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CD review By Julie Minto
This is the second CD from this artist to cross my palms for review. I'm instantly impressed by the cool photos. The cover has a snap of "The Jimmy Watts Band" written on two pairs of feet with black texta-imaginative and eye catching!
Recorded and produced again by Jimmy with Melissa Hender who also plays African drums and percussion. The sound has been mixed and mastered so is therefore more polished than the solo CD previously reviewed. A minor criticism: I would have liked to hear more of the drums in the mix - a bit more volume may have added another dimension to the tracks where they are used.
This album again captures Jimmy's unafraid commitment to his music and is more of the same - raw, roosty and bluesy with a hint of Dylan thrown in for good measure.
The earthy dig, dig... dig title track is an excellent opener with layered acapella vocal tracks building to guitar and harmonica then dropping back to chant - like acapella with handclapping. This album is not for the faint of heart as Jimmy has gone for a more alternative and heavy sound.
The second track, Brother, continues with the burial and borders on sounding like an old hillbilly song; the story where the subject does something not so nice to someone's wife and buries her down by the river - the theme is very dark. Mmmmmm.... It did make me wonder what happened to the nice melodic Jimmy. Not to worry, he does make an appearance later in So Goes Your Servant and also Daisy face, which uses some nice slide guitar. The guitar playing is a standout feature - it's inventive and diverse.
The philosophical track 9 I Just Be from the solo CD is again included and precludes the final track, love song Darling in My Dreams which shows that softer side.
The Jimmy Watts band may be a little left of centre, but it is intriguingly different and tends to leave you wondering what he will come up with next!
To buy this CD or for more info go to www.jimmywattsband.com
Review by Sarah Calderwood (of Súnas)
It's a Friday afternoon and I'm relaxing with a coffee and running through yet another delicious playback of the debut self-titled album by Brisbane group Little Creatures. Consisting of vocalists and multi-instrumentalists Tom Roberts and Mick Patrick, this album offers the listener highly melodic original songs with one trad tune. Tom Roberts has contributed all but one song on this album (the other written by Mick), showcasing quite a mature and earthy sound.
Harmonies can be quite tricky to blend, particularly in a duo, however Tom & Mick's voices combine seamlessly. Standouts showcasing this include Ava, Caution and Second Time. The latter song also features a stunning fiddle riff which is highly unlikely to forget - I found myself humming it for days!
I must make mention of the beautiful fiddle work on this album by Mick. The songs are never saturated; Mick's playing and arranging serves to enhance and give depth. Smoke Rings features only lush string arrangement as backing with an unusual yet welcome excerpt of Gymnopedie by Erik Sadie. The only instrumental on this album, Martin Wynnes No. 2, a trad Irish tune, demonstrates Little Creatures' ability to arrange songs and tunes to hypnotically beautiful effect, and is in my opinion the standout track on this album.
There are a few spots in the recording where the vocals are overshadowed slightly by guitar or string accompaniment, however this is a minor point. The sound is kept simple and elegant, with a few vocal double-ups to give a fullness. Overall I feel this album is a laid-back and delightful listen.
Little Creatures is now performing as a trio, with the addition of percussionist Will Eager. Although this album was recorded before Will came onboard, I feel that to exclude him in this review would be unfair as he is a definite presence in their live performances.
Review by Maree Robertson
This is not a new CD, but it's new to me, and such a beautiful recording I wanted you all to know about it. You will possibly know David LaMotte if you've been to the National, he's a renowned US folk songwriter so established he has his own "boxed set" of recordings, A friend introduced me to his music by playing me his song Hold On, and it has shifted and blessed my life in incalculable ways, so I was delighted to find that David was coming to live in Brisbane this year (as a Rotary World Peace Fellow), and that we would be neighbours!
David's latest CD Change is an album that entrances and inspires. He is an extraordinarily gifted songwriter and guitarist, with a gentle voice that could melt ice.
