks off with a catchy bass beat, before ushering in Morgan’s guitar, fresh as a summer’s breeze. It feels like an instant classic, demanding radio play. At a shade under forty-minutes, the album never outstays its welcome. It is an album full of ambient textures, exquisitely restrained, never hurrying to get to its destination. Morgan is clearly a talent to watch, his tone displaying a gentle Bill Frisell-like touch, plumbing emotive depths, and dripping with late-night ambience.

ROB BURKE SLIP SLIDING FMR Records Saxophonist Rob Burke’s role as convenor of jazz studies at Monash University has, in recent years, provided him with increased opportunity to collaborate with a range of international musicians, including legendary figures like George Lewis, Dave Douglas, Enrico Rava, and Mark Helias. This latest recording, for prestigious UK label FMR, is a case in point, recorded in Brooklyn with two of New York’s finest improvisors: guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Tom Rainey. Comprising seven compositions by Burke, to which are added four group improvisations, this project provides a gloves-off opportunity for Burke to pursue his more experimental leanings. The results make for a visceral and compelling affair, as Burke and Monder nudge their playing to extremes of noise and distortion. On top of that, Ben Grayson, the album’s fourth collaborator, has added electronic effects in postproduction, further manipulating the music. If that sounds forbidding, the good news is that it’s anything but. There is a real sense of risktaking throughout, especially during the group improvisations, as the three musicians seek a common improvising language, in the process displaying neartelepathic communication. While there is no shortage of delicate moments to be found on the album, particularly when Burke switches to soprano or bass clarinet, overall Slip Sliding makes for an intense and exhilarating listening experience.








US singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield has built up a strong reputation in the indiefolk and indie-rock realms after four strong albums as Waxahatchee – named after the creek that ran behind her childhood home in Birmingham, Alabama – but on fifth album Saint Cloud she’s veered sharply and with great panache towards the country music which coloured her youth. Raised on a diet of genre staples such as Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and their ilk, Crutchfield filters this classicism through a more recent strain of Americana – think Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Jason Molina – resulting in 11 sundrenched tracks which sound both familiar and defiantly Waxahatchee. The clean-butwarm production sheen provided by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger) serves the songs wonderfully, while the more sparse instrumentation puts Crutchfield’s distinctive voice up front and she rises to the challenge, her vocals adding great character to tracks like ‘The Eye’, ‘Witches’ and ‘St Cloud’. Highlights abound but shout-outs to the dreamy intimacy of the lovelorn ‘Can’t Do Much’, the minimalist intensity of the inward-delving ‘Fire’ and the way ‘Ruby Falls’ subtly unveils an unabashed beauty not miles removed from the gorgeous lilt of Gillian Welch’s timeless ‘Miss Ohio’ but in a voice all its own. A wonderful directional change of tack resulting in a beautiful and enveloping listen.

Another shift towards country realms comes courtesy beloved Atlanta-bred garage outfit Black Lips, albeit coming from a wildly different place and proffering vastly different results. The self-professed ‘flower-punks’ have often hinted at country leanings in the raucous rock of their past but on ninth album Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart they’ve gone full-pelt down a boozy outlaw country ravine, evoking legends like Waylon Jennings (‘Holding Me Holding You’), Willie Nelson (‘Chainsaw’, ‘Georgia’) and Merle Haggard (‘Locust’). There’s welcome variation as at times they veer towards The Byrds or the Stones’ country voyages – all pedal-steel, acoustic guitars and joyous yelps – while the wordy, off-kilter narratives of ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Live Fast Die Young’ even have flourishes of John Prine at their core. Elsewhere the twangy ‘Ophelia’ harks back to a more trademark Black Lips sound and they even cover an unfinished Velvet Underground number – the building Southern gothic majesty of ‘Get It On Time’ – and while occasionally it feels like parody (see Ween’s 12 Country Greats (1996)) at the album’s heart it’s a more loving homage (a la Jonathan Richman’s Jonathan Goes Country from 1990), Overall it’s more Johnnys than Johnny Cash, but despite an apparent surface flippancy deep down these songs are surprisingly heartfelt making the album both fun and (importantly in the country realms) authentic.

