Single release: ‘Driving in the Dark’ by Amanda Jordan

Amanda-Jordan-Single-Art-DrivingintheDark-High-Res.pngCanadian country music is developing its own identity, led by stars such as Gord Bamford. Although country music roads do led from the USA – to Australia as well as other countries – Canadians have long had a distinct approach to their national cultural output that is not so much about proving that it’s distinct as keeping their heads down and working to make the best song, book and so on as they can.

Amanda Jordan is a country-pop artist originally from Smith Falls, near Ottawa, ON, who has just released the single ‘Driving in the Dark’ and an accompanying video, which you can see below. And Jordan has, indeed, been working to make her music great, with top-ten finalist spots in the 2016 and 2017 Ole Red Dot on the Spot Songwriting Competitions, and the finals of the 2018 Canadian Songwriting Competition for her song ‘Silverado Run’. That same year, she opened for Canadian superstar Brett Kissel in Sudbury, Ontario and was one of eight wild cards to compete for the last spot in the Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase. That experience – and her subsequent songwriting work in Nashville – have led to the release of this wonderfully entertaining, moreish song.


Jordan made the decision to move to Nashville in 2018. ‘The very first time I drove to Nashville to write,’ she says, ‘my twin brother was accompanying me and telling me about how he loved to drive at night and into the sunrise. From there, the song [“Driving in the Dark”] grew. I wanted to create a happy musical energy that captures the euphoria one feels when you first fall in love and begin experiencing the world together. It’s something you can listen to as you drive along on a warm summer evening.’

Jordan will return to Canada in October for an Ontario media tour and single release show in Ottawa on 19 October to coincide with the Canadian radio release of ‘Driving in the Dark’.


Listen to Amanda Jordan on:

Apple Music | Spotify

Single and video premiere: ‘Slanguage’ by Matt Scullion

Matt Scullion Slanguage (single artwork) jpg.jpgIf anyone thought Matt Scullion’s recent single ‘Aussie As’ was the last they’d heard from him on the subject of Australian culture and language … well, they were incorrect. And that’s to the benefit of music lovers all around the land, because Scullion’s latest single, ‘Slanguage’ – which has its premiere on this site today – is not only a great companion piece to ‘Aussie As’ but a clever, clear and funny examination of Australian slang or, to borrow Scullion’s term, ‘slanguage’. In other hands this might have been a dog’s breakfast, shall we say, but Scullion’s impeccable songwriting skills turn it into a ripsnorter.

Of course, you’d expect nothing less from this seven-time Golden Guitar nominee – especially since Scullion enlisted multiple ARIA and Golden Guitar winner Shane Nicholson as producer, as he did on Scullion’s last two releases.

The idea for the song came to Scullion while he was travelling overseas, noticing how much he had to tone down his ‘slanguage’ so he could be understood. ‘I had an absolute blast writing :Slanguage”, he says. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much while writing a song. We really do have some funny sayings, like “stubby short of a six pack” or “up at sparrow’s fart”. I mean, where does that stuff come from? It’s gold and so uniquely Australian.’

Also making its premiere here today is the song’s video, which you can see below. It was shot by Luke McDonagh (White Tiger Workshop) in a classroom at Jesmond High School in Newcastle.  ‘

Both single and video arrive ahead of the release of Scullion’s new album, Aussie As, which will be released on 23 September. To celebrate the album’s release, Scullion will be playing live:

Thursday 3 October – Today’s Country 94One FM Benefit Concert – Gosford RSL – Gosford, NSW

Saturday 12 October – Newcastle Album Launch, Adamstown Community Hall, Newcastle NSW

Sunday 20 October – Bar Petite, Newcastle NSW

Friday 1 November – Sydney Album Launch at The Newsagency, Camperdown NSW

Saturday 9 November – Country At The Camp, Branxton NSW

Friday 15 November – Ulladulla Album Launch at Catholic Community Hall, Ulladulla NSW

