Canberra-born and now resident in Sydney, Tara Favell has been writing and performing songs since the age of 14, and that teenage practice has turned into professional success, as Favell has appeared at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, Nelson Bay Country Music Festival and the Sydney Royal Easter Show three years running. And her new EP, Wild Heart, debuted at #1 on the iTunes Country chart.
Wild Heart is pure country pop – and if your tastes are anything like mine, that’s a very good thing. Favell’s voice is just right for this genre: adept, assured and with great range. Track 3, ‘Starting Over’, features rising country star Josh Setterfield, and ideally that won’t be their last collaboration as their voices work very well together.
Country pop and country rock are the genres that tend to drive audience attendance at large festivals around Australia. They may not suit the purists, but there has never been a form of music that has not evolved. If artists like Favell can bring their brand of country to new listeners, that is good for everyone under the country music umbrella, because she embodies some of the best qualities of country: she is authentic to her lineage and influences, and she produces great songs that are clearly constructed, written and performed from the heart.
Watch the single ‘Heart-Break’ on YouTube.
Wild Heart is out now.
American singer-songwriter was born and raised in Vermont, where he still lives. He has three albums behind him, as well as instrumental tracks that have appeared on various television shows.
The title track of his latest album, Hide Away (from the Sun), was written shortly after the death of Pronto’s mother after a ten-year battle with cancer. It is, therefore, a personal song, and Pronto does not shy away from honest lyrics and emotions. That’s not to say that the album is maudlin – it is not at all. Pronto’s voice contains within it the balance of light and dark, cheekiness and seriousness. Given the context of the album’s creation, the inclusion of a cover ‘What a Wonderful World’ could be ironic, but Pronto sounds sincere without being sappy.
Hide Away (from the Sun) contains eight tracks, each with their own flavour – and, accordingly, each evoking different experiences for the listener. Sometimes he sounds like a good ol’ boy (’74 Dodge Dart’), at other times the gentle son. His style as named as folk and Americana, but there’s definitely rock and pop in there too. In other words: he knows how to write a solid song, he knows how to entertain, and this album proves it.
Hide Away (from the Sun) is out now.
Melbourne singer-songwriter Ben Mastwyk has a distinctive swing to his country sound that makes his latest single, ‘This Country’, infectious, although the track apparently started life as a much less upbeat number. And while Mastwyk hails from Melbourne, which is home to a thriving Americana scene, his style takes as much from older-style country as its newer counterpart.
The single is from his upcoming album, the successor to his 2015 debut Mornin Evenin, and Mastwyk will soon be embarking on a tour to support his new music.
29 March 2018 Some Velvet Morning (Luke Elliot Support) Melbourne VIC
4 April 2018 Lazybones Lounge (Luke Elliot Support) Sydney NSW
5 April 2018 Lazybones Lounge (Luke Elliot Support) Sydney NSW
6 April 2018 Leftys Old Time Music Hall (Luke Elliot Support) Brisbane QLD
1 June 2018 Spiegeltent Melbourne VIC
Listen to ‘This Country’ on Soundcloud.
Better Than Ever is the first release from NSW Central Coast singer-songwriter Chelsea Berman but she certainly isn’t new to country music, 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. It’s appropriate, then, that this EP sounds like the work of someone who knows what she’s doing.
The EP contains five songs of country pop that showcase Berman’s skills – mainly, though, the star is her voice. She has a really lovely tone that sounds rounded and warm, and she treats the lyrics with respect. While she has a great range, there’s no showing off; the way these songs are presented completely suits the way they’re written, which is, of course, down to the producer as well as the artist.
Australian country music is always evolving, and there are now quite a few artists in the country pop and country rock genres. Lyrically those songs are different to traditional country, and often vocally too, but it seems that artists who want to write and sing authentically are attracted to country music because it allows them to do just that. Berman is clearly an artist who is creating from her heart, wanting to connect with an audience – and succeeding.
Better Than Ever is out now.
Australian bluegrass artist Kristy Cox makes her home in Nashville for most of the year, but she always returns for the Tamworth Country Music Festival. I had a chance to talk to her while she was home, and even though she was quite under the weather she told me all about her new album, Ricochet, and other things.
The album feels like it’s a progression – like it’s more emotional and heartfelt. Not that your previous work wasn’t! But it did sound like a progression. I’m curious why you chose that song title, ‘Ricochet’, to be the title of the album?
I don’t really know. When I first heard the title of the song I thought, That would make a really good album title. I just kind of stuck with it. I didn’t even look at any of the other songs or any other titles. It just felt right – it felt like the album needed to be called Ricochet. [I thought,] this song is great, the title is great, and it feels like it’s going to be the title track of the album. I just never moved off it. I guess it was just a gut feeling that it would be a good album title.
And it’s memorable. One-word titles are great because there’s less likelihood of anyone forgetting it.
And I’ve never had a one-word title before. I’ve also never called an album after a song – it’s always been a line in a song or something like that.
Continue reading “Interview: Kristy Cox on her new album, Ricochet”
Sally-Anne Whitten has automatic country-music credentials: she was born in Tamworth. And if that’s all it took to be a successful artist, obviously there would be many thousands of Tamworthians flooding Australian stages … Of course, it takes a lot more than birthright. It takes songs, performance, determination, persistence, practice, work, and that indefinable element, talent.
Whitten has the talent thing sorted – I wouldn’t be writing about her if she didn’t. And she has persevered over the past few years away from pursuing music as she had in the past (Whitten’s debut album, Blurring the Lines, was released in 2009 and Sell My Soul in 2012). She didn’t leave music, and it didn’t leave her, but there were other things going on, including the sudden death of her teenaged nephew, which inspired the track ‘The Life You Left Behind’. This song is heartfelt and sad but not maudlin; Whitten sounds like not as though she has accepted what has happened but that she is working out how to live now.
It’s a reflective song on an album that has other moments of reflection and also lots of entertainment – for Whitten is, in great part, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll along her country. She’s also a little bit blues, with a great bluesy voice to match. The album’s title comes from Whitten’s 2015 trip to New Orleans, where she wrote some of the songs featured on the album, and where she was inspired by some of the local sounds. This influence gives the album a mix of sounds that aren’t ‘Australian country music’ but are an identity that Whitten has within Australian country: her voice, her performance, her history, her experiences, her stories.
Burgundy Street initially sounds like a great rockin’ album; on repeated listening it’s clear that it’s soaked in some heavy experiences and a tinge of heartache, if not heartbreak. That’s due to the complexity of Whitten’s voice and her ability to bring a lot to a song. So take your time with this one – perhaps even sit back, imagine yourself on Burgundy Street in New Orleans and let the world pass by as you listen.
Burgundy Street is out now.
Tamworth singer-songwriter Allison Forbes has been described as ‘a new-age outlaw of country music’, and the description fits because Forbes is not trying to conform to any idea of what country music should be, even as she draws on its history. But this is not the whole story, for Forbes has a voice that seems to draw from somewhere deep inside her to connect to her listeners with emotion and immediacy. It suggests an artist who is either unafraid to show listeners the less-than-sunny aspects of herself, or someone who has learned to move past or life with that fear.
‘Gone’ is drawn from Forbes’s EP Augustine, which was produced by Shane Nicholson. It is a stirring, plaintive tune that will appeal to you if, like me, you’re fond of a minor key. Forbes is working on a new album and tour for 2018, but in the meantime there is this haunting ballad, with backing vocals from Katie Brianna.
Listen to ‘Gone’ on Soundcloud.
Augustine is out now.