Who knew that MTV Unplugged was still a thing? Well it is apparently, as they recently invited globally-beloved Aussie singersongwriter Courtney Barnett to record a special hometown performance for telecast which ultimately took place at Melbourne venue Howler in October, 2019. As per the rules the singer and her band had to strip back to a predominantly acoustic set-up and the format suits Barnett’s songs superbly, the resulting space putting focus on her perfectly-formed, insightful lyricism and the laidback, everywoman charisma which shines through songs like ‘Depreston’, ‘Sunday Roast’ and the superb ‘Avant Gardener’. They’re joined at intervals by guests, namely the great Paul Kelly (who helps deliver a wonderfully emotive rendition of Archie Roach’s ‘Charcoal Lane’), Evelyn Morris (aka Pikelet, who shoulders a new, doleful arrangement of Barnett’s poignant ‘Nameless, Faceless’) and Kiwi country-soul sensation Marlon Williams (who shares a pathos-drenched cover of Seeker Lover Keeper’s ‘Not Only I’). It’s all brought home by a spellbinding version of Leonard Cohen’s profound ‘So Long Marianne’, finishing the all-too-brief set in perfect fashion. Available on limited edition aqua blue vinyl, MTV Unplugged Live In Melbourne gives the distinct impression that right now Courtney Barnett isn’t just on top of her game but on top of the world, and long may she remain there.


ZZ TOP: THAT LITTLE OL’ BAND FROM TEXAS NETFLIX/EAGLE ROCK DVD Here’s one of my favourite music trivia questions (courtesy of the late Stephen Walker’s Skull Cave quiz on Triple R-FM): Which member of ZZ Top doesn’t have a beard? Answer: Frank Beard, the drummer. Trivia it might be, but it is also an example of the way in which the band is not as predictable as you might think, given its massive chart success during the MTV era. Last year, the power trio celebrated its 50th anniversary with a US tour and this ‘official’ documentary. Of course, as soon as you see the word ‘official’ tagged on any doco it usually signifies that the film has been sanitised so as not to upset band members and/or their relatives. So, if you want to find out who Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are off stage you will have to wait for a tell-all tale in years to come. Do they have partners, families or even flashy cars like in their videos? Does it really matter? Director Sam Dunn fills in all the rest of the history right up until the time the band’s career exploded thanks to MTV. We do find out that after their successful support tour with the Rolling Stones, Beard spent his earnings on drugs. “All of it,” he admits. There is probably a lot we could learn from how these three musicians managed to keep their band going for 50 years without any of the bust-ups, whinging and scandals that have afflicted so many of their contemporaries. After all, egos usually get in the way at some point but ZZ Top managed to sail on through. The fact that they are from the Lone Star state must have a lot to do with it. With a thriving blues music scene and the psychedelic 13th Floor Elevators in full swing it was a great musical education. The laconic Texan attitude no doubt helped them weather the early years playing any place that would have them. According to the film, the band discovered its sound after playing the blues rock riff ‘Shuffle 80

In C” for three hours non-stop and their producer in their first recording sessions was able to create a huge sound from just three players. So, ZZ Top started out playing their own version of the blues. The band’s first two albums barely made an impression on the charts but Tres Hombres, in 1973 busted into the Top 10 and gave them their first hit with the irrepressible ‘La Grange.’ The song was really a reworking of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’ meets Slim Harpo’s ‘ Shake Your Hips.’ Hooker told me back in 1989, “I love those boys but they should pay.” They didn’t. A lawsuit failed, apparently because the riff was by that stage in the public domain. That song set a fairly basic template which was to serve the band well. If ever there was an example of the KISS principle (‘Keep it simple, stupid’) then ZZ Top is the perfect one. ZZ Top’s other early big break was when the Rolling Stones invited them to open three shows in Hawaii, after which – unhappy with the lack of press coverage – they hired an ace publicist, reworked their stage show to make it an evocation of their home state and tagged what was to be a massively successful tour as the Worldwide Texas Tour. Their aura was embellished with an indelible image