Saturday 16 November – Country Rocks The Capital Music Festival, Canberra ACT

Saturday 7 December – Bungendore Carols By Candlelight, Bungendore NSW

Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 January – Tamworth Country Music Festival


Pre-order the album at:

Apple Music | iTunes


Album review: Trucker Caps and Heart Attacks by Mat Black

MB Album art.jpgWith an album title like Trucker Caps and Heart Attacks, one might expect Mat Black to have the kind of gravelly, whisky-soaked-sounding voice that can sometimes be heard on country music songs about long, lonely drives on unstable roads (both literal and metaphorical). Instead, Black has a wonderful, versatile, warm and well-rounded instrument – a voice that stretches and bends and curves around the differing styles of the ten songs on his debut album.

The first single off the album, ‘Diamond Mine’, was co-written with fellow Melburnian Lachlan Bryan – Bryan has a distinctive musical identity, but the song belongs to Black. His musical lineage is in alt country and roots; his cited influences include Steve Earle and Johnny Cash, but perhaps they’d be better referred to as inspirations, because Black’s sound is not theirs. Instead he’s crafted his own identity, and it’s one of a man who clearly has stories to tell and who is able to find the right way to tell them.

The lyrics of these songs speak, in part, to darkness and difficulties – perhaps some of those aforementioned unstable roads – but Black is capable of a sweetness (not a pejorative) that suggests an ability to smooth the edges off the flint of his experience. Or, perhaps, to seek to find something good in it – even if that is to create a song out of it. Certainly Black doesn’t wallow in anything described in these songs, and the songs themselves suggest that: there is pace here, and some rollicking good times too. Musically the songs are all under the country umbrella while demonstrating Black’s versatility: there are some swampy moments, some bluesy, some honky tonk, and all of them appropriate to the song.

Ultimately, though, Black’s voice is the centrepiece. For anyone who loves music with lyrics, voice tends to be important – a singer can get in your ear and stay there, calling you back over and over to listen and pay attention, living in your mind and popping up at all sorts of odd times. Black has that kind of voice, and while it’s certainly not the only thing to love about this album, it is the first. Listen and just try to resist it.

Listen on:

Apple Music | Spotify


Album Launch
Sunday September 15
The Spotted Mallard
With special guests Gretta Ziller & Mr Alford
314 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Doors 3pm, music from 3.45pm
Tix $13.50 thru Moshtix:

EP review: Livin’ the Dream by Kim Wright

Livin The Dream Album 1500.jpgKim Wright is a singer-songwriter from Ipswich in Queensland, and his new EP, Livin’ the Dream, debuted at number 2 on the iTunes Country album chart. Its six songs are in a honky tonk style and three of them were written when Wright was still in his teens, while ‘Man of the House’ was penned more recently with Allan Caswell and ‘This Old Bar’ with Liam Kennedy-Clark. The latter produced the EP, which features musiciansMichel Rose, Glen Hannah, Lawrie Minson, Kurt Baumer, Pete Denahy, Roger Corbett, Angus Woodhead, and Joshua Blaikie, as well as Kennedy-Clark.

The EP’s title comes from Wright’s belief that ‘every day above ground’s a good one and I believe you should live each day to its fullest’, and it’s safe to say that listening to this EP will help the listener do just that. Wright often sounds like he’s having the time of his life on these tracks, and his enjoyment is infectious. The songs are tightly written and some sound like they are made to dance to – which probably makes this EP a party record, of sorts, except the EP is also worth sitting back and listening to, with its mix of seriousness and lightheartedness, and the last track, ‘Home’, providing a sweetly sad finish. Overall this is an upbeat offering that will put a smile on your face, cause your toes to tap and probably have you spontaneously jigging on the spot. And given Wright’s philosophy, that seems wonderfully appropriate.

