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Album Review by Noel Mengel
A storyteller’s eyes and ears are always open. You never know
what might provide the spark for a song: an overheard conversation, a
story from history or an excruciating encounter with the grinding
wheels of big business.
The more experienced the writer, if they are any good, the sharper the eye for the telling detail or an interesting character with a story that resonates.
And there is no shortage of fuel for Byron Bay-based songwriter Tyson and this latest album, 2021 with his band The Train Rex. The observations in his songwriting are vivid and these mostly folk-meets-rock musical settings are focused and energetic.
At a time when most of our travelling has been done in our heads, some of these songs are reminders of a different life. Many of us have a 'Gare Du Nord' story, even if not as on-the-brink as the one of the pair of lovers in the song of that title. This tale from the platform of the bustling Paris train station is as finely balanced as the tension from Tyson’s dobro guitar in this soul-blues groove.
Australian songwriters from John Schumann to Fred Smith have written with clarity about the damage of war and Tyson’s God & the Knights is a powerful addition to that catalogue of pain. The rest of the world moves on to the next conflict; the soldier often returns to a life that’s just as difficult as the battlefield.
Crooked Beard recounts the story of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt, and The Walls of Derry is Tyson’s new version of the song written with John Fegan for their much-travelled band Rough Red. As in Afghanistan and Vietnam, the scars of Ireland run deep: “The walls have stood for a thousand years/You can wash away the blood with tears.”
Sometimes it is the songwriter’s job to amplify the history we might otherwise never know such as the slave trade of First Nations women stolen by sealers from islands in the Bass Strait, as told in Tyereelore.
And sometimes difficult questions can be addressed in a few concise verses, such as the line between historical curiosity and unhealthy obsession considered in Berlin Bunker.
Grand KPIs puts the boot into the corporate world where “your words are like treason for dreamers like me”, with Tyson’s acid observations brought into focus by Ian Shawsmith’s searing slide guitar.
Personal stories and the affairs of the heart cut just as deeply. Sometimes the most telling love stories are the ones that never take root, like the one revealed in Colour Blind. Yet sometimes love does blossom and the storyteller finds the truth is close to home, in the story of a partnership that lasted 72 years in It’s Time To Go. That’s the song Steve sang to his mother on the day she passed away.
In the past few years there has been much to enjoy in the later work of Australian songwriters such Russell Morris, Glenn Cardier and Joe Camilleri. With Banjo’s Last Ride, Tyson delivers an album of powerful, passionate songcraft that is just as worthy of your time.
- Noel Mengel
For more information, contact: Ph: 0411-888-846 www.stevetyson.com.au