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







EP review: Train Wreck Hearts by Sarah McAdams

unnamed-7Let’s not pretend that what’s happening right now in Australia and the rest of the world isn’t unsettling, at best. For many people normal routines are over and there’s no way to know when they may be restored. A lot of us are working from home and others are not leaving home at all. It’s a time for containment and introspection. And one of the only respites is art. Music, books, films, TV shows – they’re all going to play an important role in how we experience the next few weeks, or months.

Music has the advantage of being able to offer entertainment, distraction or solace in a short space of time. One song can change a mood. One song can make us believe that everything isn’t as bad as it seems, even if only for a moment. Sarah McAdams – a singer-songwriter from the lower Blue Mountains, NSW – has released her debut EP in the midst of a time of flux and I for one am very pleased that it has come along. McAdams is a great country pop artist whose songs are full of heart and meaning, in which pragmatism wins over sentiment, and they are also entertainment. McAdams has a smooth, versatile voice that suits the four songs she has chosen, and those songs are moreish creations.

McAdams graduated from the CMAA Senior Academy of Country Music earlier this year, and no doubt she benefitted from the experience, but she already had a pedigree: attending ENCORE MUSIC CAMP with Nash Chambers, Morgan Evans and Harry Hookey, a songwriting workshop with Wes Carr, private mentor sessions with Wes Carr, MMAD 351 Camps, MMAD Programs, the very first Girls Rock Camp Canberra and Girls Rock Camp Sydney. She’s a proud member of the Macarthur Country Music Club and recently a finalist in 94.1 Today’s Country, Brand New Star. She also studied Music Performance at TAFE. It is, therefore, no surprise that this EP is an accomplished release by an artist who lets you know, very early, that she knows exactly what she’s doing. And on this day, in this age, that is both a relief and a treat.

Listen on/buy from:

Apple Music | Artist’s website | iTunes




Kristy Cox releases new album No Headlights

unnamed-6Originally from South Australia, bluegrass artist Kristy Cox has made her home in Nashville for the past few years, originally with a songwriting deal. She has continued to write songs, and has also continued to release music while returning to Australia for the Tamworth Country Music Festival and tours, and winning Golden Guitar awards.

Cox’s sixth album, No Headlights, was released at the end of February, and she managed to fit in the recording around another very important commitment in her life.

‘We did the band tracks when I was 40 weeks pregnant,’ says Cox. ‘A week before [second child] Ryman was born. I didn’t even know if I was going to get into the studio to do them, to be honest. Jerry [Salley, the album’s producer] was all teed up to sing the guide tracks just in case I couldn’t get in there.

‘Ryman was six or seven weeks old [during recording] and you definitely have to retrain those muscles. It’s like not going to the gym and then trying to run a run a mile. Hang on, no, you need baby steps into it. And I didn’t give myself as many baby steps as I probably should have, so I definitely made it a lot harder on myself.

‘But I was just so excited, I wanted to get in there and get the album done,’ she says, laughing. ‘I said, “Right, baby’s out – album time!”‘

Jerry Salley has been Cox’s producer for all six of Cox’s albums. She says of him, ‘Jerry does a really good job of getting the best out of me. I don’t think I would be the artist that I am today without him, that’s for sure. He challenges me. He knows what I’m capable of more than what I know what I’m capable of. So he will throw me songs and say you need to do this, or he’ll say, “You need to sing a trill”, and I’ll say, “I can’t do that.” And there’s been times where I’ve literally walked out of the studio in tears because he’s said, “You need to do it”, and I’ve said, “I can’t do that.” “Yes, you can.” “No, I can’t.”

Continue reading “Kristy Cox releases new album No Headlights”

Single release: ‘Hiding Out in Tuscany’ by Paula Standing

TuscanyPaula Standing is a singer-songwriter from Adelaide who released an album, All Fun & Games, in 2015 and the EPs Good Heart in 2017 and Truth & Trickery in 2019. She has now recorded a new album, The More I Give, which will be released later this year; it has been influenced by Standing’s connection with singer-songwriter Lou Bradley, formed at the Tamworth Country Music Festival last year. Bradley introduced Standing to producer Rod McCormack, and both McCormack and Bradley were involved in the writing of the album.

