Australian Artists New & Recent Reviews
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Country Update Album Reviews
Beccy Cole | Michael Fix | Brian Letton | Jamie O'Neal | Dean Perrett | Winners2001
Capital News Album Reviews
Catherine Britt | Arthur Blanch | James Blundell | Peter Busher | Bullamakanka | Tracy Byrd | Kasey Chambers | Slim Dusty | Felicity | Adam Harvey | Lonestar | Brent Parlane | Kevin Shegog | Tanya Self | Winners 2001
She came to our attention last year with the inclusion of her song “That Don’t Bother Me”, co-written with Kasey Chambers (who also did backing vocals) on the Open Road Vol 3 project, and the synergy with Kasey was obvious. Catherine holds so much promise for the future while delivering this sensational debut album with 7 originals from her own pen, and it’s really quite scary to hear this now 16 year old, delivering the lines that she does in songs like “Drive-In Movie”. Her style is even more traditional than Kasey, and where KC dips and lashes into alternate styles for her songs, Catherine is pretty straight down the line. Bill Chambers is dead right as producer of this very traditional album, and the duet with him on the Haggard “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)” is a delight. This is my tip for surprise package of the year. What’s she gonna do when she grows up? Ron/CapNews Oct 2001
It’s great to see so much of the Arthur Blanch catalogue being made available on CD and here, Arthur has prepared a collection of 24 songs with over one hour of music and included are some of those lost nuggets from daughter Jewel Blanch’s catalogue as well. Tracks include her RCA recordings from the 70’s and as a bonus; the classic I Wanna Stay On Jumbo, recorded when she was just 4 years old. Songs included are mostly Arthur’s overseas recordings including “Long Way Home”, one of 3 songs from Dobie Gray who also produced them, there’s Harlan Howard songs like “Life Turned Her That Way” and the Harold Hughes “Lady and the Cowboy” the title track of the Golden Guitar Album of the Year for 1982. Lead track “Out of Step Heart” however, was recorded more recently with Rod and Jeff McCormack and the boys and written for Arthur by Mike Curb. Ron/CapNews Oct 2001
I Shall Be Released has 20 of James’s hits and best tracks from the last decade plus 4 brand new tracks, “The Valley”, which is the new single for radio, “A Moment in Time” which opens the album, “Come Back Soon” and the album’s last and title track “I Shall Be Released”. The old songs about a simpler life on the land, ‘Rain on a Tin Roof”, “Down on The Farm”, “the Cloncurry Cattle Song” and ‘A Touch of Water’, and there’re the songs of personal life and “being human”, like “The Old Man’s Gone”, “Mysterious Ways”, “Guardian Angels”. James has always surrounded his singing with original musicians and arrangers creating his own unique Australian sound. I understand that his earlier cds, out of print for some time now, are now also reissued with this release and that will certainly please many of his international legion of fans, but if you want a taste of James, this is a great value introduction to the work on his seven other albums to date. Ron/CapNews Sept 2001
It’s been the best part of 4 years since we’ve heard from this Tamworth Festival favourite from WA. Peter Busher was always an escapee from Austin TX. And with this his first full album of solo work, he’s headed to the source and recorded in Austin, with all the cats that do this stuff for a living, and it’s a delight. He simply cruises effortlessly through a selection of Honky-tonk standards like “There Stands the Glass”, “Six Pack To Go”, “I Never Go Around Mirrors”, “A-11”, “Wine Me Up” with the only real surprise selection in “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me. So smooth that it wouldn’t burst the bubbles on your beer. The muso’s play like it’s second nature, which it is… singing pedal steel, tinkling juke joint piano, bouncing upright bass, it’s all there, so roll back the rug, and enjoy Australia’s best honky-tonk singer, Peter Busher, recorded in honky-tonk central.
The Late 70’s early 80’s were when Australia used to actually have a robust “band” scene. The era of The Flying Emus, 1901, and Saltbush but the group that consistently picked up the Golden Guitars, in fact 5 times, were Bullamakanka. Despite their success, for the last decade it’s been very difficult to find their material on CD. Well, we’ve finally got one now. The Best of, includes all the expected classics like Home Among the Gumtrees, the 1983 winner, Gaylene the 1984 winner, and the elusive 1991Group Golden Guitar winner Dust which has been unavailable virtually since winning the award. Also included Bullas in Bilambil, Waratah & Wattle, Orange Blossom Special and the Ballad of Dr Who all firm favourites. Along with more than a dozen of the biggies, there’re a half dozen new songs, and with a price tag under $10, well what more do you need, whip out and grab a copy before they disappear just like previous Bullas albums.
