Tag: Album reviews

EP review: Livin’ the Dream by Kim Wright

Livin The Dream Album 1500.jpgKim Wright is a singer-songwriter from Ipswich in Queensland, and his new EP, Livin’ the Dream, debuted at number 2 on the iTunes Country album chart. Its six songs are in a honky tonk style and three of them were written when Wright was still in his teens, while ‘Man of the House’ was penned more recently with Allan Caswell and ‘This Old Bar’ with Liam Kennedy-Clark. The latter produced the EP, which features musiciansMichel Rose, Glen Hannah, Lawrie Minson, Kurt Baumer, Pete Denahy, Roger Corbett, Angus Woodhead, and Joshua Blaikie, as well as Kennedy-Clark.

The EP’s title comes from Wright’s belief that ‘every day above ground’s a good one and I believe you should live each day to its fullest’, and it’s safe to say that listening to this EP will help the listener do just that. Wright often sounds like he’s having the time of his life on these tracks, and his enjoyment is infectious. The songs are tightly written and some sound like they are made to dance to – which probably makes this EP a party record, of sorts, except the EP is also worth sitting back and listening to, with its mix of seriousness and lightheartedness, and the last track, ‘Home’, providing a sweetly sad finish. Overall this is an upbeat offering that will put a smile on your face, cause your toes to tap and probably have you spontaneously jigging on the spot. And given Wright’s philosophy, that seems wonderfully appropriate.

Listen to Livin’ the Dream on:

Apple Music | Spotify

www.facebook.com/kimwrightmusicpage

Album review: Spectacular Heartbreak by Hayley Marsten

HM_SH_1500px.jpgQueensland singer-songwriter Hayley Marsten has been releasing music since 2015. She started with singles, and with them established her country music lineage as well as her songwriting skills. From the start she’s had a particular way with words – an ability to find a different angle on a story or a turn of phrase that is memorable; she’s also not afraid to be funny. For these reasons she is reminiscent of – but quite different to – Beccy Cole and Fanny Lumsden, two artists who are in themselves not at all similar but who are both steeped in country music and able to find their own ways of expressing that heritage while appealing to contemporary audiences.

In 2017 Marsten released the EP Lonestar, which offered six songs’ worth of proof – if more was needed – that she was creating a distinct identity within country music, building on the pillars of songwriting, singing and performance that were apparent from the start.

It’s taken four years since those first singles for Marsten to release her debut album, Spectacular Heartbreak, and no doubt she’s had to be patient in that time. It must be tempting to release an album as soon as you have the songs – and no doubt she had them. But she waited until she had eleven that were just right. The result is an album that is completely satisfying, engrossing, emotional and balanced. From the opening, title track, Marsten sets the tone: the lyrics may be about a ‘spectacular heartbreak’ but this is not the album of a woman who is wallowing. The wink and nod she’s always had in her lyrics are there, as is the door she opens to show that she’s on our side – she’s singing to us, and she’s letting us in on her stories.

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Album review: Driving Out of Eden by Corey Legge

713+0RpD3ML._SS500_Corey Legge is a singer-songwriter originally from Bega on the south coast of New South Wales, now residing in Wollongong. His debut album, Driving Out of Eden, was actually released in February – but in these days of independent releases and so much good country music to discover, it can sometimes take a while for news to filter out. Still, despite the lateness of this review, this album is worth writing about.

Legge has been performing for several years, supporting Australian acts such as The Angels and Brian Cadd, appearing at the Cobargo Folk Festival in NSW and Nukara Music Festival in WA. He’s also been the recipient of a Young Regional Artist Scholarship from CreateNSW. Intriguingly, he decided to record Driving Out of Eden in New Zealand with producer Ben Edwards, who has worked with Marlon Williams, amongst others.

This kind of background suggests a steady accumulation of skills and knowledge – a patience, perhaps, in the development of the art and craft of songwriting and performance. It’s the sort of information that’s always useful to have about an artist if you’re going to listen closely to the work, because it suggests the lineage of that artist, and it’s always interesting to try to detect that in the work. And it’s there in Legge’s highly accomplished debut release.

There are nine songs on this album and they are all very, very good. Legge’s background is in folk and Americana, and that can be heard in the musical style. But no amount of lineage or influence, really, can determine how an artist is going to connect with their audience and the key to the beauty of this album – for this listener, at least – is in Legge’s voice. There is a lot of nuance and awareness in its ravines, and light and hopefulness in its mountain tops; it brings wistfulness and sometimes an appropriate weariness to the lyrics, which are reflective and regretful in places, and which also grab the listener’s attention from the first song.

Legge has emerged relatively quietly onto the national music scene, although this is not the album of a quiet artist – an unassuming one, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve or demand your attention.

Driving Out of Eden is out now.

Apple Music | Artist’s website | Spotify

www.coreylegge.com

Album review: Fever Dreams by Mark Moldre

Fever Dreams Artwork.jpgIt can take a while to write an album review – not the writing itself, necessarily, but the listening. One listen to the album is not sufficient, ever. Nor is two. It’s also not appropriate to play the album in the background, not when there are lyrics involved. And certainly not when things get interesting almost immediately and there is absolutely no way that you can not stop what you’re doing and listen.

In the case of Fever Dreams, the new album from northern New South Wales singer-songwriter Mark Moldre, I made that attempt to play it in the background. Conscious that the album had been out for a few days, and wanting to write the review amidst ticking off other things on the great to-do list of life, I put it on then started addressing that to-do list. Started being the appropriate verb because the other activities were not finished, and Fever Dreams is the reason why.

