Month: May 2020

Video premiere: ‘Ash & Dust’ by Blake Dantier

IMG_3163-EditAfter Sydney singer-songwriter Blake Dantier released his single ‘Ash & Dust’ in late April it was quickly added to ABC Country, Kix Country and Australian Country Radio, its heartfelt lyrics connecting with listeners around Australia. Of course, Dantier has not been able to go out and play to those listeners himself – and it would have seemed that making a video was also out of the question, but he found a way.

‘I wasn’t initially going do to a clip because of social restrictions,’ he says, ‘but we decided last minute to pull together a small crew. We had a general idea in mind about how the clip would look, but decided exactly what spots to shoot in on the day.’

The video was directed by Bruce Dawson and shot by Lawrence Lim – both from Tribal Apes – in and around their studio at Fox Studios in Sydney’s Moore Park. The video has its premiere on this website today.

Dantier appears alone in the clip but when a song has as much impact as this one does, no embellishment is required. There was, however, one downside to making the video.

‘I was really hanging out for some KFC but it took us all afternoon and night [to shoot the video],’ says Dantier. ‘We shot for so long that KFC wasn’t open by the time we got there.’

Given that gigs are still a while off – although Dantier and partner Cass Hopetoun recently played a drive-in gig in Sydney – this video will be the most direct interaction the audience can have with Dantier. And as it perfectly complements his wonderful song, it’s worth watching over and over again.

Album review: Seasons by The New Graces

a0139668036_10When a band is made up of performers who have been in other bands or had solo releases, it’s tempting to say that the new entity is ‘more than the sum of its parts’, as if that new entity has conjured some kind of magic that wasn’t there in previous efforts. In the case of The New Graces and its members – Melanie Horsnell, Kate Burke and Robyn Martin – the sum is just as extraordinary as its parts would suggest.

Horsnell has released over ten albums, written songs with artists such as Catherine Britt and Wendy Matthews, and written music for film and television. Burke is a multi-instrumentalist and singer who has been in a folk duo and and Irish/Australian traditional band, and also works as a scientist and science communicator. Martin started playing bass at age 13 in the family band, and since then has played in many festivals, and with other artists. Individually their pedigrees are excellent, and combined they have almost immediately become a powerful force in Australian country and folk music, with the release of The New Graces’ first album, Seasons.

Lead vocal duties are shared across the twelve songs, with the other two singers contributing harmonies that enrich each song, bringing complexity and, often, robustness. These are songs with earth under their fingernails, lyrically and musically; songs of lives well and deeply lived, of land loved, of heartbreaks and wonders. These are the sorts of songs you’d hope to eventuate when three artists like this come together to create something new, but of course there’s no formula for joy – and listening to this album is truly a joyous experience, every single time.

While some works of art offer escape from the world, this album holds up real life and says: You can’t escape it, but there’s beauty here and we’ll show you. A lot of that beauty is in the execution of the songs: the way each singer understands what to offer to the song, either as the lead or in harmony; the ease with which they work together, the sort of ease that only comes from years of work; the fact that the songs are reassuring yet can also tilt you off your axis. Although the harmonies are glorious, this is actually not an album to make you comfortable. It wants to bring the listener close, and ask them to get inside the stories that are offered, to feel everything the singers feel. That makes for a whole-body and whole-heart experience, and one that can’t help leaving you wanting more, hoping there’s another album not far away – or even, one dares to hope, the chance to see The New Graces perform in person.

Buy the CD, vinyl or digital album from Bandcamp.

Apple Music | iTunes



Single release: ‘Black to Blue’ by John ‘K’ Krsulja

400x400bb-2John Krsulja – or Johnny K, as he is known – is the owner of the DAG Sheep Station in Nundle, New South Wales. The DAG is well known by country music artists and fans as it hosts twice-yearly songwriting retreats that have produced many great collaborations and songs, and each year it is part of the Tamworth Country Music Festival program. No doubt one reason why Krsulja is able to create such a supportive and fertile creative environment for artists is because he’s one himself, with his second album, Burden of the Fool, due for release on 19 June.

The first single is ‘Black to Blue’, which Krsulja wrote shortly after the death of close mate and producer of his first album, Travellin’, Karl Broadie.

‘Karl and I often talked about the music industry and finding our place within the industry,’ says Krsulja. ‘Karl would share his thoughts, trials and tribulations, that eventually led him to give the advice of “your music is art, and if you aim to please everyone, then it’s just not art”.’