when Gibbons and Dusty Hill grew lengthy beards which, according to the former was because they were too lazy to shave! Not quite threatening enough to be Hell’s Angels but rather mysterious hill country figures. When MTV came along, the ZZ Top image coupled with an incessant groove and highly stylised and well-produced videos that featured attractive long-legged models and even more attractive hot rods (depending on your point of view) was perfect. ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’,’ ‘Legs,’ and ‘Sharp Dressed Man,’ from their 1983 album Eliminator were on high rotation. The songs would have been hits anyway but MTV was the perfect vehicle to add to the mystique. I recall seeing the band on tour at Olympic Park in Melbourne and while I agree with Billy Bob Thornton’s assessment that it was ‘a little like seeing Bugs Bunny on stage’ they were an absolute powerhouse. The film features new interviews with the band members, rare archival footage, a special performance at Gruene Hall (the oldest Texas dance hall), animated segments and guests such as Billy Bob Thornton and Josh Homme (Queens of The Stone Age). All in all, it’s an entertaining look at a legendary trio.

Janis: Her Life and Music By Holly George-Warren (Simon & Schuster, p/b) This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Janis Joplin’s death. The fact that she continues to loom large in our consciousness tells us much about the power of music. I can still remember the visceral shock upon first seeing her perform Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Ball and Chain’ in DA Pennebaker’s film Monterey Pop. More than half a century on, it can still tear your heart out. Author Holly George-Warren, whose previous book recounted the life of Alex Chilton, is clearly drawn to turbulent musical lives. And, let’s face it, they don’t come much more turbulent than Janis Joplin’s. Brief as it was, it was jam packed with incident and achievement. Let’s consider this for starters: when she got around to recording her major-label debut Cheap Thrills, she had just two years to live. In that brief time, she forged her musical legacy. George-Warren delves into Joplin’s childhood and teenage years growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, daughter of conservative Christian parents. Her book makes it clear the extent to which Joplin’s later life was impacted by her youthful experiences: she never ceased to rebel against her parents, while at the same time seeking their approval. Her discovery of Kerouac’s On the Road, at age fourteen, proved a revelation, offering, as it did, a first glimpse of an alternative universe, that of the Beat hipster. At the same time, she was discovering the music of Odetta, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and others. Joplin’s passage from small town teenager to international rock star was anything but straightforward. If Georg-Warren’s account tells us anything, it is that Joplin, despite endless roadblocks, worked tirelessly to get to where she did. Her first solo trip to California was short lived, and she soon returned to Texas, tail between legs. At twenty, she set off again, this time with friend Chet Helms, for San Francisco, arriving to a nascent hippie scene. Her two years there, with side-trips to New York, provided her with plenty of opportunities to perform, but also triggered a pattern of drinking and pill-popping she’d henceforth struggle to rein in. In the end, her friends had to raise money for her bus fare back to Texas. After a disastrous engagement to cad and bounder Peter de Blanc, she was lured back to San Francisco by Helms. The burgeoning psychedelic scene was in full swing, with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane ruling the roost, playing the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom. Third time lucky, Joplin fell in with mid-level band Big Brother and the Holding Company. With her incendiary vocals and strong stage presence on board, Big Brother’s star, along with Janis’s, was soon in the ascendency. Early on, however, there was a growing perception that the band was holding her back. Elektra offered her a contract, contingent on her leaving the band. Joplin, to her credit, remained with her Big Brother family, but the seeds of future tension were already sown. When it comes to Janis Joplin, there is before and after Monterey. Her performance was a showstopper (as were those by Hendrix and Otis Redding). Reputations were made overnight. Bizarrely, Big Brother’s manager refused permission for Pennebaker to film the band’s set; but so powerful was it, the band was offered a second Festival slot if they agreed to being filmed. Joplin’s ‘Ball and Chain’ was like the shot heard around the world. Thus, is history written. After Monterey, the offers started flowing in. Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager, took over the reins, negotiating a substantial fee to sign on to Columbia. However, after recording their one masterpiece, Cheap Thrills, with its memorable Robert Crumb cover, the writing was on the wall, despite sales of a million copies.

