Month: January 2018

Interview: Dean Ray

Australian singer-songwriter Dean Ray won fans on the 2014 season of The X-Factor with his incredible voice – but his musical career started far earlier than that. Indeed, it started before he was born, as I found out when we spoke recently about Ray’s second album, The Messenger, and other things. Originally from Queensland, Ray now lives in Melbourne and tours around the country.

Ray is a fascinating artist, and The Messenger is compelling; I only wish we could have spoken for longer.

You come from a musical family and your parents were performing while you were growing up – what is your earliest music-related memory?
I think it’s a sound memory – it’s not so much something that I saw. The sound of being behind the stage, and the smells and everything that goes with backstage. It’s like a really muffled sound. You can hear mostly bass – a bass sound – from behind the music. That’s probably the thing I remember most, because from maybe the age of one they’d put me to sleep backstage while they played shows. I remember that muffled sound and the smell of the curtains and the equipment.

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Single release: ‘Always On My Mind’ by Jessica Mauboy and Warren H Williams

The soundtrack albums for the Seven Network series The Secret Daughter have yielded several great new tracks from singer Jessica Mauboy, and the second season soundtrack contains a cracker in the form of a song made famous by a young lad named Elvis Presley and, later, by an older lad called Willie Nelson. On ‘Always On My Mind’ Jessica teams up with legendary country music performer Warren H Williams to give this song a new, rich sound and a different poignancy to the other versions.

Mauboy has said of Williams that he is ‘an uncle of mine who taught me how to sing and gave me my first spot in the studio’ – so that richness may come from the history these two outstanding performers share. It was Williams who opened the door at CAAMA Music (Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association) to the 11-year-old Jessica Mauboy and immediately recognised her considerable vocal talent. They reconnected at the Yabun Festival in 2017; it was a chance meeting that saw them make a pact to record together again.

Album news: Vacancy by Broads

This is actually old album news, as Vacancy by Melbourne duo Broads was released almost a year ago. But given that the internet facilitates serendipitous discoveries of all sorts, and albums are hypothetically available forever, I feel it’s another better-late-than-never situation.

I first heard a Broads song on ABC Country online radio – a great place to discover new music, even when your inbox is in regular receipt of news about new music – and immediately got their album. The vocals and harmonies of Kelly Day and Jane Hendry are completely irresistible on this album of slow croons and blissful melodic seductions. Don’t believe me? Just play the video for ‘Nod Off, Dream’ and try to not fall in love with them.

Watch on Youtube

iTunes
Amazon
Vacancy is also available on Bandcamp or you can listen to it on the Broads website, www.broadsmusic.com

Album review: Rise by Amber Ikeman

American singer-songwriter Amber Ikeman grew up in the state of Florida then moved to live and work in Yellowstone National Park in Montana. This journey echoes that of Australian artist Harmony James, whose first album, Tailwind, was created while she was working on the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory, and just as the Barkly lefts its mark on James’s music, so has Ikeman’s state of residence influenced the music she creates in her second album, Rise.

Rise is, therefore, not the music of sunshine and beaches – from its first song, ‘Wild Buffalo’, it’s evocative of spaces and land and history, and of relationships forged around those elements. Ikeman’s lineage is cited as folk and Americana, and there is traditional country music in there too. Her voice has a beautiful pure quality, and she has wonderful control of it (with excellent diction – longtime readers will know how highly I prize this!). When a singer can turn a phrase the way Ikeman can there’s a temptation to say they sing ‘sweetly’ but while Ikeman’s tones are sweet, there is an edge there throughout that is intriguing. Although that sweetness does hook you immediately.

Ikeman’s is a voice that simultaneously suits an old-time sound and modern songs. Which is, probably, a way of saying that it’s a well-developed instrument that can adapt to its material. That adaptability is evident in the first three songs, as she moves from the grit and force of ‘Wild Buffalo’ to the plaintive love song ‘Cheyenne’ to the ballad ‘The Firefigher’. Ikeman’s voice has a lot of nooks and crannies, and there are surprises accordingly. But it’s all very well to listen to a voice – the songs have to be there to provide the right vehicle, and Ikeman has them. She’s a storyteller who embraces emotional tales, and that’s not a way of saying they’re all love songs. There are songs of strength and challenge, and of loneliness. The love songs that are on the album also acknowledge the aforementioned spaces and land and history – albeit the history of the relationship concerned – as well as distance and challenge.