In the song Krsulja describes what it’s like to meet someone who shines light into your life, only to lose them and be lost to the dark.

‘It is the memory of love and loss that replaces the darkness and allows the light to return one’s black to blue,’ he says, and his rich singing voice handles the transition between emotions in such a way that the listener feels the light and the dark, as well as the sense that it’s better to move forwards with love rather than wallow in the past.

The track was recorded by Matt Fell and Glen Hannah at Love Hz in Sydney, with Hannah on acoustic guitar – then Hannah died four weeks later. So the track has become, for its creator, a tribute to both Broadie and Hannah, two much-loved artists.


Apple Music | Spotify


‘Nervous Girls’ featuring Bec Lavelle, Kora Naughton, Jem Cassar-Daley, Kaitlyn Thomas & Ingrid Mae

Nervous Girls V2When the single ‘Nervous Girls’ was announced the line-up of its singers was immediately noteworthy: Bec Lavelle, who first became known to Australian audiences as the key singer in the television drama McLeod’s Daughters; Kora Naughton, who has been releasing great singles, with ‘Speechless’ being the latest; Jem Cassar-Daley, who is making a name for herself as a singer/songwriter following national touring in 2019; Academy of Country Music graduate Kaitlyn Thomas, who recently released the popular ‘First Kiss’; and the fantastically entertaining Ingrid Mae. Individually they have produced wonderful songs; together they have created an enthralling, thought-provoking single.

‘Nervous Girls’ was recorded remotely, during recent weeks, with artists spread across three countries, including the musicians: Little Big Town’s Hubert Payne on drums and percussion, Greg Carrillo on guitars and bass, and Pier Luigi Salami on piano.

Apple Music | Spotify

All five singers kindly answered questions via email, to give some background to this extraordinary release and an insight into their creative processes over the past few unusual weeks.

Continue reading “‘Nervous Girls’ featuring Bec Lavelle, Kora Naughton, Jem Cassar-Daley, Kaitlyn Thomas & Ingrid Mae”

Single release: ‘A Face in a Long Line’ by Mitch Dean

MD-press6Melbourne singer-songwriter Mitch Dean released an EP, Suburban Speakeasy, in 2017 and his new album, Holding Back the Levee, will be released on 19 June. Recorded in Melbourne with producer Colin Leadbetter, it features Damian Cafarella (Lachlan Bryan & the Wildes) on drums and electric guitar, James Gillard (The Flood) on bass and backing vocals and Sam See on piano and organ.

The first single is ‘A Face in a Long Line’, which is a song about what happens when work dries up, and also about what work means. Dean delivers it lyrically straight and emotionally rich – that is, he knows how to tell a story and do it with meaning, and that’s no doubt because he has been developing skills over several years, through garage-rock band The Marzies and country rock band The Distance. The result is a beautifully crafted song – and, no doubt, a great album to come.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes

Single release: ‘Chasing the Sun’ by Andy Penkow

AndyPenkowEPCoverSinger-songwriter Andy Penkow released his debut album, Sad Love Songs, in 2018. Since then he has been at work on a new EP, Chasing the Sun, and the title track has now been released, with the EP itself to be released in late July.

Penkow’s musical influences include Kasey Chambers, Sam Outlaw, The Eagles and Bob Dylan. Co-written with the always-magnificent Lyn Bowtell and produced by the in-demand Shane Nicholson, both extaordinary artists in their own right, ‘Chasing the Sun’ nevertheless has a musical identity of its own. Penkow has a voice that can be sweet and sorrowful (sometimes all at once), and the song is an exploration of what it means to spend life metaphorically – or literally – chasing the sun.

The EP is now up for pre-order, with a second track, ‘Wildflowers’ also available.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes


Single release: ‘My Crime’ by Gareth Leach and Michaela Jenke

unnamed-14Melbourne singer-songwriter Gareth Leach has joined with South Australian artist Michaela Jenke for the new single ‘My Crime’, which debuted at #3 on the iTunes Country chart. It’s a song about promise and futility, the self and the shadow self.

‘Recognising and knowing your demons when they present themselves is one thing,’ says Leach, ‘but learning to fight them, or at the least challenge yourself to overcome them, is another thing … and it can be scary as hell facing those thoughts, especially in today’s current social climate fraught with insecurity and uncertainty due to the threat of pandemics.’