The label wanted Janis, not Big Brother, and this time round she acquiesced. Her next project, the horn-heavy Kozmic Blues Again, never fully gelled, although it furnished us with several classics. Her final recording Pearl would deliver her the success she’d always craved, selling eight million copies. Sadly, she never lived to see it. George-Warren provides an understated account of that fateful day on 3 October 1970, when Joplin chose to skin-pop a dose of heroin back in her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel, after a day in the studio. She’d been clean for several months, which didn’t help. Fifty years on, we are left with what if? We’ll never know. Her posthumous reputation rests on a handful of recordings. In the end, it’s enough. George-Warren’s biography of Janis Joplin is the most comprehensive to date. She was granted full access to Joplin’s archives by sister Laura, and her book quotes extensively from Joplin’s letters. She’s interviewed a large number of people who knew Janis: musicians, producers, friends, lovers. With the passage of time, already those ranks are thinning. While early blues and jazz made a place for female artists, the sixties rock n’ roll revolution emerged as a strictly male preserve. It can’t have been easy for Janis to bust her way into that world. Warren-George cites plenty of examples of the prejudice she battled. To her credit, Joplin elected to operate on a level-playing field, attaining success by dint of hard work and talent, combined with unmatched fearlessness. In doing so, she carved out a seat at the table for female rock stars.


OK – thanks for asking - my book on Paul Kelly is finished and, as you read this, probably coming back from the printers. Plus, I’ve finished my part of the cowriting of a book on Australia in the 1970s through 100 singles which I’m putting together with Jane Clifton. So, now there’s time for more reading. Not that I stopped but the vast majority of what I’ve read of late has in some ways been related to the Kelly book. In fact, writing books and reading them can be problematic and just a little fraught if they’re combined.

But Parker did acknowledge that there was a civil rights problem in the city and guess who he singled out as the oppressed? “I think the greatest dislocated minority in America today are the police . . . blamed for all the ills of humanity.” And Parker went on: “There is no one concerned about the civil right of the policeman.”

Nothing is worse than thinking you’re doing pretty well with your project and then you pick up a book and the writing, style, approach and insights are just so good that you immediately become depressed and wonder what you’re doing.

Set The Night On Fire is crazily detailed. Rock’n’roll is in there as it has to be, but as Rebecca Solnit points out, this is something different to the more recognised and popularist histories of Los Angeles (and America) in the 1960s: “The familiar, monochromatic picture of Los Angeles in the sixties – all Hollywood pop and Didion ennui – required a million people of African, Asian, and Mexican ancestry to be edited out of utopia.”

I know a lot of writers who just don’t read (except for research material) when they’re writing their own books. Some will find that reading really superb writing inspires them to greater endeavours – but for the most part it’s the last thing you want to encounter.

The battles happening on the streets of America in 2020 go way back and it’s hard not to read Densmore’s words without wondering if anyone really has had their watering can out. And if they have, they really need to water more. Much more. Get a hose even.

By Stuart Coupe

But in a post-Kelly world I’m deep into the piles of books that have built up around the house and thoroughly immersed in a door stopper of a volume entitled SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE: L.A. IN THE SIXTIES by Mike Davis and Jon Wiener. With footnotes included it comes to just under 800 pages and even the authors concede in their introduction that their publishers think it’s too long. And with America rioting in the wake of the death of George Floyd it’s a rather appropriate book to be reading as it doesn’t take more than a few pages before you start asking yourself, “has anyone learnt anything in the past five or six decades?” The book of course takes its title from the Doors song ‘Light My Fire’ and quotes Jon Densmore in an interview conducted for the book: “The seeds of civil rights and the peace movement and feminism were planted in the sixties. And they are big seeds. Maybe they take fifty or hundred years to reach fruition. So, stop complaining, and get out your watering can. That’s my rap.” This is an immensely detailed book that requires reading slowly and with concentration. A breezy afternoon’s entertainment it isn’t – but it constantly rewards the time spent. In just the opening pages comes the addressing of many preconceptions: “Understanding Los Angeles in the Sixties also requires rewriting the histories of gay liberation and the women’s movement. Indeed, New York City was not the origin and centre of everything. Los Angeles had the first gay street protest in America – over police raids on the Black Cat tavern in Silver Lake, two years before the Stonewall Uprising; it had the first gay church – the Metropolitan Community Church, now the largest gay institution in the world; and it had the first officially recognised gay pride parade – on Hollywood Boulevard in 1970. L.A. also witnessed the nation’s first police raid on a women’s health clinic, following which the organisers were put on trial for ‘practicing medicine without a license.’” And so, it goes on. There’s fascinating insights on LAPD Chief William H Parker, a central character in many James Ellroy novels set in the era of his dominance. Early in 1960 Parker was questioned by the US Commission on Civil Rights and explained how he felt, “there is no segregation or integration problem” in 82