Listen to Livin’ the Dream on:

Apple Music | Spotify

Single release: ‘Wherever I Go’ by Chelsea Berman

std_28517.jpgAt the start of 2018 Central Coast singer-songwriter Chelsea Berman released an impressive debut EPBetter Than Ever. She’d already made her mark in country music, though, winning the Homegrown Songwriting Competition in 2015 and the Central Coast Country Music Festival Busking Competition in 2013, and becoming a finalist in the Australian Songwriters Association Songwriting Competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Since then she’s been writing songs with artists such as Troy Kemp, Matt Scullion Chelsea Basham, Rachael Fahim, Dean Ray and Melanie Dyer, and earlier this year she was a finalist in Toyota Star Maker.

Berman has now released the country-pop single ‘Wherever I Go’, which is about the connections that endure despite distance and separation. Berman has great depth and warmth in her voice, which makes this song easy to connect with and remember. Country pop is now a well-developed part of Australian country music, and Berman clearly understands both parts of that lineage: the ability to create and sing a great melodic hook and also tell a story that resonates with the audience.



Listen to ‘Wherever You Go’:

Apple Music | Spotify

Single release: ‘Nobody’s Better Than No One’ by Freya Josephine Hollick

d6f3a35e-4fec-4578-894e-11e81554355d.jpgFreya Josephine Hollick is a Melbourne-based singer-songwriter who has released an album or EP every year for the past few. The first thing that comes to mind as soon as you hear any of her music is that her voice is hypnotic: it draws you completely in and you absolutely enjoy it while it’s happening while simultaneously sensing the edge of mystery and possibly danger that is there too. Any time you listen to one of Hollick’s songs, you know it could go anywhere – even after you’ve heard it several times, because there could be something you missed earlier. Perhaps, then, it’s more correct to say that Hollick doesn’t just sing: she conjures. And that is completely evident on her new single, ‘Nobody’s Better Than No One’, taken from her album, The Real World, which will be released in 2020.

The song, and album, were recorded in California’s Mojave Desert at famed studio Rancho de la Luna with Lucinda Williams’s band Buick 6 and renowned guitarist Greg Leisz (Eric Clapton, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris). (The vinyl 7″ of ‘Nobody’s No Better Than No One’ features the exclusive instrumental track ‘Senorita Blvd’ recorded by Buick 6 and given to Hollick for this special release.) ‘Nobody’s Better Than No One Here’ moves Hollick’s sound towards blues and rock, but retains all the elements that have made her previous country music releases so great: her compelling lyrics, her layered sound, and that incredible voice. She is clearly a versatile artist, and an exciting one, and this newest single is the latest step on an already fascinating path.

‘Nobody’s Better Than No One’ launch show:
Big House Arts
9-11 Hocking St, Coburg North, Vic.
21 September 2019
Tickets available here.

Listen to ‘Nobody’s Better Than No One’:

Apple Music | Spotify

Album review: Spectacular Heartbreak by Hayley Marsten

HM_SH_1500px.jpgQueensland singer-songwriter Hayley Marsten has been releasing music since 2015. She started with singles, and with them established her country music lineage as well as her songwriting skills. From the start she’s had a particular way with words – an ability to find a different angle on a story or a turn of phrase that is memorable; she’s also not afraid to be funny. For these reasons she is reminiscent of – but quite different to – Beccy Cole and Fanny Lumsden, two artists who are in themselves not at all similar but who are both steeped in country music and able to find their own ways of expressing that heritage while appealing to contemporary audiences.

In 2017 Marsten released the EP Lonestar, which offered six songs’ worth of proof – if more was needed – that she was creating a distinct identity within country music, building on the pillars of songwriting, singing and performance that were apparent from the start.

It’s taken four years since those first singles for Marsten to release her debut album, Spectacular Heartbreak, and no doubt she’s had to be patient in that time. It must be tempting to release an album as soon as you have the songs – and no doubt she had them. But she waited until she had eleven that were just right. The result is an album that is completely satisfying, engrossing, emotional and balanced. From the opening, title track, Marsten sets the tone: the lyrics may be about a ‘spectacular heartbreak’ but this is not the album of a woman who is wallowing. The wink and nod she’s always had in her lyrics are there, as is the door she opens to show that she’s on our side – she’s singing to us, and she’s letting us in on her stories.

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