Since 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.
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If you were watching the Red Rebel Music showcase during the recent Hats off to Country festival, you would have seen a very impressive performance from Kaitlyn Thomas. Although she’s still young Thomas has an impressive pedigree, writing, recording and releasing music from a young age, as well as recently recording the song ‘Nervous Girls’ with Bec Lavelle and others.
Thomas’s latest song is the highly entertaining country-rock track ‘Coulda Shoulda Woulda’. The song was the result of a spontaneous co-write at the DAG Songwriters Retreat in Nundle, NSW and was finished within a couple of hours.
‘It just kind of happened while we were waiting around for others to finish writing. We were talking about dating apps and past experiences of how you should have seen the warning signs and red flags after the very first date,’ says Thomas.
‘I wanted the song to have a Shania Twain rock feel as I felt the song has her kind of sassiness. I’m super happy with the result and I think we achieved that Shania vibe.’
Even if you can’t directly relate to the lyrics, the song is proof that Thomas is an artist on the rise, combining powerful vocals with her sense of humour and storytelling skill.
Since Newcastle, NSW artist Melody Moko released her album, The Wreckage, in 2017 she has played up and down and across Australia, supporting Fanny Lumsden, The McClymonts and Catherine Britt, appearing multiple times at each Tamworth Country Music Festival, and playing at other festivals such as Groundwater.
Moko is a songwriter of insight and heart, and a passionate performer who is willing to open herself to the audience every time she plays. Her new single, ‘Last Cigarette’ – the first from her forthcoming album – has all those qualities, embodied in Moko’s wry, wistful vocals. Co-written with Britt, the song compares the grip of nicotine addiction with a troubled relationship, and it also holds the listener in its grip from start to finish. It was the last song written for the album but was an early contender for the first single. Moko’s husband, the in-demand guitarist Michael Muchow, plays on the album, and he took on co-production duties with Neilson Hubbard when the album was made in Nashville.
During her recent Isol-aid appearance Moko played the first four songs on the new album, and all four were outstanding. Given Moko’s previous form, this isn’t a surprise – but it does provide something to look forward to, at a time when that is very much needed.
When it’s announced that Amber Lawrence, Aleyce Simmonds, Kirsty Lee Akers and Dianna Corcoran are releasing a single together, that’s something that goes immediately to the ‘must-listen’ list. Each of these singer-songwriters has an established musical identity, none of them like each other, so they all bring something unique to a collaboration. And in this case they have collaborated on the beloved John Williamson song ‘True Blue’.
The four originally performed this as a ‘cover song challenge’ online during lockdown, 12 years since they toured together as Chic Frontier and 38 years after the song was originally released by Williamson. There were so many requests for them to record a studio version that they’ve now done just that, and the result is as wonderful as you’d expect. Each singer recorded her part separately and Corcoran mixed the track; the four also filmed their parts of the video separately.
But while they were isolated during the creation, they’re united in their message that the song points to something in the Australian spirit that has helped us press on since the awful start to the year and through the past few months. As Lawrence says, the song ‘really summed up the response from all Australians in these terribly dark times.’
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Corn Nut Creek is a duo made up of very fine musicians and singers Tanya Bradley and Danielle Vita. Melbourne-based Bradley met Sydney-based, New York native Danielle Vita nine years ago in Hong Kong, where they played together as part of folk orchestra the Dulcet Tone Collective. They discovered a mutual love of bluegrass music and since then have been writing and performing together.
Feels Like Travelling Home is their first EP and features the duo’s key instruments of fiddle (Vita) and banjo (Bradley), and their complementary and contrasting vocals. The five tracks draw on traditions of bluegrass, Americana and folk, and form an often lively collection of tunes that will greatly please aficionados of those traditions as well as appealing to newcomers.
Instrumental track ‘Chicken in the Kitchen/Harper & Louis’ is as much fun as the title suggests. Some of the songs, such as the sublime ‘Baby Blue’, recount experiences of new motherhood. All five tracks are infused with the duo’s expertise, and with love – it is clear that they love what they are doing because there is a lightness to the vocals that doesn’t suggest the lyrics aren’t serious (because they can be) so much as indicating that Bradley and Vita are in the right place at the right time, doing what brings them joy.
Roz Pappalardo has appeared on this site before under her own name and as part of Women in Docs, who have appeared at the Tamworth Country Music Festival – and just about every other festival over the course of their popular career.
Pappalardo will release a solo album, Sound the Alarm, later this year and the second single is ‘Immune’. It’s a driving rock anthem about having the power to stand on your own.
Says Pappalardo, ‘I wrote this song then. 2 years ago BC (Before Covid) … when my world seemed like it was in apocalypse … but now it is. I’ve realised I am a mass gathering specialist – the more people the better – in my professional and personal life, so learning to live with myself as a result of that realisation has been quite the journey. It’s been a short journey, but a steep, steep learning curve. What I’ve understood is that I’m a fighter, a warrior and pretty much OK on my own. I’m strong. Immune.’
The track may have been written BC but we’re now in-the-midst-of-C and it is the right song at the right time for anyone who needs some motivation and encouragement – and for those who just like to turn the music up loud and sing at the top of their lungs.
Scarlet’s Way is a duo from Perth, WA, with members Katey Gabel on vocals and Shayne Savic on guitar. Their first single, ‘No Fire, No Flames’, was released in 2017 and reached #7 on the iTunes Country Charts. The two singles since, ‘Simple Life’ and ‘Let the Devil In’, were CMC and radio favourites.
