Month: March 2020

Natalie Pearson lets ’em talk

Let 'Em Talk - Single ArtworkQueensland singer-songwriter Natalie Pearson is carving out her own niche in Australian country music, with her catchy, memorable country rock/pop songs and her dynamic stage presence. Towards the end of 2019 she released the single ‘Plan B’ and she has kicked off 2020 with the release of ‘Let ‘Em Talk’. If you ever needed motivation to stop worrying about what other people think, this song will give it you. Not that it means that you’ll find it easy …  Pearson says she has struggled with it herself.

‘I think as an artist you always care about what other people think of you,’ she says. ‘You always want people to like you. I think that’s just a human nature thing as well but more so when you’re an artist. But sometimes that gets in the way of you doing things. Or sometimes if people are saying things to other people, that can get in the way of things as well. So this is about, “Just don’t worry about that and just do what you do because at some point in time what you’ve created will have its own shine for what it is. And the people who are going to love it are going to love it. And the people who don’t care about it or don’t like it, they’re not your people anyway.” So that’s a really universal thing that everybody can take on board: not everyone is going to be your people and that’s okay. You just focus on the people who are your people and don’t worry about the rest.’

This is something that Pearson says she has to put into practice on a regular basis: ‘I think it’s still a realisation that I have to remember myself. Sometimes I get caught up in what other people think, and I just have to say, “Don’t worry about it.” It’s a learning process,’ she says with a laugh.

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Live performances in isolation

There are some excellent Australian country music artists who have set up regular slots to perform live on Facebook during this isolation time. All times below are AEST.

MONDAYS at 10 p.m.Lachlan Bryan – Drunken Piano Bar

TUESDAYS at 6.45 p.m. Brook Chivell

WEDNESDAYS at 7.30 p.m.Fanny Lumsden

FRIDAYS at 8 p.m.Catherine Britt – Songs & Stories

SATURDAYS at 3 p.m. Brad Butcher

SUNDAYS at 3 p.m.Amber Lawrence – Family Show

If you’re an Australian country music artist and would like to let people know about your social media performances, please contact me with the details and I’ll post them here.

Single release: ‘My Fire’ by Jody Direen

unnamed-9Jody Direen is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand who has spent quite a bit of time in Australia since she released her second album Shake Up in 2016, joining the Wolfe Brothers on tour and appearing at the inaugural Country2Country Festival last year. Direen is an exciting live performer who is also committed to managing all facets of her life in music, and that balance of professionalism and dynamism has won her many fans.

Direen has recorded a new album, Smoking Ashes, due for release in July, and for those fans the release is much anticipated – so they’ll be very pleased with her new single, ‘My Fire’.

Says Direen of the song, ‘”My Fire” is an empowering song with a global message; encouraging strength, resilience when life knocks you down. I wrote this over the past two years, pulling together and drawing inspiration from various personal experiences of hardships that we all experience. Coincidentally, this song’s release couldn’t come at a better time than now. To the listeners: I hope it helps instil strength and replaces any feelings of anxiety and stress (caused by the current global crisis) with that of no-fear and hope.’


‘My Fire’ is out now through ABC Music/Universal.

Listen on/buy from:

Apple Music | iTunes

Album review: Golden Exile by James Thomson

Hi-Res Album Cover (300 DPI)No doubt it’s an accident of fate that some of the music released this month can slot into the ‘self-care’ category but let’s just be thankful that the planets have lined up that way, and add the new album by singer-songwriter James Thomson to the list. Golden Exile is the third album from the Newcastle (NSW) musician and it could have been designed to make you feel more content with staying home and letting it musically rock you in its arms, not because it will put you to sleep but because it will give you that feeling, for a little while, that everything is just fine.

Thomson has influences from American folk, rock and country, including Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and they’re evident in the laidback, spaced-out structure of the songs. Thomson doesn’t rush his listener into understanding his meaning, or picking up the story – each song is given time. Yet repeated listening makes it clear that Thomson is actually a really tight songwriter and performer. For all the feeling of space and time, on closer listening these songs are precisely written and Thomson hits his mark each time. The performance side of this was no doubt aided by producer Roger Bergodaz and the musicians who performed live on the album with Thomson, including the stellar Tracy McNeil, Sean McMahon, Steve Hadley, Shane Riley and Ezra Lee. On the writing side it means that the songs were ready – not overworked or undercooked – so that the album could be recorded in six days and still offer that sense of unhurried openness.