While the musical arrangements of the songs are spare – not sparse – all the better to support the songs and the singer, there is a lot going on in each song, to the point that before each song is over you know you’ll want to go back and listen to it over and over again. This might be a second album but Ikeman is no sophomore – this is a very well-rounded and well-executed work that should attract listeners from across the spectrum (including pop) to bring Ikeman the audience she deserves.

Rise is available now on Bandcamp.

iTunes

Amazon

www.amberikeman.com

Single release: ‘Waiting for the Rain’ by Alison Ferrier

Melbourne singer-songwriter musician Alison Ferrier has released the first single from her forthcoming third album, What She Knows (out 16 February). ‘Waiting For The Rain’ is a laid-back yet gutsy country rock song that features some lovely pedal steel and Ferrier’s warm, inviting voice.

Watch the video on Youtube

iTunes

Amazon

www.alisonferrier.com

Single release: ‘Insane’ by Georgie Taylor

One of the observable effects of the CMAA Academy of Country Music in Tamworth is not only the level of professionalism amongst singers, musicians and songwriters in their twenties and older, but the emergence of artists in their teens. At least, that’s my theory. By creating a culture of professional development within the Australian country music scene, the Academy has sent a signal – subliminally, perhaps, but I think it’s more overt – to younger artists that there is a place for them to go to learn about the art and craft of country music creation and performance. In order to get to the Academy, of course, they need to have some material, so the earlier they start, the better.

There have been a few artists in their teens or just out of them emerging over the past few months, and it’s a sign that country music not only appeals across generations but has a talented future. The latest example of that future is Georgie Taylor who at sixteen years of age is already a CMAA graduate, having attended its Junior Academy of Country Music.

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Jess Holland takes her Miss Demeanour to Tamworth

Singer-songwriter Jess Holland has a brand new album, Miss Demeanour, and she is launching it during the upcoming Tamworth Country Music Festival. Jess is a fantastic live performer, and the singles she’s released so far from the album – including the latest, ‘Australian Dreamer’ – have built anticipation for a great new release. I had a chat to Jess about her launch show and other Tamworth shows, and about the album.

The album is done – how are you feeling?
Excited. I cannot wait for it now. I think the last time I was talking to you I was releasing my last single and I think I was hinting there was a new album coming out. I’m just so excited because it’s been such a long process and I’m ready for it to be out now.
I remember talking to you quite a while ago when ‘Linburn Lane’ wasn’t even on an album at that time – you were talking about the song and it sounded amazing. So how long has it taken to write the songs for the album, and how long has the recording taken?
I stepped into the studio itself straight after Tamworth [2017]. I started the first week of February and I’ve been recording on and off until about maybe August. All my stuff got done really quickly but because there’s been so many different people on the album as instrumentalists and musicians, it’s been a process of trying to get them when they’re free. Everyone’s just so busy. But it’s so worth it. And prior to that I guess I was probably writing songs for well over a year. So you can see why I’m ready [laughs]. I’ve had these songs under my wraps for so long and I guess I’ve been test running them at gigs but now it’s all but done. I’m ready for it to be released.
Did you have more songs than you needed?
Oh, way too many. I think initially I had maybe 31 songs or something silly. I had to take a step back and say, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do here?’ [laughs] I found myself combining some as well, because I thought, Well, they’re very similar so maybe I can take those lyrics out into this … And it just seemed to mesh really well. By doing that sort of thing, and complete culls as well, I got down to 15 or 16. I sent them away to my producer in Newcastle at Funky Lizard Studios, Rob Long, and said, ‘Mate, it’s up to you now. You need to tell me what’s going to work and what’s not because I’m too close to it now.’ So we got down to the 13 tracks that are on the album.

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