the community of Los Angeles. The biggest problem was that the good citizens of Los Angeles were being inundated by, “barely civilised poor people from other regions” So, the trouble-makers were “the Negro” who Parker argued “committed eleven times as many crimes as other races” and of course those pesky Mexicans.

The Last Word WAY OUT WEST Danny Walsh Revisited His Country Roots For His Latest Album

Melbourne-based musician Danny Walsh has toured clubs, pubs and festivals over the last decade with his energetic blend of psych, swamp-rock, blues and vintage rock’n’roll. He and wife Emma Peel are behind the Reservoir Stomp - an annual celebration of the city’s inner north. Raised on farmland in Victoria’s dusty Wimmera region, the big smoke never took the country out of the boy. Danny Walsh Banned have released their third full-length album In The Wimmera to revisit his country roots, with influences from Mississippi Hill Country Blues to Australian bush poetry. “Donald was a wonderful place to grow up,” Walsh says. “I moved to the city when I was 18, feeling a bit like Mick Dundee arriving in New York. When I go back I get a bit nostalgic. Things have changed but I still bump into people down the street and chat like we saw each other yesterday. Or pass a familiar old truck on parts of the road, remembering where all the bumps are, bouncing the memories all around your head. My parents are still on the farm. It’s very familiar and calming to come home. Things are slower and the internet isn’t very good, so you have no excuses not to unwind and disconnect. We sit and talk. I help on the farm, take in the magnificent sunsets.” Walsh recalls singing hymns in church and learning bush dances with Sister Monica. “Thankfully Dad used to blast his Beatles ‘Rock n Roll’ album on Sunday mornings to round out the experience. I remember hearing ‘I Was Only 19’ and ‘I Guess That’s

By Chris Lambie

Why They Call It The Blues’ on the radio… The Man from Snowy River at the Birchip Drive-In. I learnt guitar with my Aunty Minnie from Grade 2, which was a great choice since the other option was recorder lessons with Sister Monica! My Aunty Anne taught 18 nieces and nephews piano. I was the first cab off the rank. She also ran the High School Band somehow managing to fit all the instruments - including drumkit - in her hatchback Ford Laser!” In The Wimmera is rich with shady characters and funny buggers. A version of Matt Taylor classic ‘I Remember When I Was Young’ includes ad-libbed references. Walsh namechecks late great harp hero Chris Wilson. “I sent our recording to Matt to make sure he was OK with it. I was pretty nervous. He got back straight away, saying he loved it and that we had a great band. We were chuffed. He wrote: ‘IRWIWY was written to express each person’s experience and it’s a great pattern to blow on.’ I first saw Chris Wilson at the Big Day Out playing with his Spidermen. I’d never heard anything so wild. In terms of other Aussie music heroes, You Am I springs to mind. There’s almost always a moment in the writing process where I think ‘What would Tim do here?’ I love the Pigram Brothers. At Port Fairy Folk Festival years ago, I had a ridiculously funny time singing with them in the Green Room. In my mind, no-one else has songs that so beautifully and genuinely capture the feelings of being ‘at home’. I love Don Walker’s songwriting. [Our] track ‘Slowing Down’ was inspired by ‘Home and Broken Hearted’. Thanks Don. The first time I saw Mia Dyson, I was blown away by her fuzzed-out lap steel guitar. It inspired me to buy a weird old homemade one that I wrote some of my first songs on.” Walsh wrote ‘Burra’ 20 years after losing a young mate to an accident. “His family played it at a sunset gathering at the crash site to mark his 40th birthday. My great mate, Marty’s brother Paul and his