Ron/CapNews Nov 2001
Tracy Byrd’s 8th album continues his claim as a full fledged Texas Country Star along with Mark Chesnutt who shares the duet That’s a Good Way To Get On My Bad Side and as it turns out the two met years ago in their home town of Beaumont in east Texas where Tracy took over singing in Mark’s band when he got the call from Nashville. Again Byrd takes co production credits and handles the job pretty well with Billy Joe Walker who also did the honours on his previous RCA release Its About Time. This is another balanced serving of toe tappers and ballads, a formula which has previously yielded him hits like Watermelon Crawl and Keeper of the Stars which pops up again on this album as a “bonus” track. Worth noting here is a decent cover of the Michael Martin Murphy Wildfire song.
Ron/CapNews Nov 2001
Well, its finally here, the second solo CD by Kasey Chambers. Even with a seven track filler last Christmas to tie us over, her solo debut album The Captain whetted so many appetites that it’s very hard to digest this one in a sitting or two and do due credit, but I’ll give it a go. I guess others will follow with the in-depth reviews it rightly deserves, (Sue Jarvis’s piece in last month’s Cap News is a good example). Kasey’s songwriting and performing talent is undeniable and shouldn’t be given just a scant few plays on the cd player. It ventures deeper into the rock market in style on a few tracks without ever letting you forget her musical heritage. Of note, for those who missed the limited edition bonus of the Captain, there’s a newly recorded version of the duet with Paul Kelly “I Still Pray”. Other songs have been well road tested, including the first single “Runaway Train”, and “Not Pretty Enough”, but she also includes a song, “A Million Tears”, she has never performed on stage. The guest list, well, Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller, Nashville songwriter Matthew Ryan and band The Living End, all showing a hand, but again it’s the Nash Chambers production work with “house band” Bill Chambers, Jeff McCormack and BJ on drums that Kasey relies on to transfer her amazing songs to cd. I won’t pretend to fathom the depth of this one on so short a listen, sufficient to encourage you to get out there and make your own assessment of this album that Kasey says “is about who I am”. Power songs like the title track, and “Crossfire”, to the Hank Williamsesque song “Little Bit Lonesome” there’s an amazing and broad palette. Let’s just say it’s out now at a record store near you. Don’t Miss It. Ron/CapNews Sept 2001
One of the most truly anticipated releases for some years, the groundswell for Beccy has been growing since her debut self-titled release 4 years ago. During that time thousands have enjoyed her vibrant shows around the country, solo, with the Young Stars (Darren Cogan, Felicity and Adam Harvey) and in support for major artists like Slim Dusty. Now here it is and worth every minute of the wait. Beccy has enlisted many of her friends in the completion of this one, starting with Rod McCormack as producer and continuing through writing and singing buddies Carol Young, Tamara Stewart, Kasey Chambers, and Gina Jeffreys. ‘This Heart’ her Golden Guitar winner for Female vocal track is from the pen of Al Anderson, Nashville writer and picker supreme and one of three he contributes along with ‘Wild At Heart’ the title track, and ‘Keep On Rockin’. Claire Lynch’s ‘Friends for a lifetime’, Kimmie Rhodes and Emmylou Harris contribute the ‘Ordinary Heart’ song and Beth Neilson Chapman’s ‘Emily’ lend the sensitive side to the project, while Beccy contributes to 5 tracks on the more, shall we say… up side of things. ‘Storm in a D Cup’, ‘Mother Knows Best’, ‘Lazy Bones’ (a crowd favourite), and ‘Never Sees anything Though’, and her ‘Too Strong to Break’ written with Rod McCormack and Rick Price is almost an answer song to her 2000 hit ‘Strong Enough to Bend’. Beccy’s never been in finer voice, and the enjoyment of finally recording just shines through this one. Just listen to her duet with Mum, Carol Sturzel for example where she lends an authoritative air to the ‘Mother Knows Best’ song. A Bonus track is the recording at the Gympie Muster last year with Darren, Adam and Felicity of Dolly Parton’s ‘Do I Ever Cross Your Mind’ which picked up the Golden Guitar for vocal Collaboration this year, so perhaps it’s a double bonus at that. Her new Record Company ABC Music have done all the right things and given her the big push, so you’re bound not to miss this one. It just proves what we’ve all suspected for years, that Beccy Cole is a sizeable talent to be reckoned with.