This album was an experiment in production, with only David's voice and guitar, cello and drums. The result is a revelation in how to broach the gap between standard 'folk' style recordings and the pop/rock intense production style that jars many of us deep folk...the atmospheric tone here is smooth and warm and lush, and the great songs ride the crest of that wave with grace and subtlety. It's that rare article - a folk album you can listen to, and relax! (available via www.cdbaby.com)
David has only agreed to do 2 concerts while living in Australia, and both of them are for us - a house concert in Kenmore Hills on Saturday 19th September 2009, and as our special guest artist at the next Music Making for Mental Health concert, on Sunday 20th September 2009 (our 1st daytime concert). If you know me, trust me when I say, you'll be glad if you block BOTH of those dates in your diary now.
review by Julie Minto
I am almost swooning from the heat as I get into the car to leave Woodford Folk Festival 08/09. This quickly changes to swooning with delight as the great music from the Swoon CD and the air conditioning start to take effect.
I ran into Swoon (Josh Notting and Angela Smith from Mackay) doing a set at Woodford who gave me their new CD Kindred to review.
Many make the mistake of over doing the CD production and not sounding how they actually sound live. Thankfully Swoon self-produced and managed to stay true to their real sound, except for some subtle overdubbed harmonies and extra guitar. They also added drummer (Peter Vadiveloo) and well known bass player (Liz Frencham) on a few tracks.
Swoons music is refreshing, unpretentious and very easy to listen to. The overall flavour is original, vibrant, jazzy and acoustic. Angela on lead vocal has a real knack for melody and superb phrasing. Her vocals sometimes cruisy jazz - cool, sometimes gutsier seem to flow effortlessly over Josh's clever guitar accompaniment. Josh is one resourceful player with finger-picking, heavier rock and percussive, jazz/ blues influenced guitar riffs all featuring on the album. Percussion, stomp box and occasional guitar effects also complement the sound.
Swoons songwriting is about love and life and covers many tempos and styles so listening to them never becomes boring or monotonous. An added bonus is most of these Swoon tunes have a great hook. From the melodic title track Kindred to ballads like I Can't Fall, the catchy Watch Out which builds to a crescendo and great danceable acoustic folk rock like Free Tonight and Give In To Me.
Angela and Josh list some of their influences as Led Zepplin, Jigzag and Brisbane's Stringmansassy to name a few, along with nice swimming holes and alcohol. They are now featuring on JJJ Unearthed and are two very nice, very talented people who are sure to go far.
Recorded by Steve Vella at Dog and Bear studio Melbourne, the very professional lucky number 13 song package features great artwork and lyrics.
The Kindred CD released in December 08, tour information, other recordings and merchandise are available online.
review by Julie Minto
Jimmy Watts has a style all of his own which you will know if you have seen the passion and dedication he commits to his music when playing live.
However if any comparisons were to be made it could be said he has been influenced by the rootsy, bluesy, one man band style of Bob Dylan or Australian artists such as Phil Manning, Jeff Lang and more recently Xavier Rudd.
Jimmy has done a fair job on this self titled debut CD with all the songs written, performed and recorded by himself. The sound quality is quite good and manages a true representation of what Jimmy sounds like. It does not have an overly produced or overly commercial sound, so it is very real which I kinda like.
Use of harmonica and foot percussion compliments Jimmy's conversational singing style and intricate guitar work. From the beautiful and melodic guitar in track 4, Army Bearing Down and Track 5, Down My Worn Out Old Street, to more get down stompin' blues and slide on some of the other tracks. There is a surprising amount of variation in what Jimmy does with his instrumentation and choice of song subjects. Lets hope he keeps writing songs, performing, recording and flying high like the final track on the CD. This is someone who believes totally in what he is doing and has a great future with his music.
For more information on CDs and upcoming performances check out
CD Review by Anne Bourne
Celtic Twa is a duo consisting of David McConnell and Brisbane singer-songwriter Mark Davidson. As explained in the CD notes, Celtic Twa formed in 2003 to play to audiences at retirement villages, nursing homes and the like. On this CD they are joined by Don Nichols on double bass, and Ryan Elder on didgeridoo. The CD was recorded, engineered and mastered by Mark Smith at Real Productions in Brisbane, and Mary Brettell created the artwork with a very Celtic flavour.