kids sang backing vocals on the recording.” Instrumental track ‘Joni’s Ocean’ began life when Walsh and Peel’s daughter was born prematurely, spending 105 days in the NICU. “I used to play this for Joni (and surrounding bubs) on an acoustic guitar, in an ‘open’ tuning that Joni Mitchell used to use. Although I was also writing stoner rock songs about V8s in the same tuning during that same period!” The Banned are: Guitarist Will Hewett (son of Colleen) who co-wrote the ‘Cherax Destructor’ tune; Adam Green (bass); Warwick Dunn (guitar) and Andrew Alves (drums) both also in Miserable Little Bastards; Luis Poblete (Quarter Street) on percussion; Leo Tellefson, aka ‘The Weed’ (keys). “He’s my Dad’s cousin. His rambling up and down the Calder between gigs since the 70s is immortalised in ‘Slowing Down’, where his piano playing really hits top gear.” Kat Mears (Cash Savage & The Last Drinks) adds fiddle magic and vocals to the romantic ‘Pride of Erin’. “Kat nailed it! Must be the Celtic blood. We played together when the Banned was an acoustic trio about 10 years ago. The song was written for my cousin Emily and her Irish fiancé Dave and was played at their wedding reception in Donald. Three of my aunties sing voodoo sounding backing on it and ‘The Golden Hour’. Mick Coates, another guest, contributes spoken word track ‘Cherax Destructor’ (the common yabby) over a ‘psyched-out jam’. Mick’s voice is low and gravely, perfect for spoken word pieces akin to Ken Nordine. He does Johnny Cash covers and a terrific radio show from Bendigo called Gunslingers, Hillbillies, Western Swingers & Cool Rockin’ Dudes Radio Show.” In The Wimmera is available now at Bandcamp.


Amythyst Kiah

Cady Groves

Dog Trumpet

Fiona Ross

Joe Diffie

Lucky Peterson



Virtual hugs again for you all… American singer/songwriter Kris Delmhorst is one of many artists live streaming concerts. After one such gig, her daughter said she’d enjoyed it better than a normal gig: You seemed more like my mom. I think it was because you were less confident and professional. Scottish-born singer Fiona Ross (www.fionaross.com.au), who now lives in Australia, has just released the album, Sunwise Turn (which she recorded with Shane O’Mara). According to Fiona, the album’s title is “based on an old Scottish custom – [that a] boat has to first sail in a sunwise (clockwise) direction for good fortune. In the opening song, the ship turns widdershins (anti-clockwise)…the voyage doesn’t end well!” She says, “I’ve been part of the traditional singing community in Scotland for years and I feel really privileged to keep shining a light on the Scots singing tradition here in Australia. It’s been amazing working with guitarist Shane O’Mara and this album includes many of the songs we’ve been performing at festivals across the country. The album is voice and acoustic guitar – like our live performances. There’s also one unaccompanied song – still a large part of what I do as a traditional singer. It’s important that my repertoire represent the diversity of the Scots tradition – from songs of love, life and work, to Jacobite songs, humorous songs and, of course the “muckle” (big) ballads. I hope the songs on this album showcase some of that richness. As we say – the sang’s the thing!” Musicians are selling tickets to virtual (online) gigs, including via trybookings and deliveredlive. Signature Sounds has set up a ‘tip jar’ for musicians who are taking part in its Parlor Room Home Sessions, including Peter Mulvey, Amythyst Kiah, Chris Smither, Mary Gauthier. And some musicians are using Patreon to generate a recurring income stream. Despite the impact of COVID-19, lots of recordings are being released, including: Tattletale Saints (AM Radio – credited to Her Make Believe Band); Hilary Woods (Birthmarks); Dan Reeder (Every Which Way); Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards (Bitter Better); The Seekers (Hidden Treasures – The Rarities Collection Vol 1); Gretchen Peters (The Night You Wrote that Song – The Songs of Mickey Newbury); Pharis and Jason (Bet on Love); SONiA of disappear fear (Love Out Loud); Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (Thar Toinn / Seaborne); Mary Lambert (The Grief Creature); Jason Isbell (Reunions); Eliza Gilkyson (2020); Steve Earle (Ghosts of West Virginia); Jasmine Rae (Lion Side); Dog Trumpet (Great South Road); Rachael Sage (Character); Shirley Collins (Heart’s Ease); Indigo Girls (Look Long); Cidny Bullens (Walkin’ Through This World – on bandcamp); Jeff Black (A Walk in the Sun); LP (Live in Moscow); The Magnetic Fields (Quickies); Marshall Chapman (Songs I Can’t Live Without). Mick Thomas and friends (Angie Hart, Nick Barker, Vikki Thorn, Darren Hanlon, Shelley Short, Alana Jagt, Brooke Russell, Van Walker, Ron S Peno, Alannah Russack, Dana Gehrman, Ben Salter, Jen Anderson) have done a fund-raising song (‘See You When I’m Looking at You’) for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) – available at Mick’s bandcamp store – www.mickthomas.bandcamp.com Record Store Day (www.recordstoreday.com) is taking place on three Saturdays – 29 Aug, 26 Sept, 24 Oct. Nonesuch Records’ album, I Still Play, consists of solo piano compositions written by such musicians as Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Pat Metheny and Randy Newman. 84