IIs anyone still counting… is this 102 or 106, I don’t know, and it no longer really matters, this is another in the unsurpassable Slim Dusty legacy of Bush songs. 'West of Winton', which has been sitting made and ready on the shelf for nearly 4 years, will finally see the light of day this month. Fans have long been aware that the album existed but it was shelved when, after a count back of Slims album's, it was realised that it would have been the '99th' album. West of Winton is a real Bush Ballad album with songs from old mates like Ray Rose who wrote title track, Ernie Constance “Saddle Up and Ride”, Joe Daly “Old Scobie”, Tom Oliver “Finney’s Home Brew” and “Ham and Eggs” and the almost traditional Henry Lawson poem set to Slim’s music, this time “Dan the Wreck”. More songs in true Slim Dusty style, about the characters and lifestyle of the outback. Ron/CapNews Oct 2001
Ron/CapNews Sept 2001
Quite a left turn for Felicity, this album, but what a sensational recording. It’s like she’s been reincarnated just to sing this material. The Feral Swing Katz producing what is a very big band sound. Shelby Lynne’s ‘Swing Town’, ‘I Remember You’, (yes the Frank Ifield Classic), and ‘Live a Little’, fit her like a glove. Felicity sounds relaxed, in the groove, and having a ball as though this is what she’s been doing for years. The co-producers, Stuart French and Michel Rose, have transferred their extensive experience of playing this style of music with the amazing Feral Swing Kats, to this project without ever once over shadowing Felicity’s sensational vocals. The production is just superb, lilting, swaying, and swinging. Put it on when driving, doing work around the house, or when friends come over. If there’s any justice in this music business, this one will be the coolest smash hit for Australian Country Music in years.
It’s been a fantastic couple of years for guitarist Michael Fix, he’s not only walked away with two Golden Guitars from the CMAA Country Music Awards, he was extended a great honour but being invited to attended the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention in Nashville last year. Michael’s talent is recognised on an international level, and his fame is growing accordingly. Transfixed is described as a retrospective look at Michael’s ten-year recording career. It is an instrumental album that demonstrates the work of a gifted artist. Michael composed all the tracks with the exception of ‘Dill Pickle Rag’ by Charles L Johnson. Among the 13 great tracks are the two that won Golden Guitars in recent years, ‘Mr Wonglepong’ in 1999, and ‘Walking the Walk’ in 2000, both inspired by Michael’s young son Joshua. This is an album that crosses many boundaries, and is perhaps a little more sophisticated that most, but it’s easy to listen to, relaxing, and totally enjoyable.
served notice that Adam Harvey’s serious about his Country music. Working Overtime delivers the same message only louder with another great album in the traditional US country style, to be filed along side your George Jones, Haggard, John Anderson, Moe Bandy collection. A mighty collection of real country songs, from mid tempo toe tappers, to aching sad songs that make the absolute best of that “bottom of the boots” voice that Adam shares with no one in Australia. The opening track is the current radio single “The House That Jack Built” and if you’ve heard that one, you’ll have a good grasp of where this album is coming from. Not afraid to dip into the past greats, included is the Lefty Frizzell mid-sixties hit “She’s Gone” which other folks might remember as Glen Campbell’s hit from the mid seventies. “The Shake of a Hand” is a real Australian reflective piece and a great ballad. The necessary drinking song “Beauty’s In The Eye of The Beer Holder” kicks along nicely too. Guy Clark’s “Boats to Build” is an unlikely starter but adds to the album, and the Jerry Jeff Walker song “I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight” is another great tear in my beer joint song that works to the hilt. I thought that Sugar Talk didn’t get the attention it deserved; I think this one just might do it for Adam. Ron/CapNews Sept 2001
In this year of Federation it is fitting to reflect on the things that have formed the character of this country and Brian Letton has grouped together a collection of songs that do just that on his latest CD, Thankfully these songs are not overly sentimental, they tell the stories pretty much like it is. Stories of the legends and Aussie characters are told in ‘Sing Australia’, ‘The Legend of Old Billy’ and ‘The Man From Snowy River’. Brian tips his hat to the Anzacs on ‘The Ones Who Remain’ and pays tribute to man’s best friend on ‘Half The Man’. We have come to expect the best in Bush Ballad albums from Brian Letton, and The Land of Waltzing Matilda is no exception.