A Wee Nippie Sweetie contains a good selection of five Scottish folk songs and one Irish song (which also has Scottish versions). David McConnell sings the lead vocals in all but one (I'll Tell me Ma), when Mark Davidson takes the lead. David sings his version of the beautiful old gaelic song Come by the Hills, followed by the stirring Flower of Scotland and The Haughs of Cromdale. Next is Leezie Lindsay, followed by the Irish song I'll Tell me Ma, and finally, Tie the Ruck. All these songs lend themselves to audience participation in a hearty sing-along.
The beautifully picked guitar played by Mark Davidson is particularly well done on Leezie Lindsay - however it is so far in the background most of the time that I'd have to describe it as a discreet pleasure to hear. Maybe it's my stereo or my ears, but I was also disappointed that I could not hear Don's double bass at all, and I think I could just hear a hint of the didgeridoo a little in Flower of Scotland - which I thought added a delightful touch of irony, it being such a Scottish song - but giving the didgeridoo greater prominence might improve this track.
When I listened to this CD I found myself constantly wanting to increase the tempo. Perhaps the slower, deliberate pace on all tracks is for the benefit of the older audience, but my preference would be to take them all a little faster, which would also obviate any perceived need to fill in at the end of each line by holding the last syllable so long (especially the consonants). As well, I would have liked to hear more of the lead guitar, backing vocal harmonies, double bass, and didgeridoo; for me they were either too much in the background, or inaudible, which was unfortunate.
However, A Wee Nippie Sweetie remains a good selection of Celtic songs, some of which may be less familiar, so having your own copy would provide an opportunity to amend that. It's wonderful that Celtic Twa have been playing to audiences in local aged care facilities for so many years; I expect their performances are enthusiastically received and greatly appreciated.
CD review by MaryB
This is Bob's first dive into the world of CD recording. He has chosen a range of great traditional and contemporary songs, including one written by himself titled Wine and Water and a fine John Warner song Anderson Coast.
Bob's deep resonant voice is featured well on the CD and ably backed up by the talents of Penny Davies and Jordan Davies-Illot on backing vocals, and has Roger Illot playing 12 & 6 string guitars, banjo, mandolin, keyboards and contributing to the backing vocals. Bob recorded this CD at Penny and Rogers' Restless Music studio at Stanthorpe.
Tracks on the CD are :
The Lark In The Morning, Wine and Water, Come Day Go Day,
Jimmy Spoons, Johnny Stewart Drover, Kilkelly, Anderson's Coast
CD available by phoning Bob on 07-4685-2072 or email
Review by Bob Wilson
This new recording from Penny Davies & Roger Ilott turned up in my mailbox like a welcome letter from an old friend with new stories to tell.
Penny and Roger have been producing independent music from their home studio near Stanthorpe for more than 20 years, and with at least a dozen of their own recordings behind them, the experience shows. Like Big Water (released 2006), this CD has a folk-rock feel with drums, bass, Dobro and Roger's Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar adding a Byrds' flavour.
Moon Caller is a family affair, with son Jordan Davies-Ilott playing drums and dobro. It must have been a special moment for him to hear Mum and Dad's original song, Goodbye To Your Schooldays, at his high school awards ceremony. The 15 tracks on Moon Caller include old favourites (Joni Mitchell's Circle Game and J.C. Stewart's tribute to the 1969 moon landing, Armstrong), and one of the few unpublished collaborations between Roger and the late Bill Scott (The Goldfield). Penny and Roger's eight originals include the nostalgic Aurelia (about Penny's experiences emigrating from England) and the wistful opening track, She's Like a Tree.
Jed Hudson, who played with Roger in Sydney folk-rock band The Rusty Dusty Bros in the 1970s, collaborated on this album, playing bass, mandolin and adding backing vocals to some tracks.
Although this is a "band" album, Penny's distinctive, gentle vocals and Roger's under-stated harmonies are always to the fore. O'Mara's Front Verandah is a nostalgic ballad featuring Dobro, mandolin, pedal steel and acoustic bass, but the instruments are well back in the mix, allowing the listener to focus on the words, harmonies and feel of the song.
Other highlights include Song of the Artesian Water (A.B.Paterson/C.O'Sullivan), the droll Wet Season Blues and the duo's climate change protest song, Crazy Weather. This is a well-produced, listenable album with a lot of heart.
