Month: February 2018

EP review: Wild Heart by Tara Favell

TaraFavell_WildHeartCanberra-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. 

Apple Music







Album news: Hide Away (from the Sun) by Tod Pronto

todprontoAmerican 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.

Apple Music



Single release: ‘This Country’ by Ben Mastwyk

unnamedMelbourne 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.

Apple Music




EP review: Better Than Ever by Chelsea Berman

ce42af_17d0e2e62d3744a8ae5ed40a4883f4e0~mv2_d_2324_2260_s_2.pngBetter 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.

Apple Music




Interview: Kristy Cox on her new album, Ricochet

KristyCoxPromo1.jpgAustralian 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”

Album review: ‘Burgundy Street’ by Sally-Anne Whitten

Whitten.pngSally-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.




Single release: ‘Gone’ by Allison Forbes

unnamed.jpgTamworth 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.



Single release: ‘Last Word on My Lips’ by Aleyce Simmonds

unnamed (3)Aleyce Simmonds started the year by winning the Golden Guitar for Female Artist of the Year, a deserved recognition of her work over the past few years – Simmonds is an accomplished singer-songwriter and also a stalwart of Australian country music, playing alongside other artists and joining them on tour, showing up to support them and encouraging of new talent.

‘Last Word on My Lips’ is the fourth single from Simmonds’s latest album, More Than Meets the Eye, and it was written by Simmonds and veteran songwriter Allan Caswell as a gift to Simmonds’s sister Karlee on her wedding day. It was performed at the ceremony – and it’s not hard to imagine that it will find a place in other wedding ceremonies too. It is a love song, of course, but it avoids the schmaltz (and lyrical predictability) that can often feature in such songs, focusing on the emotion of the wedding day.

Watch a live performance of ‘Last Word on My Lips’ below:



Album review: Adam & Brooke by Adam Eckersley and Brooke McClymont

230601-L-LO.jpgBrooke McClymont and Adam Eckersley will be familiar to many Australian country music fans – and McClymont, in particular, will be familiar to regular readers of this blog, because I have always been, and will remain, pro-McClymonts. In fact, in case I doubted my affection for the band, the first track on Adam & Brooke proved that I have an almost Pavlovian response to Brooke McClymont’s voice: I couldn’t help smiling as soon as I heard it. But that’s not a reason for anyone else to like this album, of course, so it’s just as well that Adam & Brooke is ten songs’ worth of country music excellence.

This is not an album that sounds like The McClymonts with a man attached, or like The Adam Eckersley Band with a woman singing along. McClymont and Eckersley have crafted a sound of their own, and written songs that belong just to them, both in the sense that some of the songs are about them and also that they now have a distinctive identity together.

Adam & Brooke combines country, rock and pop elements – McClymont’s pop instincts are too strong to leave them out – and taut, descriptive, emotional storytelling. The opening track, ‘Train Wreck’, suggests that the eponymous artists are themselves a bit of a track wreck – except the rest of the album does not bear this out, because it could only be the work of people who have done the work, and done their homework, and made a decision to create something great. And they had to, obviously – there was no way they could release something mediocre, not just because they are too experienced and talented but because the stakes were quite high. There was, no doubt, risk in doing this album – for any couple embarking on a major creative enterprise together, and especially for two whose reputations in the country music industry are so good. So no small measure of courage was required, and perhaps that was the extra ingredient that makes this album such a standout.

After ‘Train Wreck’ there is a lovely mix of tempos and stories. There’s lots of fun, and some sadness – particularly on the heartbreaking ‘Nothing Left to Win’, and the achingly honest ‘Not How I Feel’ – and there’s clearly a lot of love and regard from the two artists for each other.

It would be hard for fans of either or both McClymont and Eckersley not to have expectations of this album. It is not so much a relief as a delight to have those expectations so gloriously met. This is an album that announces a major new country music act – so while they’re both likely to continue with their original bands, let’s hope they continue to make music together for a very long time.

Adam & Brooke is out now through Lost Highway/Universal Music Australia.








Single release: ‘Men on Pause’ by Gina Timms

unnamed (2)There is a certain strand of Australian country music that is usually highlighted at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, when exemplars are to be found in various locations. This strand is the humorous or quasi-humorous song, which tells a story in a funny way – not to be confused with the joke song, which is also funny but light on substance. (I’d classify Buddy Goode as a proponent of both the humorous song and the joke song, and Beccy Cole could be said to do the occasional joke song, except her humour always has a bit of bite in a good way – ‘Sorry I Asked’ initially sounds like a joke song but there is astute social commentary embedded in it.)

Tasmanian-born singer-songwriter Gina Timms has released a new song in the humorous strand. ‘Men on Pause’ has a title that suggests that Timms perhaps has a bit of irritation about the male of the species – but the lyrics quickly reveal that it’s a play on words. And, well, I’ll let you find out … Timms has a great voice and still manages to sound like she’s sitting down with you, having a cup of tea, telling you about her men on pause.

Listen to ‘Men on Pause’ on Soundcloud.