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Review by Ross Clark
So to write this review I have to listen one more time to One More Trip Around the Sun . . . gladly, gladly. Caroline Hammond’s 3rd album is a baker’s dozen of her characteristic songs, cheerful (but not thoughtlessly happy-clappy) and melancholic (but not operatically terminal), always lively and life-affirming.
This album builds on the earlier two, but uses more personal arrangements, bedded on subtle but absolutely top-knotch contributions from Michael Fix (who also recorded & produced), Craig Claxton, Sarah Calderwood and others (including Caroline’s long-time percussion-mate Suzanne Hibbs).
Above it all, Caroline’s voice is foremost . . . not only her strong and gentle singing, but the humanity and occasionally wry observation in her lyrics. I can attest that she has kneaded and caressed the lyrics and music into existence over the last 18 months. All at Sea and One More Trip Around the Sun open the album with clever images of life together, continued in It’s All Heart. Imagery of the ocean and the littoral, of wind and weather, continue from her previous album Between the Shoreline and the Moon(2013). And just listen to the lovely instrumental Summer Rain, featuring Caroline’s n’goni playing . . . dance to it.
Other songs praise this life we sometimes labour through, either directly (Count Your Blessings, Bless This Life, Things We Do) or via the words of a character (Smokey), and they will help your heart beat right.
And then there area couple of superb story songs: You and I, Two Steps, and Vasco (and Smokey too). Vasco is a superb tale, musically the differentest on this album, but exuding quirkish joie de vivre … and it’s got one of those effortless singalong choruses that Caroline produces so readily.
So this is peak Caroline Hammond, not as varied in tempo and genre as her previous offering, but showcasing the strengths of her songwriting, singing and playing. I love the first three tracks, later I count my blessings and dance in the summer rain, and I finish by imagining the sequel to the story of Vasco. Take the journey.
Caroline Hammond’s One More Trip Around the Sun album launch details here on Sat 17 Dec, 7.30 – 10.00pm 2016.
FACEBOOK: Caroline Hammond Music
Review by Julie Minto (aka Mama Juju)
Back2Front (Red Music/ MGM) is the first solo offering from Dave Mash Parnell. The title is a clever play on words – A drummer and sound engineer Dave moves from the back to front and centre stage to sing and play his own songs. He has done a magnificent job of writing the songs, recording the album and playing most of the instruments himself.
Dave’s drumming background makes for some great rhythms throughout the CD. I loved the syncopated groove of the opening track “The Pendulum” which is underpinned by an awesome bass line from Rough Red band mate John Barr. In fact the bass lines and percussive rhythms sparkle in all the tracks. There are also some nice touches of mandolin by Steve Tyson in “Leave it Til Tomorrow and “Just One Look”. The underlying theme throughout the album is very much about time, love, life and loss.
Every song is a winner but there are some real standouts for me. The reggae inspired “Loves Ashes” with its subliminal chorus that latches on straight away and gets into your head. “Lucky Man” is another one with a catchy chorus, a catchy guitar riff as well and some great slide playing from Ian Shawsmith.
“Last Man Standing” a co write with Shawsmith is a gorgeous reflective piece with lovely harmonies, intricately picked banjo and guitar. The skillful snare drum rolls come in a quarter way into the song and add another dynamic layer.
“Don’t Leave It ‘til Tomorrow is a song with a message about the shortness of life and not waiting too long to tell people about how you feel. The deeply personal “OK to Cry” exposes some raw very deep feelings about how to express and let go of pain. These are concepts most people have experienced and can relate to.
The songs are easy on the ears to listen to and most importantly, will really connect with people. I think the connection factor is something every great songwriter hopes for. I have to say congratulations Dave Mash Parnell, you have certainly managed to achieve that in bucket-loads with this honest and heartfelt collection of songs.
More info about Dave at: www.mashpro.com.au
Review by Denise Parker
Penny Davies and Roger Ilott, that iconic Queensland folk duo, famous for their beautiful, understated treatment of many well-known Australian ballads, have done it again with their new CD, ‘And Both Shall Row’.
