Newcastle singer-songwriter Melody Moko released her debut album, The Wreckage, last year and in recent weeks released its second single, ‘Secondhand Heart’. Moko’s pop-inflected country has the right balance of sweetness and seriousness, in her voice as well as the lyrics and music. Given this combination, it’s not surprising that she chose Catherine Britt to produce the album alongside her husband, Michael Muchow (a member of Britt’s band as well as a solo artist).
Moko has said ‘Secondhand Heart’ is unashamedly a love song, and an acknowledgement that everyone brings history to a relationship: your heart may be secondhand but that doesn’t mean it can’t be new. It’s a knowing and hopeful song – with a lovely video to match, as you can see below.
Apple Music | iTunes | Sanity | Spotify
Melbourne singer-songwriter Paul McManus has released the single ‘Blowout’ from his forthcoming second album, Postcodes. McManus cites his influences as Ryan Adams, Justin Townes Earle, Augie March, The Kinks and Ron Sexsmith, which suggests an alt-rock/Americana lineage via Australian independent pop/rock (Augie March) – but it doesn’t account for how gloriously Australian this song is, in a way that recalls the best of You Am I (and that band’s main songwriter, Tim Rogers, has since revealed his country credentials by forming the Hillbilly Killers with Catherine Britt and Bill Chambers). McManus allows his strong singing voice to have an Australian inflection in this tale of suburbia and finding identity.
‘Written in a time of high house prices and disposable incomes,’ as the press release says, ‘the song finds comfort in living in the present.’ It’s also hard to be anything other than present with it: it’s a tightly written song that is also rambunctious and infectious.
Listen to ‘Blowout’ on:
Apple Music | Spotify
Gold Coast-based artist Brook Chivell was a top 10 finisher at the prestigious Star Maker competition in 2017 and not long afterwards released his debut single, becoming a favourite on CMC. His country rock sound has also taken him to the Deni Ute Muster, Gympie Music Muster, Sydney Country Music Festival, Broadbeach Country Music Festival and Tamworth Country Music Festival, but he has a softer side – literally, as in October last year he undertook an acoustic tour throughout New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia with country artist Natalie Pearson.
There’s a strong rock strand developing in Australian country music, with artists such as the Wolfe Brothers, Adam Brand and Travis Collins at the forefront. Chivell’s new single, ‘Outta My Song’, shows why he’s been a festival favourite alongside these artists – and no doubt his profile will continue to grow.
Apple Music | Spotify
Singer-songwriter Bradley Hall is from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. He started playing guitar at the age of 15 as a way to pass the time living in remote communities and then while working on mine sites.
His new song, ‘My Heart, My Land’, is a love song to the Australian landscape, with ‘rocks as old as the Dreamtime, this is the land that made me’. It is the story of Hall’s history with the land, and of those working on outback stations, amongst others, but leaves plenty of room for listeners to put themselves in the story too. It is a heartfelt song that uses enough sentiment to convey its message without overindulging. The backing vocals from Golden Guitar winner Amber Lawrence are a lovely complement to Hall’s voice.
‘My Heart, My Land’ is taken from Hall’s new album, Back to Country. The accompanying video is beautifully shot and worth watching more than once.
Back to Country is available now.
Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify
Steel City Sue is a singer-songwriter from Newcastle, NSW, whose debut album, Boom Town, was recorded with Truckstop Honeymoon in Lawrence, Kansas. Sue is a fiddle player, and that traditional instrument of country music is an integral part of this album, which has already received accolades, with the title track winning the Karl Broadie Award for Best Song in the Australian Roots Music Awards and the album nominated for ARMA Best Album.
Sue writes songs about the place she lives in (‘From the Valley’ and ‘Coal Town’) and places she hasn’t yet been (‘Red Dirt Track’). Her lyrics are evocative of places, people and experiences; they are individual stories which, taken together, form a world view. These are songs of daily life and small challenges, as well as bigger changes such as the industrial changes in Newcastle. The lyrics are often personal yet delivered with some restraint – which is not a criticism, as it suggests a courteousness to the listener. The honesty and authenticity are there. But between any songwriter who has themselves as a subject and the listener on the other side there is a getting-to-know-you dance; therefore, on a first album some restraint is fitting.