Available from Restless Music P.O Box 438, Stanthorpe 4380. www.restless.com.au
CD Review by Lonnie Martin
Our community never ceases to amaze me with the spectrum and wealth of talent we encompass and this EP release, Parliament of the Birds, from Mzaza is my case in point. Utilizing the talents of Pauline Maudy (vocals), Stephen Cuttriss (accordion), Bill Anderson ( Ud, Irish Whistle, Kaval, Ney), Greta Kelly (Violin, Kemanche), Miranda Deutsch (guitar), and Jordan Stamos, (Dohola, Darabuka); this beautifully presented five track recording (by the wonderful Mark Smith), presents a musical smörgåsbord of traditions and instrumentation combining the sounds of East and West with sultry ease.
Each track displays such a high level of musicianship and Mzaza's repertoire spans from classical Turkish tunes fused with jazz-style improvisation vocals, to French chanson, and interpretations of Sephardic/Spanish songs. I was particularly impressed by Pauline's easy vocal style which belies her level of skill and technique and astounded by her capability to sing in such a range of languages. I have rarely heard such diversity and versatility in a World "Fusion" band. Mzaza's driving rhythms and haunting melodic lines made me yearn for exotic places and adventures.
Mzaza are launching this recording on the 22nd of April at the Press Club, and they are playing at the Woodford Tree Planting on May 3rd. You may also see Mzaza at the next FO&N Concert on May 16 at Morningside School of Arts hall.
For more details visit www.myspace.com/mzaza, or
CD Review by Anne Infante
I love this album! Bright, punchy, compelling African rhythms that speak to the joyful, elemental soul within us all; I suspect it's true that in the dim mists of the past we all did come out of Africa - my heart certainly relates and responds to the heart beat of African music.
Okapi Guitars are: Bernhard Huber - guitar, vocals; Chris Bright - drums; John Laidler - guitar, vocals and Sigi Huber - bass, vocals. Their music flows, blends, swings and shifts, coalescing into a bright and happy whole which makes the listener tap, sway and dance along. The vocals are delivered with appealing spontaneity, swinging from African to English to French with equal proficiency. The nine songs on the CD aren't all African - they include Kelly & Carmody's From Little Things... (big things grow), the story of the Gurindji's struggle for land rights, and three original Okapi Guitars tracks. Live@CutSnake was also engineered and mixed by Laidler and Huber.
I'm not sure a studio recording counts as 'recorded live' but wherever and however Okapi Guitars recorded Live@CutSnake it's all good news for the listener, providing an enchanting and happy experience.
My favourite tracks? Well, all of them ... but especially:
Nakolela Cherie - a solid African chant/response song by Orch Makassy.
From Little Things... (big things grow) - the simple, powerful story of an abused people who sat down, said 'no more!' and changed their world: K. Carmody and P. Kelly.
Samba - hypnotic and healing by Orch Super Mazembe. Money - a delightful tongue-in-cheek calypso-style chant about - money! An Okapi Guitars original.
So, get happy, give them money and get Live@CutSnake from www.okapiguitars.com
And now, excuse me - I'm going to listen to it all over again!
Review by Julie Minto
This is real authentic American toe-tapping bluegrass and roots music direct from the USA. You just have to look at the cover photo of the two inbred looking fellows and the title to realise this band has a fine sense of irony and humour which almost, but not quite borders on bad taste.
Apart from that, The Hillbilly Potentates are a band of consummate and very potent (as their name suggests) musicians on banjo, fiddle, guitar, dobro, harmonica and double bass. The opening track sets the tone with a blistering bluegrass instrumental showcasing all the instruments and the exceptional skill of the players. These guys are not just technical players they also manage to play with "feel', something that often gets lost when playing at such fast speeds.
Many musical styles are covered from fast picking bluegrass instrumentals to ballads to western swing to songs about hobos, love, broken hearts and drinking. If you were lucky enough to see the Potentates on their recent Australian tour, they took great delight in heckling the audience and each other during the show. They have injected this recording with that same infectious goodtime feeling. The CD almost sounds as if it was recorded live- maybe it was- I'm not altogether sure - as all that seems to be missing is the applause!