American/Canadian singer/songwriter Jamie Anderson has added some very short guitar lessons to her YouTube video channel – with a link on her website (www.jamieanderson.com).


Aurlus Mabélé (66), Congolese singer and composer, died France (March) American country songwriter Jim Owen (78), died USA (March) Charles Baty (66), of Little Charlie & the Nightcats, died California, USA (March) American jazz musician McCoy Tyner (81) died New Jersey, USA (March) Barbara Martin (76), of The Supremes, died Michigan, USA (March) American country singer/songwriter Joe Diffie (61) died Tennessee, USA (March) Peter Stapleton (65), New Zealand musician, died NZ (March) American Drummer Bill Rieflin (59), died Washington state, USA (March) Patrick Francfort, drummer for The Gibson Brothers, died France (April) Folk music DJ and co-founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Gene Shay (85), died Pennsylvania, USA (April) Brendan McGlinchey (79), Irish fiddler, died England (April) German musician Florian Schneider (73), of Kraftwerk, died Germany (April 21) Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee Little Richard, died Tennessee, USA (May 9) Brian Howe (66), English-born singer with Bad Company, died Florida, USA (May) Malibongwe Gcwabe (55), South African gospel singer, died South Africa (May) Keyboardist David Greenfield (71), of The Stranglers, died England (May) Millie Small (73), Jamaican-born singer, died England (May 5) American soul and R&B singer Betty Wright (66), died Florida, USA (May 10) Andre Harrell (59), American music executive and label founder, died California, USA (May) American singer Sweet Pea Atkinson (74), of Was (Not Was), died California, USA (May 5) Lucky Peterson, blues musician, died Texas, USA (May 17) American singer/songwriter Cady Groves (30), died Tennessee, USA (May) Jonathan Kelly (72), Irish singer/songwriter, died in May American jazz saxophonist Richie Cole (72), died Pennsylvania, USA (May) Swedish musician Bob Lander (78), of The Spotnicks, died in May Jimmy Cobb (91), American drummer, died New York, USA (May 24) Alfred ‘Uganda’ Roberts (77), percussionist for Allen Toussaint and Professor Longhair, died on May 24. American guitarist Bob Kulick (70), died in May American pedal steel guitarist, Bucky Baxter, who spent 4 years in Bob Dylan’s band, died on May 25, aged 64.

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• PETER GABRIEL 'Rated PG' (Film Music) • THE UNTHANKS 'Diversions, Vol. 5: Live & Unaccompanied'


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'Memphis Loud' • BRIAN WILSON & VAN DYKE PARKS 'Orange Crate Art' (reissue w. extra disc of outtakes, instrumentals) • LENI STERN '4' • MARK OLSON & INGUNN RINGVOLD 'Magdalen Accepts the Invitation' • NEIL YOUNG 'Homegrown' • B.B. KING & CLAPTON 'Riding With the King' (Reissue w. 2 bonus tracks) • FRANK ZAPPA 'The Mothers, 1970' • KHRUANGBIN 'Mordechai' • MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER 'The Dirt and the Stars' • RAY LAMONTAGNE 'Monovision' • RAY WYLIE HUBBARD 'Co-Starring' (Guests include RINGO STARR, JOE WALSH, CHRIS ROBINSON, LARKIN POE & lots more) • RUFUS WAINWRIGHT 'Unfollow the Rules' • SARAH JAROSZ 'World On The Ground' • STUDEBAKER JOHN & THE HAWKS 'Eternity's Descent' • THE JAYHAWKS 'XOXO' • BE BOP DELUXE 'Axe Victim' (Reissue: 3CD/DVD) • ELIZA CARTHY 'The Eliza Carthy Demos' • LIANNE LA HAVAS 'Self titled' • THE PRETENDERS 'Hate For Sale' • SHIRLEY COLLINS 'Heart's Ease' • PAUL WELLER 'On Sunset'

