Month: July 2020

Album review: Lion Side by Jasmine Rae

JR-LoinSide-CoverFINAL3-sRGBThe first definite signal that Jasmine Rae’s new album, Lion Side, was not going to be like her previous albums was her most recent single, ‘Don’t Do it for the Haters’. A response to an episode in Rae’s recent past when she was the target of some online vitriol, it gave new context to the previous single, ‘Green Light’, which sees Rae questioning herself, about many things.

Once the album arrived the total picture became spectacularly clear. The title track is Rae’s announcement of just who she has become in the five years since her last album, Heartbeat. The song sounds deceptively light: it’s not a rock ‘n’ roll roar. But Rae’s intent is in her vocal delivery. She is one of the most powerful singers around, not just because of the strength of her voice but her tone and command. There’s not a nook or cranny of her voice that she’s not in command of – command being different to control. A controlled performance would be one in which Rae gives us not much of herself. The commanding performances on Lion Side are the result of her decision to share a lot of herself, with all the vulnerabilities and pain and doubt that might involve, from what’s on ‘Green Light’ to the contents of the third track, ‘Fraudulent’.

The first four songs seem to be Rae working through the past, and everything she’s learnt from it; after that point her heart bursts wide open – as she telegraphed in ‘Don’t Do it for the Haters’ when she sings that she doesn’t do it for the haters because ‘it’s the love that does it for me’. We go from that song into the beautiful ‘Jessica’, co-written with Lyn Bowtell, who knows her way around a heartbreaking song. This sounds like one kind of song of love and loss and becomes something else: a gentle rebuke. It’s not the only song on the album in which Rae gives us a sleight of hand (or lyric) – ‘Party on the Couch’ has a title that suggests it could be in the established country music party-song tradition, and musically it could fit there, yet really it’s been inspired the fact that Rae was spending a lot of time at home, literally on the couch.

Rae wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks on the album. Seventh track ‘Love Is’ is hers alone and was begun years ago. It is devastating and memorable, as is the tenth and last track, ‘Carrying the Flame’, a tribute to a departed mentor. The answer to ‘Green Light’ comes in track eight, ‘Right Now’, in which Rae has no qualms issuing the recommendation to ‘just do whatever makes you feel better’ – no judgements about what that may be. Because perhaps, finally, Rae has stopped judging herself.

In Rae’s decision to let love guide her work and her actions, she has offered fans a gift: an extraordinary album which is infused with love and the prices we can pay for it – grief, confusion, loneliness, despair. In the end, though, the message is that it’s worth it. Rae emerges on this album as the heroine we didn’t know we needed, not because she set out to be but because she didn’t. She set out to create songs that people would love. She has achieved that, and so much more.

Lion Side is out now through ABC Music/Universal Music Australia.

Signed albums available at

Apple Music | JB Hi-Fi | Sanity








New singles: Emily Barker, Corey Legge, Michelle Little

[In an effort to keep up with the great singles being released every week, some ‘single releases’ posts will feature more than one artist. This is not because the artists don’t deserve their own posts – it’s simply a matter of trying to post more content in a timely fashion.]

Emily Barker – ‘The Woman Who Planted Trees’

Western Australia-born London resident Emily Barker is a highly accomplished musician who also happens to have a wonderful singing voice. While this is not a country music song, it’s too glorious to not include here. Barker’s next album, A Dark Murmuration of Words, will be released on 4 September.


Corey Legge – ‘Fireball’

‘Fireball’ is the first single for talented Wollongong singer-songwriter Legge since his debut album, Driving Out of Eden, was released last year. His second album is due for release later this year.


Michelle Little – ‘Nice to See You’

This is the first original release from singer-songwriter Michelle Little in
over a decade. A lovely, uplifting song in the western swing genre, it features fiddle from Luke Moller and pedal steel from Jy-Perry Banks, and was produced by Michael Carpenter at LoveHz Studios.

Interview: Scarlet’s Way

Promo Pic 3Perth duo Scarlet’s Way recently released the rock-infused country track ‘Tell Me It’s Over’, into an uncertain environment for Australian country music artists: not only has COVID seen gigs disappear but CMC also vanished, which means it’s harder for artists to connect with an audience.

‘We’ve been waiting for the perfect time,’ says singer Katey Gabel of the single’s release, ‘and then just realised that there’s just no perfect time. So we bit the bullet. It’s just been a nuts world online. It’s hard to break through a lot of the noise.’

‘We’re not saying we timed it perfectly,’ adds guitarist Shayne Savic, ‘but we hoped for the best. In some ways we’ve second guessed ourselves nonstop. People are locked at home, maybe they could do with something to listen to. At the same time there was so much evil stuff going on in the world we didn’t want to see out song get swept up in anything that was going to hide it from anybody. So it was a tough one to make the call on. That’s why we recorded it a year ago and it sat there.’

‘Tell Me It’s Over’ is the first single that wasn’t recorded in the duo’s home studio, where they made their first EP and the single ‘Move Your Body’. The recording happened when they were on tour on the east coast.