Who would have imagined the quantum leap in their career with their third album, Lonely Grill, but with Lonestar’s dropping of joint lead singer John Rich, making them a four piece outfit and a shift to producer Dann Huff came the incredible worldwide success of Amazed. Lonely Grill has now sold over 3 million albums, and all the same elements are here in I’m Already Here. The plaintiff vocals of Richie McDonald, the young urban lyric of loves lost and found and the most polished production this side of the Chattahoochee. Still that’s not a complaint for it’s an extremely listenable album, but it’s not Ernest Tubb, it’s 21st Century Nashville’s finest. Soaring harmonies, smooth as silk instrumental work, and easy power ballads. The title track was all over the airwaves in America when I was there last June, and made this one of the most in demand new releases of the US summer. It’s another smash hit, and their fans have been well served with this release.
Ron/CapNews Nov 2001
Although Jamie O’Neal left our shores as small child, it hasn’t stopped many claiming that she’s the latest Aussie talent to make it big in Nashville. Whether she considers herself to be an Aussie may be another question, but the fact is she has made it big, having recently received two final nominations for the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards in Los Angeles, and her hit single ‘There is No Arizona” taking the number one spot on the Billboard Country Charts. Having said all that, Shiver really didn’t do much for me when I first heard it; I thought it a bit too pop and a bit too contrived. However after subsequent listens, I find my attitude mellowing, and there are songs here that I really quite like, such as the rather perceptive ‘She Hasn’t Heard It Yet’, or the more impressive ‘No More Protecting My Heart’. Ms. O’Neal and duet partner Mark Wills give the Randy Van Wamer /Rich Alves song ‘I’m Not Gonna do Anything Without You” a more than credible touch. Although there is a lot of criticism of the pop sound coming out of Nashville at the moment, ultimately it will be the sales figures that dictate what is being released. Producers Keith Stegall and Carson Chamberlain must have a pretty good idea of what the bulk of the audiences want as Shiver has been a very successful debut album for Jamie O’Neal.
In 1993 Brent Parlane came to our attention as the Golden Guitar winner of Best New Talent. He debuted with an excellent “Tex Loves Daisy” album, now sadly unavailable, and has moved through 2 further releases to 1999’s self made album “The Closest”. We’ve come to respect his sometimes quirky, but always insightful, song writing. This, the fourth cd from Brent is no exception. 14 new songs written or co-written by Brent with Ross Wilson, Frank Jones, Ross Ryan, Jesse Parlane, and Tanya Self. But I just can’t get around the sadness in this album. Lyrics like “I’d rather be a loner in Verona, than stand in a queue for you”, from “Broken Man” and “When I look in the mirror I don’t see nothing there, just the Ghost of a man who’s trying not to care” from “Ghost of a Man”, almost desperate stuff. Then you hit “You let go of my hand when I was drowning” from Sandy Creek. So dark. Even what sounds like it should be a bright celebration of freedom “Five Drunk Little Rock’n Rollers” is subdued and almost bleak in it’s arrangements. The Nash Chambers production is down played, almost to lend weight to the lyrics in their sentimental drownings. It’s an intriguing outing from Brent, and not unrepresentative of his work, but gee Brent do me for a happy little line dance song on the next album? Ron
If you’re looking for a “real deal” bush ballad album, then this one is for you. Dean Perrett has a pleasant voice and sings in an Australian accent, he also writes songs that are a reflection of life in the country and performs them in the traditional Aussie country way. Perrett performs 8 of his own songs on this album and they are most credible. He also sings the lovely Stan Coster song ‘Where the Desert Flowers Bloom’ and duets with Lynette Guest on ‘Australia Land That I Love’. Jeff Brown and Glenn Jones have come and lent a hand on “The Young Balladeers’. The Real Thing was produced by Lindsay Butler and features Lawrie Minson on dobro, harp and guitar and Mike Kerin on fiddle and mandolin.