Grammy Award-winning artist RAY LAMONTAGNE releases his eighth studio album ‘Monovision’. The 10-track album sees Ray not only writing and producing the album once again but also includes added duties of engineering as well as performing all the instruments for the tracks.


Of this, his 17th album, Ray says ‘I have believed in the rule that one should not sing their own praises, but with my new record, well I’m going to have to break that rule... ‘Co-Starring’ has got grit, groove, tone and taste and is so righteously cool that small demons will drool, and little angels will want to line dance.’ Guests include RINGO STARR, JOE WALSH, CHRIS ROBINSON, LARKIN POE & lots more.

SARAH JAROSZ ‘World On the Ground’

She’s released four solo albums, won three Grammy Awards and joined forces with AOIFE O’DONOVAN of Crooked Still and SARA WATKINS of Nickel Creek to form modern folk trio I’m With Her. Sarah's fifth album shows her to be a fine purveyor of songs that have an air of country or bluegrass without being constrained or defined by these genres – a gifted songwriter with an exceptional voice!

JIMMY BUFFETT ‘Life on the Flip Side’

JIMMY BUFFETT is back with his first studio album in seven years... ‘Life on the Flip Side’ was recorded with the Coral Reefer Band in Key West, and features 14 new Buffett tracks. The album is packaged with a 60-page book featuring lyrics, photos, liner notes, and more.

RUMER 'Nashville Tears: The Songs of Hugh Prestwood'

Her 5th album but not the first she has dedicated to reimagining and paying tribute to male singers and songwriters including BURT BACHARACH, GILBERT O’SULLIVAN and NEIL YOUNG. HUGH PRESTWOOD is not necessarily a household name, but you will be familiar with at least some of the songs that appear on this album. RUMER’s vocals are often compared with those of KAREN CARPENTER and you can certainly hear similarities in her relaxed and melodic style.


• LAURA MARLING 'Song For Our Daughter' • BEBEL GILBERTO 'Agora' • KATHLEEN EDWARDS 'Total Freedom' • BETTYE LAVETTE 'Blackbirds' • RUMER 'Nashville Tears' • JIMMY BUFFETT 'Life On The Flip Side' • CHUCK PROPHET 'The Land That Time Forgot'





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Joel Sutton Rhythm & Blues Revue Vol 1 LBM1CD

The Sleep Eazys - Joe Bonamassa Easy To Buy - Hard To Sell JRA 61076

Bernard Allison Songs From The Road RUF 1276

Roomful Of Blues In A Roomful Of Blues ALCD 4998

Mark Easton Free Yourself

Joe Bonamassa Live At The Sydney Opera House CD - JRA61071 LP - JRA61075

Mike Zito And Friends A Tribute To Chuck Berry RUF1269

Stars One More Circle Round The Sun



Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram Kingfish ALCD 4990

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters Beyond The Blue Door CD - SPCD1407 LP - SPLP1407



Joe Bonamassa Redemption CD-JRA61069 LP-JRA61070

Joe Bonamassa & Beth Hart Black Coffee


Lloyd Spiegel Cut And Run LS0891

The BB King Blues Band The Soul Of The King RUF 1268

Tinsley Ellis Ice Cream In Hell ALCD 4997

John Nemeth Memphis Grease CD - BCM1401 LP- BCM1401LP



Profile for rhythmsmag

Rhythms Magazine - July/August 2020  

The mid-winter edition of Rhythms featuring a fabulous 26-track download card sampler for subscribers.

Rhythms Magazine - July/August 2020  

The mid-winter edition of Rhythms featuring a fabulous 26-track download card sampler for subscribers.

Profile for rhythms10

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