Continue reading “Interview: Scarlet’s Way”

Album review: Come On, Fly by Lucille

Lucille_RAW_Proofs-0024-1_2With the release of her debut single, ‘The Killing Season’, Melbourne singer-songwriter Lucille announced herself as an artist who is willing to take inspiration from what could be considered non-traditional sources – in this case, the implosion of the federal ALP while in government – to craft a powerful song. Her second single, ‘Kerikeri’, was quite different: it was an ode to her childhood in New Zealand. By that point it was clear that Lucille was not going to follow a safe path, not that anything in her background suggested she would. Raised in a musical environment, music seems to have seeped into her marrow and she is an artist who is intensely instinctual and also incredibly talented. By developing considerable skills over time she is able to draw on what’s fundamental to her and express it to a broader audience.

Lucille’s debut album, Come On, Fly, has influences from country, rock, pop and folk. This is because Lucille knows a range of genres intimately and will draw on what is necessary for the song. That’s how we come to have an album that doesn’t fit into one slot but which has a distinct identity: Lucille’s. Lucille is sure of what she wants to present to her audience – there is not a moment of hesitation on this album – and the result is a mature, rich work.

Each song on Come On, Fly is complete and contained because Lucille is a highly articulate lyricist: she will give us the beginning, middle and end of a story in each song, so we have a sense as each song ends that we’ve been taken on a journey, and we can stop there or move on. In that way the album is like a collection of short stories. And, as with a collection of stories, we are offered a range of experiences and emotions. Come On, Fly is an emotional album, and that is telegraphed on the first track, which is the title song. There are turns Lucille’s voice takes in that song that will break your heart and also make it soar. This is an experience you’ll have again and again throughout the album. This makes it an experience to be savoured; because it is intriguing and layered you will immediately want to turn around and savour it all over again.

Come On, Fly is out now.

Apple Music | iTunes


Single release: ‘It All Falls Down’ by Katrina Burgoyne

unnamed-17Singer-songwriter Katrina Burgoyne grew up in regional New South Wales, and now calls Nashville home. She will be familiar to Australian country music fans thanks to some earlier single releases, which garnered two Golden Guitar nominations and top 10 chart places. Those singles are not available on streaming – but many of the songs Burgoyne has written or co-written are, including tracks recorded by Amber Lawrence, Taylor Moss and Travis Collins. As a songwriter Burgoyne has secured indie and major label cuts in North America, Australia and the UK, so in the years since she last released music in Australia she has certainly not been idle.

Burgoyne now has a dynamic new song of her own in the form of ‘It All Falls Down’, co-written with Nashville recording artists Jordan Brooker and Palmer Lee. Burgoyne may be great at writing songs for other people but this song proves that she also deserves to be back in the spotlight as a performer. Hopefully there are some other songs tucked away that she’ll record and release very soon.

Apple Music

Single release: ‘Unlikely Believer’ by Gretta Ziller

unnamed-16Melbourne singer-songwriter Gretta Ziller has a voice that makes you feel like she’s known you forever and is going to tell you secrets – she has the ability to really make the listener feel like they are right up next to her, and that the warmth in her voice is for you alone. She also sings with a sense of command that is reassuring for that same up-close listener: we can sit back and let her tell us a story.

These are abilities that Ziller has displayed across all her recorded material, including the 2014 EP Hell’s Half Acre and her 2017 album Queen of Boomtown, and which has contributed to her two Golden Guitar nominations, amongst other accolades. And it also appears on her new single, ‘Unlikely Believer’, which is her first release on ABC Music.

The song is about faith in love but, more broadly, in humanity. It is also, therefore, about resilience – the commitment to not giving up on that faith.

Says Ziller, ‘I wrote “Unlikely Believer” to remind myself that although I’ve been through a lot in life that it’s harder but so much more rewarding to keep believing in things, rather than dwelling on the hurt and hardship.’

Given her signing to ABC Music, hopefully the single heralds an album in the near future. Meanwhile, she’s released a video to accompany the song, filmed at the Westgarth Palais Cinemas in Northcote, Victoria, and featuring Ziller’s live band along with keyboardist Clint Wilson.

Apple Music | Spotify

EP review: Need a Ride? by Wagons

PackshotThe music of Henry Wagons – released under the moniker Wagons – has been described as psychedelic country, and certainly that is the easy label. There are recognisable elements of country music and there are spacey psychedelic elements suggestive of David Bowie, amongst others. So that term describes the style of music you can expect to find on Wagons’s new EP, Need a Ride? But it does not describe the experience of listening to it, which is, bluntly, this: with that voice, Wagons could ask you to rob a bank and you’d probably consider it, and possibly even do it.

Wagons has a baritone that is not so much hypnotic as compelling. You don’t lose reason – as the bank-robbing notion might suggest – so much as want to be taken wherever he’s going. Wagons is a rock star who is not playing rock music in the traditional sense (although there are certainly rock influences on the EP) but his appeal is not about rock-star swagger so much as swashbuckling.

His musical accompaniment on this EP is sophisticated, layered and worthy of consideration separate to whatever he does with the vocals. But his vocals are at the centre of the vortex created by the instruments – and you are drawn inexorably to that centre.