This is a superb collection of twelve mostly traditional folk songs. Penny’s haunting soprano, Roger’s fine baritone and their effortless harmonies, transport the listener to far distant and often troubled times. Their familiar skills on the acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin are complemented by the work of musicians Jordon D. Ilott (dobro); Lee Williams and Jed Hudson (bass guitar); Clara Barrs and Kristin Kelly (violin) and Alan Kelly (bodhran). The album was recorded by Roger at Restless Music.
There is a satisfying blend of poignant and more upbeat songs on this CD. The listener is immediately captivated by the opening song, Here’s the Tender Coming, with its ominous pulse and harrowing tale of the press gang, then Farewell to Nova Scotia adds a reflective mood, containing evocative descriptions of this rugged Canadian coastline, blended with the sorrow of World War 1 when whole families of brothers left, never to return. John Riley, with its uplifting message of faithful love for a long-lost husband, is enhanced by lyrical violin accompaniment. High Barbary, and the jaunty Bullgine Run with its toe-tapping beat of the bodhran, continue the selection of songs of the sea. Deportee (W. Guthrie/M.Hoffman), a tale of the shabby treatment of Mexican farm workers in the 1940’s, resonates with its parallels to the current Australian refugee difficulties. The Scottish folk song, The Water is Wide, and the old British folk song, John Barleycorn, get a respectful and soulful treatment from Penny. They are offset by Roger’s two cowboy songs - the nostalgic Get Along Little Doggies, with his driving banjo, pays tribute to his childhood love of Hollywood westerns, and the rhythmic Range of the Buffalo – both offer an effective contrast to the lyrical mood of the older ballads. The album’s final song, the well-known shanty from the Bahamas, Sloop John B, is a fitting conclusion to the album.
My favourite track? They are all wonderful songs, but the stand out for me would have to be the mesmerising, Farewell to Nova Scotia.
At just $10, this is a marvellous CD and well worth adding to any collection. You will find yourself seduced by its warm, gentle tone and beauty, and listening to it over and over.
The CD comes in an environmentally friendly foldout cardboard sleeve with extensive song notes.
More at: www.restlessmusic.com.au
Review by David Penman
When I first listened to Contents Unknown by Jodi Murtha I was excited just because it was Jodi’s first album and that’s a huge thing on its own. After the first run through I thought it was great, there was something I couldn’t quite get my head around so I have listened over and over again in the car.
It’s the vocals! Having cunningly hidden herself behind cameras, basses and the occasional Angela Toohey, I have never had the chance to really appreciate just what Jodi can do. Such a rich, pure and strong voice that easily rises and falls with plenty of character. In the nicest possible way it’s such a great commercial voice, by which I mean it’s a voice that should be recorded and sold to the masses. Really it’s that good!
I realised the thing that eluded me on the first listen. Jodi’s voice is so striking I wanted some of the instrumentation and arrangement to be much bigger, more produced to frame that voice. Not that for a minute am I downplaying the great accompaniments and arrangements on this album. This for the most part is all Jodi’s talented multi-instrumentalist handiwork! All songs are musically interesting and creative with catchy hooks and great chord arrangements.
I am referring to the potential of this woman. I want her to go on to huge things, send copies to producers and recording companies, get her on stage out the front where she belongs. Jodi is a class act rising immediately above the norm.
And then there is the song writing... none of your throwaway pop tricks and repeated lines here. These are stories and meaningful ideas that must have taken a lot of work to arrange in such listenable, understandable ways that convey the essence and remain so enjoyable and entertaining. A fine line not always achieved by singer songwriters. Now I’m listening to it over again simply because I enjoy it.
Review by Alison MacKenzie
This is the first album in a long, long, long, time by Brisbane based musician Andy McDonell. The album, entitled Sentimental Asylum is exactly that, both sentimental and a bit mad. Sentimental for the reflective and sometimes sad journey it takes you on and, a bit mad in the way we all are; being fools for love, fools for grog or just dammed fools.