The album feels like an invitation to the listener to step inside Thomson’s world and just be – and this is part of what makes it excellent for the aforementioned self-care. An artist who has done the hard work for us also tends not to ask too much of us, in the nicest possible way. He’s taking care of us and all he wants us to do is listen. There can be few things more luxurious, and freeing, than to be offered that experience at a time when our brains are crowded and emotions singed. So one of the best things you can do for yourself right now is put on this album, lie down, imagine yourself in a convertible on a wide open road, feel the wind in your hair and the sense of promise that the road ahead hints at – because this album sounds like it was made for just that experience – then be grateful for the experience and try to repeat it as often as possible.

Golden Exile is out now.

Listen on/buy from:

Apple Music | iTunes




Single release: ‘Fighting for Air’ by The Little Lord Street Band

LLSB_FightingForAir_3000x3000The Little Lord Street Band is a five-piece alt country band from Western Australia who have played hundreds of stages across Australia over the past five years. They have released three EPs, the latest in 2018 (Waking Up Next to You). 

Their latest single is ‘Fighting for Air’. Says frontwoman Tash Shanks of the song’s powerful lyrics, ‘I wrote this song about four years ago when I was really struggling with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I was paranoid about everything to do with my friends, family, workplace and music. I couldn’t escape this feeling of dread. It honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe . . . or function as a human. When I’m out surfing with my family and found when I’m caught in the impact zone, the panic in fighting for air isn’t too dissimilar to on land with mental health.’

Shanks hopes the song will encourage others to seek help for their mental health struggles – as she did – and know they’re not alone. Given that many people who are now self-isolating or simply separated from colleagues, friends and family by circumstance, this song’s purpose is more important than ever.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes


Single release: ‘I Found Home’ by Raechel Whitchurch

unnamed-8Singer-songwriter Raechel Whitchurch released an EP in 2016, Outlaw, that debuted at number 1 on the iTunes country music chart and took her around Australia, playing shows. She has shared stages with artists such as Fanny Lumsden, Shane Nicholson, Wendy Matthews and Felicity Urquhart.

Since then Whitchurch has been writing songs for her debut album, which will be released later this year. Writing songs is something Whitchurch has been doing since she was a child. She started playing piano at the age of five then at eight swapped it for a mandolin, soon followed by guitar, banjo – and songwriting.

‘I Found Home’ is the first single from the album, and it is a love song that isn’t necessarily romantic – it’s about finding belonging with someone. Life can take in all sorts of experiences and take you all sorts of places, but it’s a person who can be home. It is a beautifully constructed piece of country pop that will connect Whitchurch to new fans, and which is accompanied by a transporting video shot around St Albans, northwest of Sydney.


Listen on/buy from:

Apple Music | iTunes


New playlist: introduction to Australian country music

The reason why I have spent several years covering Australian country music on this website is simple: I listen to all types of music, but I believe Australian country music artists produce songs of an incredibly high standard lyrically and musically, and they do it consistently. The industry is excellent. Its artists should receive a lot more radio airplay than they do. And people around the nation – around the world – should know who they are.

The Australian country music industry – like every performance-based industry around the world right now – has been affected by the immediate disappearance of live shows. The good part is that the music is available everywhere, and many of us are going to be stuck at home for a while looking for distractions, so it’s a great opportunity to discover new music.

The following playlist is by no means prescriptive. It’s an introduction to Australian country music for those who may not know much about it, or know only a portion of it. It contains only artists who are currently working in the industry and who can be classified as emerged, rather than emerging. The songs are listed after the Spotify player.




Amber Lawrence – ‘The Man Across the Street’

Andrew Swift & Gretta Ziller – ‘Second Hand’

Andy Golledge – ‘Run to the River’

Ashleigh Dallas – ‘Dear Brother’

Beccy Cole – ‘Blackwood Hill’

Ben Leece – ‘Villains’

Bennett Bowtell & Urquhart – ‘Weeds’

Brad Butcher – ‘The Old Man’s Gone’

Brad Cox – ‘Water on the Ground’

Catherine Britt – ‘Charlestown Road’

Fanny Lumsden – ‘Land of Gold’

Felicity Urquhart – ‘So Go On’

Harmony James – ‘Home’

Hayley Marsten – ‘Wendy’

Kasey Chambers – ‘I Would Do’

Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes – ‘Big Fish’

