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CD REVIEWS 2017


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Steve Tyson

~ Wrong Train, Right Station ~

Review by Noel Mengel - Former Chief Music Writer, Courier-Mail

Songwriter Steve Tyson does darkness very well with regret-tinged songs of missed chances and jealous-rage murder tales, but he balances these with the songs with a twinkle in the eye or tongue in cheek.

Even when he’s writing about imminent climate catastrophe - see Theatre, one of the key tracks here - he never gets preachy or heavy.

Tyson has not had the same profile as other chroniclers of the Australian experience like Shane Howard or John Schumann, but the tracks on this third solo set reveal a master song craftsman with a nuanced lyrical touch and strong melodies.

Tyson is best known for his work with Brisbane folk-rock band Rough Red, but his gruff voice and superb guitar work - he plays every note on this album - suit his songwriting style well. There are some songs from the folk ballad tradition like A Short Life and a Merry One, his telling of the story of the Kelly Gang from the point of view of younger brother Dan. Cavvanbah, the Aboriginal name for what we know today as Byron Bay, imagines a historical tale of lover’s vengeance, while Abacus is the kind of up-tempo folkrock tune that would also suit Rough Red.

The wry and dark humour is never far from the surface, or right there on the surface in If You Die I Swear I’ll Kill You, and the DIY aesthetic gives plenty of room for Tyson’s powerful guitar work.

There is some lovely dobro on The River and the Thief, crunchy riff-rock on the road song 300 Miles, evocative electric slide guitar textures on The Ghost and The Fire, and Devil Come Knocking is a garage blues rave-up of the kind Neil Young and band might have cranked up at about sunrise on “Tonight’s The Night”. The Sailor and the Mistress shows Tyson at his poignant best, but there is always plenty of grit in the musical delivery here. Nothing is over-polished, but these are songs that are built to last.

For more information, contact: Ph: 0411-888-846 www.stevetyson.com.au

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Sadie & Jay

~ Rogue Folk ~

Review by Alison Bell

Sadie & Jay describe their music genre as alternative-folk. The description is spot on. In the same way that artists like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have reinvented Country – Sadie & Jay are re-inventing Folk. Within a short space of time, the duo has crafted their own unique sound, an admirable achievement in an international folk and acoustic music scene crowded with sameness.

Rogue Folk is the duos latest offering. The album highlights the couple’s distinctive soundscape with soaring, heartfelt melodies, sympathetic harmony lines, rock-steady finger picking guitar and stunning vocal dexterity. Subtle percussion from Suzanne Hibbs adds the finishing, classy touch. All together, these sounds provide the foundations that allow the lyrics and the stories to come alive.

There is not a song on Rogue Folk that does not make you feel something from the whimsically light-hearted (I want to Play, Publically Transported) to the reflective (Hero of Waterloo, Red Red Dirt) via melancholy (Song Already Written) and utter heartbreak (Leaving the Nest, Window).

Sadie & Jay wrote and arranged all the tracks and professional folk artists complete the sound. All the guests add a special something but the traditional folk sound comes most notably from Ian Dixon (Concertina) and Donald McKay (Bodhran). Skilfully recorded and produced by Michael Fix of Parklands Studio and mastered by David Neil of The Refinery, the album sound is rich and inspiring. Artwork by Chris Hall captures the essence of the duo – colourful, fluid and warm.

Sadie & Jay are attracting a growing audience and it is easy to understand why. These independent Australian artists are highly accomplished at making music and the music they make just keeps getting better and better. The pair do not take themselves too seriously but they certainly take their work seriously – the combination is intoxicating, the material fresh but familiar.

Catch Sadie & Jay live to fully experience the joy.

For more information, contact: sadieandjaymusic.com

Alison Bell is a contemporary-folk music enthusiast and Vice-President of the Brisbane Folk History Project,
a community project which aims to document the history of folk music in the Brisbane region.

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Stomperoo

~ Thinking Man’s Blues ~

Review by Eugene Shannon

Stomperoo is the intriguing moniker of Brisbane based guitarist and songwriter Roo Friend, a journeyman musician who’s paid out bucket loads of dues playing guitar everywhere from orchestra pits to cabaret stages. He’s shared the bill with strippers, Elvis impersonators, jugglers, comedians and a magician who cut his wife in half with a chainsaw. And he’s no slouch in the rock’n’roll department either, having played axe wielding sideman to such Aussie legends as Normie Rowe and Col Joye. But his true love is the blues with an ample hit of chilled-out jazz if his new album, Thinking Man’s Blues, is any guide. I love this album! Both the songs and the playing are stand-out, primo material.

You won’t hear any staid old clichés in Stomperoo’s blues songs. He tells you what he thinks about living in the here and now in the little corner of the world we call Brisbane, Australia.