There is a little something to love about all these songs but some stand-out for me. The opening track All These Memories is a song of lament and embarrassing or difficult memories coming back to smack you in the head (well, teeth) and is sung sincerely by McDonell with his distinct, husky vocals. I found the lyrics almost too raw and self-deprecating at first however, after a few listens I concluded that underneath the story of regret lies the hint of a very full, very well-lived life.
Hollow Bones (co-written with Fanning) is too short! A fabulous anthem for both rock-pop and folk listeners it has an appealing melody which has you singing along immediately.
An Irishman, a Scotsman and a Jew is the classic start to the joke that is oft times the reality of a professional musician’s life. The lug in, the type of bar, the audience and the unpredictable nature of paying gigs are all conjured in a few short sentences. “Sometimes they all go crazy and sometimes they all just stare and sometimes they all go home…and leave him there.”
This album is well worth the long, long, long wait. McDonell is a skilled story teller, with the sense of the dramatic. Ten tracks, all originals, remind me of theatre and contain well drawn characters such as a disturbed Veteran wishing for a new Prosthetic Mind and Bewildered William who can’t sleep for wondering why. The tracks are well paced and the feel falls somewhere between ironic Western Country (Two Bullets, Prosthetic Mind) and Swing/James Bond feel (Bad Time).
The mood created by the support musicians is spot on and the production perfect for the genre. The musicians on this album are: Andy McDonell (Vocals, Guitar), Bernard Fanning (Vocals Track 4), Ian Haug (Guitar), Ian O’Brien (French Horn), Tim Deveraux (Electric Guitar, Vocals), Caroline Hammond (Vocals), Chris Gilbert (Bass), Bob Nolan (Private Detective), Cameron Mckenzie (Vocals) and Chris Tone (Drums, Percussion). The album was recorded at Airlock Studios by Craig Gillett and Konstantin Kersting, mixed by Craig Gillett and mastered by Ian O’Brien. Sentimental Asylum is dedicated to Brian McDonell and Johnny Van Groll. Do yourself a favour and get a copy of this album as There’s more to this than meets the eye!
You can hear Andy McDonell perform at local venues and folk clubs.
The artist is supported by the Guitar Brothers and for up to date information on gigs visit:
Review by Bruce Elder
In the hierarchy of Australian folk, Don Henderson is an iconic figure who, although he died in 1991, is considered by many as the closest this country ever came to producing a singer-songwriter of the calibre of Woody Guthrie.
The reason is simple. Henderson was no great craftsman. He didn't have a great voice and wasn't a particularly good guitar player. But he did write a substantial body of "news" and contemporary "social commentary" songs.
Think of the wry and Guthrie - like talking blues of Talking Mt lsa, about the miners' strike. Or the melancholy Westgate Bridge Disaster, a swinging attack on the incompetence that led to the collapse of the infamous bridge. He never deviated from his passionate support for unionism, anti-war activism and belief in the decency of manual labour.
Recently, a disparate group of organisations and individuals - notably the Queensland Folk Federation, Brisbane Labour History Association, Illawarra Folk Club, the CFMEU - have worked to preserve Henderson's legacy.
This double CD, containing 40 songs, comprises 20 original recordings and 20 of Henderson's songs recorded by such Aussie folk luminaries as Gary Shearston (Put a Light in Every Country Window), Declan Affley (Rake and Rambling Man) and Danny Spooner (It's On).
This is an important piece of Australian folk history. Henderson deserves to be remembered.
More at: donhenderson.com.au
Review by Mary Brettell
I put this album on not knowing what to expect and was totally blown away! This, to me, is by far the best production The Goodwills have conjured up to date. The instrumentation was the first thing that grabbed me. It is hard to fathom that this is first studio CD Bob and Laurel have produced for 12 years. It seems during this time they have gathered a fantastic array of musicians and, I imagine, this might be a reflection on their experiences during that time (although Bob says some of the songs came to him in dreams).