Lee Kernaghan – ‘High Country’

Luke O’Shea – ‘Happy Australia Day’

Lyn Bowtell – ‘The Willow Tree’

The McClymonts – ‘This Ain’t Over’

Shane Nicholson – ‘Long Time Coming’

Tania Kernaghan – ‘Where the Murray Meets the Darling’

The Weeping Willows – ‘Devil’s Road’

The Wolfe Brothers – ‘Country Heart’

Troy Cassar-Daley – ‘Born to Survive’

Single release: ‘Love is the Loneliest Place’ by Emily Soon

Love Is The Loneliest Place artWell, now, this song is one of the best things that is going to happen to you today, this month, this year and no doubt for a very long time.

Emily Soon is a singer-songwriter from Melbourne who blends country music and soul, with the voice of a torch singer that also evinces a touching vulnerability. Her latest single is ‘Love is the Loneliest Place’ and it is a captivating, soaring and also heart-rending exploration of the human condition. As with her previous single, ‘Good Help is Hard to Find’, Soon teamed with producer Henry Wagons to record the single, and it was done live with a band at Wagons’s home studio on the Mornington Peninsula.

Soon wrote the song a while ago, and views it as a milestone in her creative and personal growth. ‘I wrote [the song] in my very early 20s,’ she says, ‘reflecting on a friend’s break up and the real powerful, raw image of their sadness and exhaustion … I’d never experienced those feelings. The song helped me to comprehend the situation as best as I could, also becoming a lesson for myself on the importance of empathy, patience and time.’

Soon is an Australian-born Malaysian-Chinese artist who has been creating music in her home town for the past few years, as well in Nashville and Toronto. While she had shows booked in the months ahead, it’s unlikely some will go ahead – which is even more reason to listen to this song on your favourite streaming service. Like me, you’ll probably just loop it over and over.

Listen on/buy from:

Apple Music | iTunes

Single release: ‘Little Eyes’ by Rachael Dee

std_33412Rockhampton singer-songwriter Rachael Dee no doubt wrote and recorded her new song, ‘Little Eyes’, quite a while ago, so she could not have known that its release is so very well timed – basically, to provide something joyful in a strange week, strange month and strange year.

The song was co-written with Matt Scullion at the CMAA Academy of Country Music in 2018 and inspired by Dee’s son, Connor.

‘When you are in the presence of children, you realise just how magical their little minds are,’ says Dee. ‘”Little Eyes” is about being present, and seeing the magic of the world by showing appreciation and gratitude for the simple things in life.’

Upon release the song reached number 5 on the iTunes Country chart and Australian community radio has embraced the song, which sits at No. 2 on the AMRAP Regional Chart this week. The accompanying video clip was shot by Golden Guitar winner Lachlan Bryan at Connor’s kindergarten last year. It’s a song – and video – you should turn to whenever you need a smile … which will probably be quite regularly for the foreseeable future.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes

EP review: Garlic Pickin’ Time by William Alexander

a0167185749_16William Alexander was born in the town of Bourke in northern New South Wales and grew up in the western country of that state. While his musical influences include Elvis Presley and 80s rock, he found more affinity with hillbilly and western singers such as Tex Morton, Slim Dusty, Buddy Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. From the first bars of his new EP, Garlic Pickin’ Time, that lineage is not only clear but strongly, appealingly upheld.

The six songs on this EP are old timey in style but do not sound like an anachronism or a tribute – instead, it’s clear that Alexander deeply understands the music that has informed his development as a singer, songwriter and musician. While there’s not a lot of country music of this style being produced in Australia these days, that doesn’t mean Alexander is out of place because he offers something that is broadly appealing. The songs are lean on instrumentation but he has such a rich tone to his voice that it shouldn’t be set against a musical background that could in any way mask it. Alexander is one of those singers who could, as the saying goes, sing the phone book and people would pay to listen.

The subject matter of the songs draws in part from Alexander’s background – in his teens his family moved to the Mallee in Victoria but he still feels the connection to his original home, as evident in the final track, ‘My Old Bourke Home’. Nostalgia is not a pejorative term when it comes to this style of music; in fact, it’s almost a necessity, and Alexander manages to be nostalgic without being saccharine or maudlin. It comes back to that voice: robust, sympathetic and honest. And you don’t have to wonder what the phone book sounds like sung, because you can listen to this very fine EP instead.

Listen on/buy from:

Apple Music | Bandcamp | iTunes