How sad it was to hear of the passing of Kevin Shegog late last year, knowing that virtually none of his formidable catalogue was in print, nor had been for so many years. So it’s a most welcome addition to my CD library that I can now boast a full 20 track collection of his work. Of course the song that most folks these days would remember him by is the “One Small Photograph” re-recorded by Johnny Chester in the early 80’s, but his recordings were most significant 20 years before that, particularly around his Tasmanian homeland and his later home in Victoria. Reg Poole does a nice job in his liner notes explaining the significance of this Aussie classic, and congratulations must go to Terry Gordon (both ex W&G artists themselves) for making this collection available. One Small Photograph gets a run, as does Knoxville Girl, Wayward Rambler, Greyhound Blues and Little Kangaroo, but I guess we’ll have to look forward to a second edition to get the “Wolverton Mountain”. Can’t wait. Ron
At last… the Tanya Self album we’ve been awaiting for some years. Tanya’s career has been slowly building each year, with winning Starmaker in 1995, a Golden Guitar with Adam Harvey in 1998 and top ten singles, it’s now time for the debut album. Originally titled, it’s a nice collection of gentle love songs, uptempo dance numbers and ballads with Tanya writing or contributing to 9 songs with folks like Brent Parlane, and Matt Fell who co-produced with Sam Hawksley. Tanya has a unique sound, that’s improving every year as it polishes up with every new gig. That is a good spot to plug the upcoming tour with Australia’s Country Music Sweethearts tour through Southern NSW and Victoria into Tassie during June with Vanya and Nyree. Every River has already been a top ten hit, and the new single “You Do Me Good” is climbing at this time. My favourites, the opening track “By the Time I Get To You” and another Tanya written song, “Why’d We Wait So Long” with Michel Rose’s soaring pedal steel. Give it a listen. Ron
Well, Winners time is around again, so it must be January. The new “Best of the Crop” cd is out, for 2001 (or Volume 9) if you’re counting. Here’s your introduction to the best of this year’s entries in the CMAA Golden Guitar awards on CD or cassette. Represented here are all of the finalists for 2001, leading off with the King of Australian Country Music, Slim Dusty and including 3 APRA Song of the year finalists. All the male vocalists, Group or Duos and Female vocalists are featured, and because many artists have multiple nominations (Slim with 6 for 4 songs) not all the final tracks have been included here. The Bush Balladeers and Heritage section miss some double ups from Slim, Sara Storer, Lyn Bowtell and Brendan Walmsley but each have other final nominated tracks representing them on the 2cd selection. The thing is though, it’s not what’s missing, it’s what you get… 29 of the best releases for 2000. So if you’re looking to keep the collection complete, or just get a hit of the Year 2000 graduates… here’s your first choice. Ron
This 2CD set is the latest in a series of albums that features the finalists of the Golden Guitar awards. I frequently recommend these collections to people who are just discovering Australian country music or to overseas buyers who get little opportunity to hear a good smattering of the Oz talent. Many people purchase these CD sets to maintain a historical record of the Golden Guitar awards and many people just enjoy having the music. If you are one of the latter, then you wont be disappointed with the Winners 2001, it features some of our very best talent, presenting some awesome material. One example is ‘This Heart’ from female vocalist of the year Beccy Cole, and another is ‘The Captain’ from last year’s winner of the same award, Kasey chambers. Sara Storer’s ‘Buffalo Bill’ was good enough to take out the New Talent golden guitar, and it was a joy to see the Crosby Sisters finally win a Golden Guitar for their beautiful rendition of ‘Trouble In The Fields’. Another big winner on the night was Adam Brand, who contributed the song ‘Good Friends’. Keith Urban’s ‘Your Everything’, a number one hit on the American charts, bestows even greater value to this collection, as does Tommy Emmanuel’s ‘Train To Dusseldorf’, or Brendon Walmsley’s ‘What Brothers do’. It’s a joy to listen to this album, the 29 tracks sit so well together, but it is the opening track that I believe surpasses all the others and will be remembered for many years to come, the superb ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’ from our own Living Legend, Slim Dusty. Rosie
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