The songs are fabulous, with Bob's quirky sense of humour and a distinctively Australian feel. Each track tells a story (and they really are 'stories') depicting a great variety of subjects and executed in it's own unique way.
There are 14 tracks! Bargain!! It would be very hard to choose my favourite but I really did laugh out loud at some of them... particularly The Morris Ale / Mucky Gumboots! Other songs get a poignant message across in a most entertaining way. As the Goodwills website says their music is for "people who like words" and Bob's experience as a journalist enables him to eloquently paint a picture of what it is he wishes to convey. This album has a definite local feel with Waterfront Row a fantasy of what it might be like high in the Hinterland if it just didn't stop raining; against a touch of realism in Buddy's gone to Conondale which describes the changes that have taken place with the development of Bob and Laurel's once idyllic rural paradise.
The title track The Last Waterhole came to life after their many outback. Another Year with You, is the sort of love story which conveys the comfortable closeness of folk who have spent their lives together. I could go on about individual tracks but I think it best if you simply obtain a copy of the album for yourselves and listen to the stories.
Review by Ian Dearden
Súnas bandmates Sarah Calderwood and Paul Brandon (life and musical partners) have joined forces with Mirko Ruckels (Pretty Violet Stain) and Markus Karlsen (The Company) to form Red Crow, a band that inhabits the interstices in the musical landscape between Americana, alt-country, celtic, folktronica and country soul. It’s a fascinating and entrancing blend of original songs (credited collectively to the band), featuring Sarah’s gorgeous voice out front of a group of wonderfully supportive musical compatriots (with the addition of fiddle on Make Me Cry by Markus’ bandmate from The Company, George Jackson).
Grounded by the solid upright bass playing of Markus, and featuring superbly arranged backing vocals from all members, the album instrumentation includes flute, whistle and ukulele from Sarah, keys, banjo, guitar and percussion from Mirko, and guitars and percussion from Paul. There is a deliciously moody and brooding atmosphere to all the songs on this mini-album (seven songs in total), especially As The Crow Flies, which features haunting whistle and eerie electric guitars. Hold Me Down is a more straightforward alt-country number, featuring duo girl/boy vocals and a big chorus, including multi-tracked backing vocals from Sarah. Fade Away and This Song reflect Sarah’s celtic songstress background, while Make Me Cry is pure country soul, with superb interplay between Mirko’s banjo and Sarah’s vocals.
It’s always a pleasure and delight to listen to the outcome of a collaboration between extraordinarily talented musicians, combining their talents, while searching for a “voice” and a “sound”. This album by Red Crow demonstrates that they have the voice, the sound and the songwriting chops – as with the best of band albums, they have put together something that is greater than the sum of its’ parts. It’s a beautiful album, they have created something special and unique, and I can’t wait to see them live! You can find out more at www.redcrowband.com
Review by Julie Witney
The Stetson Family are a 5 piece Bluegrass band based in Melbourne since 2008. This is their third album comprising 10 originals plus a Stanley Bros tune and a Bob Dylan song. The original songs were all written by band members, Nadine Budge, John Bartholomeusz, and Alan Caswell. The album shows classy veteran musicianship and great production.
Their sound is a driving acoustic sound of guitars, 5 string banjo, mandolin, double bass and dobro fronted by Nadine’s distinctive breathy alto voice. Another trademark is their rich harmonies. All members sing. While they are not really a family, they still manage to sound like one. The other two band members are Colin Swan on banjo and Luke Richardson on double bass.
For me, their harmonies and acoustic musicianship stood out. I enjoyed the clean mandolin solos particularly. Let it Ride appealed to me especially. While I haven’t seen the full band, I enjoyed hearing Nadine perform a song with The Mid North at the Bangalow Bluegrass Festival in August this year.
The Songs: their songs follow traditional bluegrass chord structures mostly, with a couple of haunting songs in minor keys.
The original songs are: Hey Bartender; Run Daddy Run; Every Second Beat of My Heart; Lover Where you Going; Man and a Pretty Gal, Travelin’ Man; Top of the Mountain; Don’t Look Back; Haunted Hills; Let it Ride.