The songs range through musical styles that all fit within the country umbrella, verging towards rock in some cases and pop in others. There are different moods, too, and all expressed by Sue’s compelling voice, which is sweet and sharp and knowing by turns.
Many Australian country music artists are interested in telling audiences about authentic experiences, and part of the beauty of the genre is how many different ways there are to do that, from Slim Dusty and Joy McKean to Troy Cassar-Daley, Beccy Cole, Lachlan Bryan, Sara Storer and Catherine Britt. Steel City Sue fits into the pantheon of very fine singer-songwriters in this country while offering something new and different: her stories told her way.
Boom Town is out now. Order the CD or download from:
Sinead Burgess is a Brisbane singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist now resident in Nashville who recently released an album, Damaged Goods. Burgess is now an independent artist after being signed to a major label as a teenager and, as with so many independent Australian artists, she has produced music that has blossomed with the freedom that seems to come from independence. The quality of so much of this independently produced music is very high, the result not just of the availability of very good producers but also, one suspects, because artists feel free to explore parts of their music, and themselves, that might be more controlled under different circumstances.
Burgess has a winsome voice even when the song is about hard experiences, as is the case with her new single, ‘Praising God, Raising Hell’. Burgess wrote all of the songs and played most of the instruments on her album – this, too, must give her a sense of freedom even as it increases the work, but her love of what she’s doing is evident. This song is a fine example of a very good album that fits within the country-pop genre and which also sounds like nothing so much as Burgess sitting across from you on a stool, singing you her stories with heart and intention. It’s a privilege to be allowed to intimately into an artist’s world, and Burgess has captured that on this song and this album.
Listen to ‘Praising God, Raising Hell’ here: https://sineadburgessmusic.lnk.to/PraisingGodRaisingHell
Damaged Goods is available now.
Mount Hunter Country Music Stampede takes place from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 October 2018 in the picturesque Wollondilly area of south-west Sydney. It’s a unique event that features fantastic country music artists at night – including Adam Brand, Adam Harvey, Jasmine Rae and Christie Lamb – with plenty of other activities by day. But I’ll let performer co-organiser Drew McAlister tell us more – we spoke recently about the festival, as well as about the fundraising single ‘Shout the Land a Drink’ and the latest single release from his album, Coming Your Way.
The country music audience has been expanding to accommodate new festivals such as Dashville and the Clarence Valley Country Muster – and, of course, there is now the Mount Hunter Country Music Stampede, which you are co-organising. How did you come to be involved?
A friend of mine, Mick Kearney, is the gentleman who owns this enormous equestrian centre [K Ranch] out in Monks Lane in Wollondilly, which is near Camden [NSW]. We sat down a couple of years ago and he said, ‘I want to put on a festival.’ This equestrian centre puts on everything from cutting to roping to bull rides. He had a boxing match out there recently. It’s two acres undercover with 150 horse stalls. He’s been a horse enthusiast his whole life. He has other businesses but this is his love. He competed in Texas and the venue he competed in was this enormous arena with a Western store down one end and a saloon bar down the other. So he came home and replicated that on his property. Over three years he built the exact same thing. So he said he wanted to put on this festival. We did it last year – we only had twelve weeks to put it on which, in hindsight, wasn’t long enough, but it did run like clockwork. This year we’ve had ten months and we think we’ve dotted our Ts and crossed our Is.
Is there one stage or several?
One stage, which we’re bringing in. It will be a mobile truck stage. We’ll probably only use half the arena, it’s that big. That will still fit a lot of people.
So it’s in Camden, and a lot of people live in that area.
It’s in western Sydney. It’s about seven to ten minutes’ drive from Camden to K Ranch.
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