The first single from the album is ‘Hiding Out in Tuscany’, which, says Standing, ‘seemed like a good choice to start the ball rolling, as it covers the journey I am making both with my career and this whole album,’ she says. ‘Taking a risk and “setting sail” for distant horizons is a wonderful metaphor for how this project is shaping up.’ The song was written with three students who use McCormack’s studio, The Music Cellar: Ash Sheehan, Jacky McCormack and Toby Wells.

The song is immediately memorable; its gentle rhythm and melody provide an opportunity to dream alongside Standing. We all have our what-ifs and if-onlys, and this song gives us permission to wonder about them. The song has country, Americana and Celtic tones to it, and it is country music that is at the core of Standing’s music.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify


Single release: ‘Wait on Me’ by Lisa Nicole

Lisa-Nicole-WaitonMe-Single-Art-High-ResCanadian singer-songwriter Lisa Nicole’s new song has its origins in a 2017 encounter with Keith Urban, when Lisa Nicole had the chance to jump on stage with him. It inspired Lisa Nicole to move to Nashville from British Columbia in 2018 – and that meant she now had a long-distance relationship with her Canadian partner. ‘Wait on Me’ is the song that resulted.

This is not a song about the artist wishing she weren’t on the road – instead, she embraces the work while acknowledging that it’s hard to be apart from the one she loves. So she asks him to wait on her.

Says Lisa Nicole, ‘There are moments in life that test the balance of our commitment between professional goals and personal relationships. While there is great pressure to choose one over the other, I don’t believe it has to be that way. Your heart can want – and have – both. “Wait on Me” is about making the bold choice to follow through on your dreams, but also build a future with someone you love anywhere and anytime – regardless of obstacles.’

This is heartwarming country pop with a realistic story and message – and as it was written after her relocation to Nashville it suggests that Lisa Nicole made the right decision.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify


Single release: ‘How the Story Ends’ by Emily Markham

Emily-Markham-500x500In 2017 South Coast (NSW) singer-songwriter Emily Markham released ‘Got Me Fallin”, which was about the beginning of a relationship. Her latest song, ‘How the Story Ends’, is about the end of a relationship. It’s one of the fruits of Markham’s regular visits to Nashville.

‘I wrote this sitting on the floor of my hotel room in Nashville,’ she says. ‘I had the line “If I need to be the villain in your story, that’s okay” and I knew I wanted to write a song about the different sides of a relationship.’

Markham has released two EPs, Come on Over in 2014 and Right Where You Are in 2018, and the new song is a progression from that earlier work, with Markham saying she feels it’s a more mature concept compared with other songs she’s written. The narrator of ‘How the Story Ends’ is not bitter but philosophical about how things worked out, and accepting of her role as the villain even as we can hear in her voice that she’s looking ahead, and beyond what’s happened.

Listen on:

Apple Music | iTunes | Spotify



Single release: ‘Guys Like You’ by Michelle Cashman

Guys like you artMichelle Cashman is a singer-songwriter from the NSW Southern Highlands with a powerful voice and a powerful message in her new single, ‘Guys Like You’. The song was written after Cashman heard about a friend who was in an abusive relationship, and recalled hearing of others in the same situation.

‘This song is for me,’ she says, ‘and for all of my girlfriends and boyfriends who are or have been in terrible relationships and think that they’re not going to get any better and not going to be okay. The fact is that you are better off when you leave.’

The lyrics of the song are clear and uncompromising, and Cashman’s vocal is strong and inspiring. The single is Cashman’s first step on her new pathway in music. To that end she has launched a Patreon campaign and is offering exclusive content to her supporters or ‘Patrons’. She will be working on videos with her producer Michael Carpenter, with her audio and video projects released to social media with her Patrons in the credits.

Listen/buy on:

Apple Music | BandcampiTunes | Spotify