The other two tracks are Billy by Bob Dylan and How Mountain Girls Can Love by The Stanley Brothers.
On this album, they are joined by other Melbourne musicians, Gleny Rae on fiddle, Liz Stringer and Suzannah Espie on backing vocals, Bree Hartley on percussion and Nick O’Mara on resonator and steel guitars.
The album has had airplay in the USA and charted #2 in Bluegrass/Folk Album of the Month on the APD global radio indicator.
The album is available in stores and online, being marketed by MGM distribution. You can purchase physical or digital copies by going to their website. www.thestetsonfamily.com
I would heartily recommend purchasing a copy if you love bluegrass and follow Australian bluegrass bands.
Review by Kim Downs
This collection of well crafted poems and songs by Bill Scott is an eclectic assortment of tales and vignettes that fit firmly under the umbrella of Australiana. Bill's voice reflects his varied past; stint in the navy, cane cutter, steam engineer driver, miner, book publisher, extraordinariness’. Bill brings a strong poetic aesthetic to his work which is mercifully free of the many banal clichés that often litter modern bush poetry. He experiments with rhyming poetry, blank verse, free verse, and straight narrative. Sometimes speaking, sometimes singing, Bill has produced a largely spoken word cd. Some tracks are accompanied by banjo, tin whistle, guitar, or accordion in a minimalistic fashion that augments the narrative voice but never overpowers it.
The recording itself is professional and clear and not a single word is lost. Lovely to hear modern takes on old subjects like the bunyip and Thunderbolt the bushranger. Many of these pieces are short, pithy, and would serve well as a school primer for young would-be writers. Bill’s delivery exudes a rough, simple confidence and his singing style is pitch perfect, uncluttered, and clear. Perfect for this sort of material. When Bill intones: "Lean blue dog and wise brown horse are mates enough for me. These and the crickets of the evening and the dawn wind through the gums" from Ringer, you believe him. It is authentic, beautiful, and reeks of the truth. Musicians Sharon Doro on accordion, Dick Halligan on Anglo concertina, Penny Davies on tin whistle, and Roger Ilott on banjo and guitar bring a tasteful touch to the CD. Produced and recorded by Roger Ilott in 1992 – 93, this re-release is a gem for lovers of Australian poetry and history. By turns, humorous and profound, nearly 20 years after its initial recording, this collection still gleams like a diamond. If you like tales of smelly goats, fib-telling miners, lonely ringers, frustrated outback lasses, and ghost towns haunted by spirits - this is the CD for you. Good stuff.
Review by Mary Brettell
I know I should not be surprised but this album is fantastic both for the musical content and the production. In my opinion this is definitely Ewan MacKenzie's best work yet and he must be very proud of it.
There is a superb array of talented musicians creating the atmosphere of this album with Ewan's passionate touch on guitar, his emotions always simmering and eloquently expressed through his graceful fingers.
Dan Cosgrove is an extremely fine musician and composer providing the mellow clarinet sound and his voice is a delight to listen to.
Ewan says Jan Van Dijk approaches his music on the oblique and we are all definitely the richer for it, his expressive touch on the violin can leave the listener breathless.
The rhythm is provided by Miranda Deutsch who, as Ewan says, lays down the swinging-est grooves and is a fine guitarist in her own right.
This is an album full of emotion with the mood going up and down and tugging at heart-strings one moment and in the next becoming joyously uplifting.
Tracks on the album are originals apart from the title track Django Reinhardt's Swing Dynamique and Is You Is or Is You Ain't (My Baby) by Louis Jordan. Nine tracks are written by Ewan and one by Dan.
I can feel so much tenderness in Ewan's Lisette ... MAGIC! ... WOW! I absolutely love it.
The calm and mellowness (is that a word?) of Evensong is almost tangible.
Dan's La Valse Labyrinthe is intoxicating!
I could go on about individual tracks but am simply going to recommend you get hold of a copy of this album for yourselves to quietly enjoy along with, perhaps, a glass or two of a fine red.
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