Their new single is ‘Tell Me It’s Over, a rock-infused country track that makes the most of Gabel’s gutsy, passionate vocals and Savic’s virtuoso guitar playing. The band’s sound is arena sized – which makes sense considering they have played at a variety of festivals, including Tamworth, Nashville’s Americana Fest, and Gympie Music Muster, where they took out the Emerging Artist Showcase and performed on Main Stage in their first year in 2018. Recently the band was awarded Independent Group of the Year at the 2020 WA Country Music Awards’.
Once gigs are back in full swing, Perth punters should put them on the top of their list – and, hopefully, the rest of the country will be able to experience their sound live in due course.
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These are Australian country music single releases from the past month, collected in a Spotify playlist. Track listing below.
Andrew Swift – ‘Never Meant to Break Your Heart’
Bec Willis – ‘Drive’
Ben Mastwyk – ‘Devil So Close’
Ben Ransom – ‘Coming Down in Spades’
Brad Cox – ‘Drinking Season’
Caitlyn Shadbolt – ‘Porcelain’
Carter & Carter – ‘We Are Family’
Casey Barnes – ‘We’re Good Together’
Cassidy-Rae – ‘I’m on Vacation’
Craig Lloyd – ‘One Last Time’
Dan Higgins – ‘Isn’t it a Shame’
Dani Young – ‘Outback Lullaby’
David Schaak – ‘Lost, Alone and Lonesome’
Davisson Brothers – ‘Dark as a Dungeon’
Della Harris – ‘Raining on My Wedding Day’
Denvah – ‘Do It Again’
Emma Dykes – ‘This Nurse’
Fanny Lumsden – ‘Fierce’
Jasmine Rae – ‘Don’t Do it for the Haters’
Josh Arnold feat. Lee Kernaghan – ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy’
Juliet Oliver – ‘Strangers’
Katie Brooke – ‘Dreamer’s Tired Mind’
Kora Naughton – ‘My Heart to Break’
Kristy Cox – ‘Finger Picking Good’
Liam Brew – ‘Kick it Tomorrow’
Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers – ‘Honky Tonker’
Michelle Gardiner – ‘Show Me’
Paul Roth – ‘L.A.’
Rory Phillips – ‘The Truth’
Scarlet’s Way – ‘Tell Me It’s Over’
Taylor Moss – ‘Don’t Let Me Let Go’
Team Love – ‘Wasted Time’
The Buckleys – ‘Breathe’
Van Walker – ‘Long Night’s Journey to Day’
‘Honky Tonker’ might be the first release from Michael Carpenter and The Banks Brothers (although very much not the first release from those artists on their own) but it sounds like the work of old friends who know exactly how to play and sing together to bring out the best in the song. Given the pedigrees of everyone involved – Carpenter is a singer-songwriter and multi-intrumentalist who also produces music for a variety of Australian acts, and it seems that there’s nothing with a steel string that The Banks Brothers, Jy-Perry and Zane, can’t master.
‘Honky Tonker’ is the first song of an album’s worth of material that the new band intends to release – and the video is having its premiere here today.
Says Carpenter, ‘The video was filmed at the tail of the COVID isolation period in Sydney and was the first time we’d gotten together in months. We were all clearly happy to see each other, and, as it was our debut video together, we kept the video simple and focused on the band members and our sartorial splendour!’
You don’t need to be a fan of traditional country music to appreciate the song – this is great music, and that always translates regardless of which genres an audience knows. Best of all, Carpenter and the Banks sound like they’re having a lot of fun together, and that is certainly evident in the video. So whether you’re after a high-quality musical experience or a pick-me-up, this song delivers all that and more.
The first thing to notice about Canadian singer-songwriter Julian Taylor’s new album, The Ridge, is his voice. It is crisp and clear while also being warm and inviting. The artist who immediately springs to mind as a comparison is the legendary Ella Fitzgerald – whom Taylor says is one of his favourite artists, so much so that his daughter is named Ella. Frank Sinatra is another possible comparison, although, as Taylor will explain, Sinatra is not an influence.
It’s not the voice Taylor has always had, he says: ‘When I was a teenager and I put out my first record, I was listening to a Pearl jam and I was listening to the things like that. And basically it was 90s hip hop and 90s grunge, that was my thing. And so I didn’t enunciate at all. When I was growing up, music that I did listen to was the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Not Frank Sinatra, because my family is black and indigenous and it’s not a slight against Frank, but nobody in my family from my grandparents’ era was really into that.
‘My grandfather had huge issues with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It was not cool. He thought they were stealing people’s music and he was not impressed. So we never listened to that until I got out of the family dynamic and was old enough to go out on my own and listen to things. You’d hear Marvin Gaye. You’d hear Motown because of my mum and her sisters. You’d hear gospel-ly music because of my dad. He loved Andraé Crouch and Stevie Wonder specifically, but also played classical piano. So a lot of classical music was in my house.
‘And then on my indigenous side it was a lot of country music and rhythm and blues, because of that upbringing. You had Willie Dunn. Gram Parsons was pretty prevalent on people’s stereos at that time. Kris Kristofferson was there. And then on the rhythm and blues side, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Sonny, Terry, Brownie McGee. So American music, really.’
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