Jay Castleberry's lead vocal is husky and warm toned and he sounds like he's having loads of fun hamming it up with the band which puts the listener right there at a live show. Before launching into a wailing harp solo he says "I think I'm gonna blow" which is just loaded with humorous innuendo. The rest of the band is not left out joining in on chorus vocals and each showcasing their talents in solos introduced by Jay's whoops and enthusiastic asides like - where's that fiddle and tear it up Tim.
It Takes One To Know One - It's fingerpickin' good!
Jay Castleberry - banjo, lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harp, Tim McCasland - dobro, lead & rhythm guitar, & vocals, Ron Green - stand up bass & harmony vocals, Richard Bowden - fiddle (CD) / Chuck Hugenberg (Australian tour) - fiddle.
For more info go to www.thehillbillypotentates.com or listen to free streaming mp3s at www.myspace.com/thehillbillypotentates
A review from Lonnie Martin
Firstly, a disclaimer, I was intending to buy this album, having been thoroughly enchanted by SÚNAS's live performances. I was expecting to be delighted and as such I wasn't disappointed by their CD, A Breath Away From Shadow. The album is a grand showcase for this up and coming band, beautiful arrangements, haunting vocals, and gorgeous instrumental work combine to form an unforgettable and haunting first recording.
SÚNAS are Sarah Calderwood, Bridget Masters, Paul Brandon and Mannie McAllister.
This beautifully presented album is full of original material, (with one Rankin Family ring in, Turn That Boat Around), and traditional and original tunes. The songwriting is remarkable for its range and diversity, and displays a maturity and self possession that is rare and quite beautiful. I particularly love their arrangements, the sound is identifiably SÚNAS's own. My favourites are Night Faeries, (Sarah Calderwood), Travelling Times, (Paul Brandon), and Travelling Man, (Paul Brandon, Sarah Calderwood and Mannie McAllister), for their lyric content and the way these songs linger in my ears.
When hearing SÚNAS live, there is a sense of joy and delight which pervades their music and this is beautifully captured in this recording. I found myself smiling from the first track to the last.
The one thing I would change about this album is the mixing and mastering. On occasion the vocal harmonies sound mushy rather than crisp and are too far behind the backing instrumentation. The instrumental tracks could be cleaner and the use of effects being reduced overall would have been my choice.
I will say here and now though, that they have improved as a band since this recording and this album does not reflect the best of SÚNAS as seen live now. Needless to say this CD rapidly became a favourite and I am eagerly awaiting their next offering.
Visit www.sunasband.com to obtain your copy!
MaryB has a new CD out soon. All songs on the album have been written by someone local: friends and acquaintances. Mary is off to the UK again in May and June and wished to take the CD with her to showcase the talents of our local songwriters and musicians. Mary says, This CD is not meant to say 'Look at me, I can sing'; it is instead being produced to say, 'Look at what talented songwriters and musicians I have as friends'.
There are 10 tracks - The Valley, written by Sue Wighton, Annie Wheeler by Dermot Dorgan, Courting The Net by Bob Wilson, Cowboy Hat by Tony Miles, Good Cleaning Man by Anne Infante, Sithah by Colin Dryden (who also wrote The Factory Lad (Turning Steel)), The Pedestrian Crossing at Post Office Square by Andrea Baldwin, Stillwater Boys by Mark Davidson and This is Love by Linzi and Rhys Owen. The final track, Danish on the Deck is written by Mary herself and came out of a desire to write a song in praise of her many talented friends, almost all of whom have enjoyed some sort of beverage on her back deck at some time.
Musicians who have kindly agreed to participate are Rhys Owen (guitar), Michael Tully (double bass), Robin Etter-Cleave (flute), Ian Dodd (mandolin), Hughie Curtis (fiddle), Rose Broe (accordion), Sue Wighton, Lonnie MartinHelen Rowe will add vocal backing.
Review - MaryB
WOW! I LOVE this CD - I just can't get enough of it! OK, you may ask why?
Where to begin - the first thing you will hear is the guitar work - what a great guitar style Luan Baldwin has - a clean, easy feel with great chord progressions played by magic fingers. I get a warm fuzzy feeling from the first note. Then to hear the voice, oh yes, sooo easy to listen to. I sit in rapture.