The opening cut kicks off with four chords (the band rumbling its intent like the opening salvo in a great battle that future generations will read about in history books) before settling into a slinky guitar and bass driven groove drenched in the coolest sounding organ. The song concerns news reports that a thousand people a week are coming to Brisbane. "What are we going to do?" asks the refrain. This could be really serious stuff here but humour is never far away in the Stomperoo canon as he jokes that the newcomers could even have "strange religions", "some even believe in God, got a fish sticker on the Winnebago". In the catchy as all hell jazz meets funk tune, Brisbane Rain, Stomperoo nails our hometown with precision when he sings that we’re living in “a South East Asian, big country town”. Whatever he sings about, Stomperoo keeps it real, be it the second coalition budget, first world problems like getting the wrong milk in your coffee ("I remember asking for lactose-free"), moving with the flow of traffic in Hanoi, and needing 6 kilos of seed to grow 300 metres of perennial rye. No laments to sweet home Chicago or dark sagas about gunning down your unfaithful old lady to be heard here.

As great as the songs are, the real treat for discerning listeners are the instrumental passages superbly played by Jack Du Voisin (tenor sax), Jim Toomey (drums), Dillon James (organ), Shaun Ballagh (tenor sax/flute), Arlo Buble (percussion/bass), Sam Pace (electric piano), Tristan Hodson (piano) and the man himself, Roo Friend, on the baritone hybrid guitar. This is where the album reaches its transcendental jazz peaks. his is modern jazz with the temperature set to chill but with the band cooking with gas.

Thinking Man’s Blues is a first-rate album that can sit comfortably alongside your treasured classic blues and jazz albums. But don’t take my word on it. Go check it out at

stomperoo.com

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cdcov The Company

~ Six & Five ~

Review by Mark Cryle

This is the third cd from Brisbane-based bluegrass quartet The Company in their current iteration, following on from their eponymously titled release of 2012 and Trouble (2014). The band further develops their contemporary acoustic music sound taking their lead from American acts such as The Punch Brothers, Crooked Still, Nickel Creek etc. The accent here is more on original melodic songs and tunes, sophisticated and multi-layered lyrical content and often intricate arrangements rather than the hard driving trad style associated with Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers. Having said that, Blow that Whistle proves they have readily absorbed those influences and carried them forward.

All the individual members (Mick Patrick: mandolin & vocals ; George Jackson: fiddle & banjo ; Jamie Clark: guitar ; Markus Karlsen: bass) are virtuosos in their own right but their playing here invariably supports the songs and tunes rather than turning the recording exercise into a "chop fest". Nor will you hear tales of the hills of Tennessee or the coal mines of Kentucky from these guys. Rather, the lyrical references are refreshingly Australian without being mawkishly so.

Writing is shared amongst the band members with Jackson taking more of a lead on the tunes and Clark contributing half of the songs. To this listener though, it sounds like the arrangements are very much collective affairs, thoughtfully and carefully rendered. The playing, singing and writing are first class. The sound is clean and sweet. If you are a bluegrass lover you should grab a copy of this. If you are someone who might be deterred by the clichés and the stereotypical musical conventions of that genre, you should definitely give Six & Five a listen because The Company manage deftly to eschew these clichés, while remaining soundly within the genre.

www.facebook.com/thecompanybluegrass
and for more info visit www.thecompanybluegrass

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cdcov Daylight Moon ~ Song et Lumiere ~

Review by Ian Dearden

I love people with passion. Passion for life, for love, and for music. Ross Clark and Helena Bond, the constituent parts of Daylight Moon, are passionate partners in love, life and music. Song et Lumiere, with its Anglo/French title twist (the phrase 'son et lumiere' translates, literally, as ‘sound and light’) is their second album as a duo, and reflects their shared passions for singing, performing, songwriting, and the French language.

The album features seven Ross Clark originals (Ross has turned a lifetime of poetry into a deft facility with songwriting). The balance of the album contains a series of well-chosen covers, from the enigmatic Shel Silverstein number, The Eyes of Lucy Jordan, to Kristina Olsen’s homage to life drawing (The Truth of a Woman), Slim Dusty’s homage to Camooweal, the classic Ain’t Misbehavin, and a rewritten version of You Are My Sunshine, titled (naturally enough) You Are My Moonshine. These covers are in turn quirky, emotional and highly amusing!

The Ross Clark originals include a twist on the gypsy guitarist trope (To His Guitar), the nostalgic Anglo/French In The Dappled Shade (translation by Helena), inspired by a few days Ross and Helena spent in a gypsy caravan in France on their European vacation, Get You Naked (more ruminations on life drawing …and perhaps something more), Love Me Like (a big love ballad) and In The Lap Of Morning (a children’s poem put to music by Ross).

The revelation of the album, for me, are the exquisite vocals of Helena – she inhabits the songs she sings with a gorgeous and seductive soprano timbre, contrasting in harmony passages with Ross' earthier and more rough-edged contributions. They are, unsurprisingly, delightful, charming and wryly humorous in live performance, where their easy banter and mutual passion (for each other, and the songs) delights and entrances their audience.

The album graphics are exquisite, there are some deft nude sketches by Ross and images of clouds and French military insignia by Helena, a range of musical guests add various instrumental contributions, and the whole package is bound up with oodles and oodles of love!! You can buy a copy from Ross and Helena at one of their regular performances around Brisbane.

More at their website: www.daylightmoon.info
and FACEBOOK

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