Melbourne 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.
Singer-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.
Melbourne 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.
Naomi 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.
New 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.
If you’re unaware of the work of Travis Collins, it could be because you’ve been living under that proverbial rock – given that he’s won six Golden Guitars and he’s a back-to-back CMC Male Artist of the Year. Collins is a dynamic live performer, and a standout solo artist as well as a valued collaborator (such as with Amber Lawrence, on their EP, Our Backyard).
Collins has collaborated with producer Luke Wooten in Nashville to create his new song, ‘Rainy Day’, which is the third single from his forthcoming album, due in August, with ‘Make Up’ and ‘Weekend’ the first two.
While it could be seen as a melancholy song, the message is ultimately one of action, not despondency, and Collins is such an accomplished singer that he can pull off the nuances in the lyrics. Having said that, it’s an emotional song and impossible to not be affected by it.
‘”Rainy Day” came from a heavy heart,’ says Collins, ‘being reminded to never take anything, or anyone, for granted. This was a really tough experience to write about … and an equally difficult song to record, and now release.
‘Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow, and we’re certainly not guaranteed each other tomorrow … so, stop putting things in the “someday” basket. Take that trip, start that business, connect, reconnect, buy that nice thing you have always talked yourself out of. Most importantly, tell people you love them, and open that good bottle, together.’
Collins’s last album, Brave & The Broken, went straight to the top of iTunes charts on release (#3 Main chart/ #1 Country) and debuted at #1 on the ARIA Country Album charts, as well as picking up four Golden Guitar nominations.
Gold Coast-based singer-songwriter Brook Chivell is known for his high-energy live shows and his powerful country rock sound – but he’s always had a musical and lyrical balance within his music, and his latest single, ‘In My Life’ is a heartfelt ballad that become his new single for a very good reason: his fans asked for it.
‘It was the one my hardcore fans kind of chose, really,’ says Chivell. ‘I listen to what they say. If they say, “I really love that song”, and I hear it enough times, I think I’ll put that one out next.
‘The first single that I ever released was chosen by people I knew. I didn’t have any fans at the time but they chose the song, because I like what I like for different reasons, other people like what they like for different reasons, but when a bunch of people say it, that’s something to listen to.’
The McClymonts’ song ‘Forever Begins Tonight’ has become a wedding song staple, and ‘In My Life’ would be a good candidate for that too. When that idea is put to Chivell, he says, ‘I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of songs that have been seen that way. One in particular – I did a duet on my first album called “Always You”, and it’s a waltz, in three/four time, and I know that’s been used in a few weddings. It’s an easy waltz and the topic’s nice as well.
‘Any time that people use one of my songs for any reason that’s big in their life – even when people say, “That song really got me out of a hard time” – those things really mean a lot because it means that your lyrics have connected and resonated with somebody. That’s huge to me, because that connection is what it’s all about.
‘If it’s a song I’ve written by myself it’s nice for me because I can realise I’m not the only person going through this. A lot of times you write songs because it’s a bit of therapy. Sometimes you do think, I’m the only person who’s ever been through this, and that’s part of the human condition, I guess. There’s a lot of people out there feeling pretty horrible because they think they’re the only people. But I don’t think anyone’s been through anything new in a really long time.’
‘In My Life’ appears on Chivell’s most recent album, Fearless Rider, which he released on CD last year. It’s not yet available on streaming services because, as he explains, ‘of the way that Spotify is now – you can’t pitch a playlist if the song’s already on Spotify – so I’ve had to release the songs from the album one at a time and hopefully I can group them together at the end.’