Sydneysider Harvey Russell was the front man for the rock/alt-country Harvey Swagger Band in the late 2000s and played country-folk music in duo Peasant Moon. Now he’s released an album, Liquid Damage, as a solo artist and, in short, it is a honky-tonkin’ good time. Russell combines a musical thoroughbred lineage with a bucking bronco’s spirit and all of that is evident on this collection of heartfelt tales and entertaining tunes.
The album was produced by Michael Carpenter at Love Hz in Sydney and Carpenter appears on backing vocals, piano and other instruments. Russell’s backing band, The Widowmakers, also features Luke Moller on fiddle and Peta Caswell on backing vocals. Liquid Damage will satisfy country purists, thanks to Russell’s respect for the traditions of the genre, but even those who don’t know anything about country music will find much to satisfy them in these nine well-crafted songs.
Liquid Damage is out now.
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While Brisbane singer-songwriter Megan Cooper’s second album, Wild Mountain, has been available since July, her album launch is on 28 October so this post just squeaks in under the wire …
The most immediate fact about this album is the same as for Cooper’s first album, Ghosts, Choirs & Kings, and it is that she has a truly lovely voice. The second fact is that she knows how to write for her voice, lyrically and stylistically. The songs on this new album cross several moods, from jaunty to wistful, and all tell a story that is expressed beautifully through her vocals. There are some honkytonk sounds here as well as straight-up pop. She’s also an impressive torch singer.
All of this detail is, of course, a way of trying to describe what is often hard to pin down without sounding schmaltzy: the way music makes a listener feel. So I’ll go for the schmaltz and say that Wild Mountain brings a lot of joy, as well as a lot of meaningful entertainment, which, for this listener, is akin to the Holy Grail. Cooper has a lot of talent and the skill to bring it to listeners, and it’s all evident on this album.
Wild Mountain is out now. The album launch is on 28 October 2018 at The Black, Albion (Brisbane).
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Singer-songwriter Kirsty Lee Akers has released a new album, Under My Skin, and because she released it in July and I missed the release date, I’ll keep this short and sweet in the interests of not delaying further … This is Akers’s fifth album and the first for which she has acted as a producer. But, really, on her fifth go-round it makes sense that she knows her sound better than anyone – and it’s clear on this album that she does. This is a cohesive, intelligently written and produced collection of country rock/pop. Akers knows how to write a catchy hook and also a melody that suits her robust, mellifluous voice.
Country rock and pop are, as noted elsewhere on this site, a growing genre in Australia. Akers leans towards the rock side and finds a distinctive place within it, as do The McClymonts, by honouring her sound and her voice. She’s not trying to sound like anyone else, and she shouldn’t, because this is a great collection of infectious songs that serve to entertain and also make you stop and think.
As a last note: I certainly hope this isn’t the last album she produces, and that she’ll produce for others.
Under My Skin is out now through Social Family Records.
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The website of Brisbane band The Ragtone Ramblers says that the band is ’Playing in the pocket where country and jazz unashamedly mingle’. With influences of western swing and hillbilly, the band’s new EP, Ragtone Stomp, is a vibrant, beautifully executed, toe-tapper that features three great vocalists accompanied by steel guitar, double bass, tenor banjo and washboard.
For those who love older-style, upbeat country music that is of exactly the type to tempt you onto the dance floor, you will be hard pressed to find tunes more appealing than the six on this release. And for those who aren’t sure if they like that kind of music: just listen and try to not feel uplifted by the joy that is so clearly on this record.
Ragtone Stomp is out now.
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So I missed this one in January, when I meant to review it. Consequently this will be a shorter ‘album news’ piece so no more time is lost … because Greenbah is worth your time. The eight songs on this third album from Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders are packed with guitars and piano, echoing Australian pub rock from a bygone era – without sounding intentionally nostalgic – but also drawing on country and folk influences to create something compelling.
The band has quite the work ethic, releasing new music regularly, and the experience shows. The songs are tightly constructed and while there’s a lot of instruments in each one, nothing is wasteful.
This is not an album for a quiet afternoon – it’s something to keep you alert on a long drive, it’s a rowdy gathering with friends, it’s a morning pep-up. And because of that above-mentioned work ethic, you know there will be plenty more where that came from.
Greenbah is out now.
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Ruby Boots started her musical trajectory in Perth and it has taken her all the way to Nashville, where she is now resident – although paradoxically that trajectory has also taken her somewhat away from country music and towards rock.
Her new album, Don’t Talk About It, is indeed a rock record but the structure and storytelling of country music are apparent in its ten distinct and beautifully formed songs. Also apparent is her rock lineage, but not in a way that suggests appropriation so much as interpretation. All artists have influences, and one of Boots’s talents is that she’s able to find the alchemy in those influences and create something that is wholly her.
Don’t Talk About It is out now.
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Ruby Boots will play some dates in Australia in May. For details:
[As a reminder: ‘album news’ items appear when I haven’t had time to write a full review but want to make sure the album is covered.]
Melbourne singer-songwriter Andrew Swift had what might be called a conversion to country music after the release of his first album in 2015, but he’s certainly no neophyte: he’s already been a grand finalist in the Toyota Star Maker competition.
Call Out for the Cavalry is his recently released second album, and it too reveals no sign of him being relatively new to the genre. His musical lineage covers Americana, roots, rock and a bit of blues, and there’s a lovely cover of Gretta Ziller‘s song ‘Unforgiven Sin’. Ziller appears on the album, as does Catherine Britt and Katie Brianna.
This is a diverse, lovely, entertaining mix of songs. Swift sounds completely at home in country music, his voice relaxed and confident, and his ability to create songs that assuredly embrace a range of musical and lyrical moods speaks to his skill as a songwriter. The album is a great example of the alt country scene currently burgeoning in Melbourne – and it’s also just a great album.
Call Out for the Cavalry is out now through Social Family Records.
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