Leach wrote the song then realised that it would work best as a duet, to bring about a tonal balance – light offsetting dark. After seeing Jenke perform earlier this year, he knew she was the right choice. Jenke’s ‘amazing performance and presence turns the song into a conversation,’ says Leach, ‘rather than a completely introspective dialogue from the perspective of the character, bringing the song to life … hence the constant to-ing and fro-ing between the two of us throughout the song.’

This year Leach has already released the singles ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ and ‘Old Crow Feather’, from a forthcoming album (his second). Jenke is a graduate of the CMAA Senior Academy of Country Music and winner of the 2018 Tamworth CMF Coca-Cola Battle of The New Stars competition. Her EP, Diamonds Outta Dirt, was released in 2017.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify

Single release: ‘Travelling Woman’ by Naomi Keyte feat. Katie Pomery

[Single Cover Art] Travelling Woman_Naomi KeyteNaomi Keyte is a singer-songwriter from Adelaide who fits more into the folk/indie pop genres, but a country music website can take its cues from the Tamworth Country Music Festival and include artists from other genres when they are fittingly wonderful.

Keyte’s new single, ‘Travelling Woman’, is a song of love and independence, of flight and chase. As Keyte says, ‘The song tells the story of loving someone perpetually on the move. It speaks to the push/pull of a relationship in transition, of lingering hope and of reckoning with the unknown.’

The song starts as a plea, a quest to understand the other in a relationship, yet as Keyte repeats the refrain ‘Maybe you will learn how to stay/Or I will learn how to follow’ the repetition makes it less a promise and more a hint of doubt or defiance that perhaps gives way to regret, an impression reinforced as Keyte’s haunting vocals are echoed by those of Katie Pomery.

‘Travelling Woman’ is Keyte’s first single since the release of her debut album, Melaleuca, in 2017; the album was nominated for Best Folk, Best Female Artist and Best Release at the 2017 South Australian Music Awards.

Apple Music | Bandcamp | iTunes | Soundcloud

Single release: ‘Too Far to Go’ by Matt Joe Gow feat. The Weeping Willows

TOO FAR TO GO - FINAL - BooksNew Zealand-born Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Matt Joe Gow released his first Americana/alt country album, The Messenger, in 2009, and followed it with Seven Years and Break, Rattle and Roll. All three albums were accomplished and acclaimed; most recently, Break, Rattle and Roll won the 2019 Music Victoria Award Best Country Album.

Gow is a prolific songwriter who shows restraint in his releases, so the new single ‘Too Far to Go’ is his first release in two years. Featuring Melbourne duo The Weeping Willows – who also appeared on Break, Rattle and Roll – ‘Too Far to Go’ has the reassuring musical qualities of a lullaby, with a lulling rhythm, yet that’s a bit of sleight of hand, because lyrically the song is darker than a lullaby – it’s about words unsaid and things not done, and the price paid for both. In this way the music draws the listener into Gow’s confidence, all the better for him to tell us his story.

The same restraint Gow shows in releasing his material is also evident on this song: the instruments are stripped back, allowing for the strength of his voice and the vocals of The Weeping Willows, the addition of which make the song a cri de coeur, affecting and unsettling.

Listen on:

Apple Music | Bandcamp | Google Play

Video premiere: ‘Couldn’t Promise You Rain #4’ by Clint Wilson


Clint Wilson is a singer-songwriter from Melbourne who released his debut album, Dark Water, in 2018 and last year released the wonderful single ‘One Button at a Time’ featuring Jen Mize. Wilson is preparing to release his second album, Another Death in the Family, on 31 July and ahead of that is about to release the new single ‘Couldn’t Promise You Rain #4’.

The song tells the story of a husband who can promise his wife love, but can’t promise her rain – and all that rain represents for a family working the land. Wilson consistently produces songs that are emotional without being sentimental, because of the restraint he shows in lyrics and delivery.

‘I got the idea for the song on a flight to Brisbane,’ says Wilson. ‘I was looking out the window and I couldn’t believe just how dry it was out there. I was imagining a couple struggling with the financial burden caused by drought.’

The song was co-written with country music legend Kevin Bennett, and recorded in Wilson’s home studio just before lockdown, with Wilson and his band members producing the track themselves. Wilson also produced the video, which was shot on his uncle’s farm near Gippsland and which has its premiere here today.

‘He showed me this old Massey Ferguson,’ says Wilson of his uncle, ‘and it pretty much told the story itself – parts held together with electrical tape and cable ties, but getting the job done nevertheless.’