Wagons is confident with his instrument, enough to take his time on the last track, ‘Brand New Place’ – to give the lyrics the weight they need – and also to belt it out on fourth track  ‘Flotation Man’. Confidence in any performer is a gift for the listener, because it means we can relax. Wagons is doing the work for us, inviting us to step on board a five-track ride – the title of the EP even makes this explicit – while he takes the wheel. It’s one hell of a trip. Strap yourself in and enjoy it.

Apple Music | iTunes

Album review: Gaslighter by The Chicks

THE-CHICKS_Gaslighter_Album-Cover_FinalNatalie Maines, the lead singer of The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks), has never resiled from showing us what is on her mind and in her heart. Her voice is an instrument of truth in that whatever she’s feeling can be heard in it. Either she recognised early on that it would be like that or she decided that that’s how it would be, but it has to have shaped the songs The Chicks write – and that means her bandmates, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, have to commit to the truth as well.

The Chicks’ last studio release, 2006’s Taking the Long Way, was written and recorded in the wake of Maine daring to express an opinion onstage when apparently she was meant to ‘shut up and sing’. The Chicks were ‘cancelled’ before that verb was used in that way, and their response was to come roaring out with an album that was not only their best but which reaffirmed that they were a trio of talent, skill and passion, united in their vision. They showed their work, and it was phenomenal. ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’ remains one of the best, most articulate cries of defiance in modern culture, Maines’s exhortation to herself to not do what was expected of her – to make nice – and, in the process, telling her audience it’s all right if they don’t want to make nice either.

It is clear on their new album, Gaslighter, that they are still not ready to make nice – actually, they will never be – and we are all the beneficiaries of that. This album is also a cry of defiance and, as with Taking the Long Way, The Chicks are not pretending its context is something other than what all their fans know it to be: in this case, the end of Maines’s marriage.

Continue reading “Album review: Gaslighter by The Chicks”

From Fallow to ‘Fierce’: Fanny Lumsden

Fanny Lumsden - Fierce IMG-07047Earlier this year – on 13 March, to be precise – Fanny Lumsden released her acclaimed third album, Fallow. The release came after an intense period in the life of Lumsden, her husband and collaborator, Dan Stanley Freeman, and her brother and band member, Tom Lumsden, when their home in the Upper Murray region of New South Wales was almost lost to the largest of the intense bushfires that consumed not just land but a great deal of the Australian summer, with the most dangerous period in the waning days of 2019 and early days of 2020. It also came on ‘COVID Friday’ – the day when it became apparent that Australia was about to lock down. Lumsden managed to have a magnificent last hurrah – the album launch in her local town of Tooma – but then she, along with the rest of the country, went home and stayed home. The timing was acutely bad, and obviously out of her control.

‘I’ve been through many emotions this year,’ she says of the run of events. ‘I feel like I’ve felt them all. [But] I feel pretty good right now. To be honest, I think I really needed lockdown. It was terrible timing with the album coming out the day everything was cancelled, and cancelling everything for the album was a bit of a blow. So it was a bumpy start and [we were] readjusting to that and expectations about stuff that we’d work towards, just like so many other people, I suppose.

‘But once I got my head around it and I just started slowing down … We’ve been working every day, we haven’t really had much time off, but in a really slow, normal kind of fashion,’ she says with a laugh. ‘But I think I’m becoming much more human. It’s taken me a few months to really wind down … I pushed it too hard. So I’m actually quite grateful.’

Prior to the fires, Lumsden and co toured for six months and were getting the album ready. ‘The exact time we were meant to have off was when the fires came,’ she says. ‘So then I went to a totally new level of stress that I’ve never felt before in my life, and then went straight into Tamworth and then straight back on tour and then put an album out. And, yes, adrenal fatigue was a thing I was dealing with, for sure.

‘But we’re good. Silver linings. I live in a beautiful spot. This last few months, I feel so lucky to be living where I live, even though I didn’t feel so lucky in January. And I’ve had my family around me and I’ve done so much stuff that I never had time to do. That I’ve never made time to do.’

Continue reading “From Fallow to ‘Fierce’: Fanny Lumsden”

Single release: ‘Leave Me Out to Dry’ by Riley Catherall

LMOTD SINGLE COVER FINALSince Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Riley Catherall started releasing songs in 2018 he’s been incapable of putting a foot wrong. Catherall has a rich musical pedigree, with studies in classical and jazz, amongst other things, but part of his brilliance as an artist now is what he leaves out rather than what he puts in. He is a master of refinement and restraint, in his vocals and his songwriting, so that the meaning of his songs is clear to the listener, every time. In other words, if he’s telling us something, we know he means it.

Catherall’s latest release is ‘Leave Me Out to Dry’, a story of heartbreakingly gracious regret. It is a sequel, of sorts, to Catherall’s 2018 release ‘Watered Down Man’, which, says Catherall, ‘encapsulated a version of myself notoriously stumbling my way through Melbourne’s streets heralding a warning not to get too close. It’s a bit of a mantra for myself to ensure I’m not slipping back into the same state.’

The song was recorded in Melbourne by Damian Cafarella (of Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes) and will appear on Catherall’s album, which is set for release later this year.


Apple Music | Spotify