Now ... the content. The songs are wonderful. Lu is a great songwriter. He writes of his time out at sea on board the K. I. Ross. He writes of the places, the work on board, the crew and the relationships between all of these things. To say Lu is a modern-day Harry Robertson underestimates his talent. Like his big sister, Andrea, Lu is a master of observation and has the creative ability to express his experiences in song.
I can't say which track is my favourite yet - I just love them all. There are so many of his guitar licks or lines in his songs that bring a smile to my face. If I feel my spirits need a lift this is the CD I put on. Just buy it and you will be as rapt as I am.
Contact Luan Baldwin on 07-4979-2640 or c/-
A review from Anne Bourne
After Notches on the Wall, I expected to like House of Cards ... well, I absolutely love it! This is amongst the very best CDs I have ever heard: one of those very rare CDs where every single track is a good one - there are no fillers. And it only grows on you even more with repeated listening. Anyone who listens to this will become a Mark Cryle fan if they weren't already. The flawless sound quality of this production is the work of brilliant guitarist Michael Fix.
As you might expect after Notches on the Wall, there is great diversity in terms of both lyrics content and musicality. House of Cards includes songs about life, love and relationships - from the optimistic Someday and the joyful excitement of She's Got Everything to the sadness of Nadine and fragility of Blow Me Away; and stories such as The Granville Train and Glebe Point Road that hook into Australian shared cultural knowledge and memories.
Outstanding delivery of Mark's insightful, sensitive lyrics and beautiful melodies wrapped in a variety of musical styles - country, bluegrass, bluesy, even reggae - with touches reminiscent of Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder and Paul Kelly and many others, make this CD's initial appeal only deepen as it remains interesting and enjoyable over many repeated listenings. It begins and ends with upbeat, optimistic songs.
Inspired arrangements and a team of superb musicians complement the lyrics so well that these songs take the listener's emotions along with them. Kerobokan takes you straight back to the heartache you felt for the parents of Scott Rush; Rainy Day just softly feels like one of those gentle, lazy, guiltily self-indulgent days; and the sparse keyboards and that gorgeous harmonica in Johnny Cash is Dead evoke a stark loneliness. The Longing is masterfully put together - a beautiful melody, such romantic (in a blokey kind of way) lyrics, exquisite guitar, subtle keyboards, fabulous backing vocals ... is this my favourite song on the CD?
At the House of Cards CD launch, Mark and this talented team - Silas Palmer, Richard Evans, Andrew Heath, Michael Fix, Helen McGreevy, Keith Megson and Joe Cryle - demonstrated what true professionals they are with a polished live stage performance of the songs themselves, with just the right mix of interest and humour in song introductions.
If you weren't fortunate enough to end up with a copy of this magnificent
CD in your Christmas stocking, go and treat yourself to it now!
Following on from his highly acclaimed 2006 release Notches on the Wall and his award winning work previously with Spot the Dog, Mark Cryle has galloped out of the blocks and upped the ante with the release of House of Cards. This superbly crafted effort sees Mark confirming his status as one of Australia's leading songwriters House of Cards combines powerful elegies to love and desire with documents of contemporary Australian life. The album kicks off with Someday, a bright, optimistic, hook-laden anthem for new found love. Rainy Day and The Longing sustain the intimate mood. Kerobokan tells of a parent's heartache when faced with a child's transgressions while Glebe Point Road, based on a true story, is a modern tale of elopement. The Granville Train shows that Mark has not lost his capacity to delve into Australia's past to unearth powerful stories. The 13 songs here are unmistakably bedded in the Australian urban way of life and speak easily of places, events and cultural ticks which we all recognise. The lyrics are bundled in powerful, insistent melodies which draw the listener into the stories.
On House of Cards Mark's songs are supported by and encased in high quality tasteful production from guitar maestro Michael Fix and a superb cast of musicians including Spot the Dog alumni Richard Evans (guitars and harmonica) and Silas Palmer (keys and fiddle). The Flood's Scott Hills is in the drummer's chair while Tulca Mor's Andrew Heath extends his virtuosity to the bass guitar for these sessions. Mark's son Joe makes a recording debut here too on pedal steel and dobro. The powerful and distinctive lead vocals are wrapped in the warm blanket of the twin female voices of Helen McGreevy and Renae Suttie.
House of Cards is a tour de force. It deserves pride of place in the collection of astute music lovers everywhere.