This album can’t be described in a straightforward way, even if Apple Music calls it ‘alternative folk’. It’s not folk, really; it’s not country, either, or rock. That is, it’s not exclusively those things. It is all those things, and more, and has been described as ‘genre-hopping sonic bedlam, fractured Americana-hued ballads, jazz-tinged standards, old-school Jungle Book style reggae and ramshackle/rollicking noir blues’. Of course, saying it’s not one thing or another can make it sound like it’s all over the place. But it is not. It is arresting, compelling and brilliant. Lyrically, it is rich and rewarding. Stylistically, musically, it takes the listener on an exhilarating journey that has been ably handled by producer Jamie Hutchings, which will be no surprise to fans of his band Bluebottle Kiss, itself an exercise in compelling music that could not be easily labelled.

So the short message is this: Fever Dreams can’t be easily explained, nor can it be easily ignored. For the country music audience (and this is a country music website, after all), it is rich in storytelling and steeped in authenticity, elements that appear in all great country music. But it’s not country, as previously mentioned. It’s many different wonderful things, all of them worth investigating – just be prepared to devote your time and attention to this singular work, and push all thoughts of doing other things aside. You won’t regret it. Indeed, as a certain Australian music industry personality might say, you’ll be doing yourself a favour.

Fever Dreams is out now on Yellow Moon Records.

Apple Music | Artist’s website | Bandcamp | Spotify

markmoldre.com

Album review: Heartland by Matt Ward

23387f_02be412b84f340ce805fec4a1172c585~mv2_d_3000_3000_s_4_2.jpgMatt Ward – who has previously released an EP as Matt J Ward & the Rising Sons – has lived and worked in outback and regional South Australia, as well as Texas. He has seen and experienced life on the land, and that long perspective informs the structure and substance of his debut album, Heartland. The album opens with an introduction of the last song, ‘Now That You Have My Heart’, but the first full song is ‘Better Man’, which is about life on the land – specifically, the weariness of the protagonist yet also his resilience. It’s an interesting decision to open an album with this track because it might seem to set a tone – yet it also leaves room for hope and happiness to develop across the course of the album, and Ward explores a range of human emotions an experiences over these ten tracks. There’s a clue in the title as well: throughout this album, trying to be a better man is a theme, although not always overtly stated. And it’s this which leads to a realisation of the album’s deeper theme: the everyday courage of trying to do your best, be your best, to others as well as yourself, when circumstances don’t always align in your favour. There is loss and heartbreak – not necessarily of the romantic kind – on this album and at every turn there is also a protagonist trying to be better even if he knows he won’t always succeed.

Ward has a voice that sounds lived in, not because it’s worn out but because he is singing with that ingredient key to Australian country music: authenticity. We believe what he’s singing about because his voice tells us that it’s coming from an authentic place – if not from his own experience, then from things he’s observed and considered. Musically his influences seem to come modern Americana as much as they do from Slim Dusty, and what’s in common there is structure and purpose: tell the story straight and don’t muck the audience around. These are the elements that make it possible to envisage these songs being played to strangers in a dusty outback pub as much as it is to a crowded bar in inner-city Melbourne. When songs are as well constructed as these, they can travel.

Heartland was produced by Matt Fell, who is responsible for many a fine Australia country production – and it features backing vocals from artists such as Katie Brianna and Brielle Davis. ‘Washed Up’ shares lead vocals with American artist Bonnie Montgomery, who is a great match for Ward. The album will certainly please those who love their traditional country music as well as those who may not know their country music history but recognise wonderful songs when they hear them.

Heartland is out now.

Apple Music | Artist’s website | Spotify

www.mattwardmusic.com

Album review: Travelling Salesman by Brad Butcher

Brad-Butcher_Travelling-Salesman_3000px-x-3000px.jpgQueensland singer-songwriter Brad Butcher has, deservedly, been the recipient of a Golden Guitar for New Talent of the Year (even if it was for his third album) and Country Song of the Year at the Queensland Music Awards. He has a growing fan base, within the industry and amongst music lovers. He’s also been regularly reviewed on this website because from his first, self-titled album it was clear that he is an outstanding talent. Since that album he’s released Jamestown and From the Bottom of a Well, both complete works, just as the first one was – that is, they are deeply satisfying on lyrical and musical levels, and they are story collections that leave you feeling as though you’ve been told things, learnt things, experienced emotions and taken paths you didn’t otherwise know were there.

It is no surprise, therefore, that with his fourth album, Travelling Salesman, Butcher has again produced a complete work. But that doesn’t mean that his albums are simply versions of each other. On each Butcher looks out and within to find what is right for that work at that time. On each he is prepared to draw on his personal experiences and be vulnerable; on each he is also able to look at the world around him and tell stories that are of value about it.

Travelling Salesman is the work of an artist who now has perspective on the past and on the path he’s been on; as a working artist he now believes himself akin to a ‘travelling salesman’ but there is only pragmatism in the assessment. This is a travelling salesman who likes the travel, even if he’s had to get used to the selling. He also now has a sense of where he fits into the world, and what he can bring to others. Along the way he has not lost the sense of wonder, or willingness to be honest and emotional, that have been present since his first album. If anything, he’s become tighter as a storyteller – in that he has sharpened his focus – and nowhere is this more evident than on the fourth track, ‘Easy Street’.

This is a multi-generational family story in one song; it acknowledges that struggle can strengthen ties, that love is a virtue and that there is room for resentment and forgiveness within each clan. Even though it’s the fourth track, much radiates from it: the man of ‘I’m All In’ is the product of that family in ‘Easy Street’, as is the one whose beliefs shape ‘Suburban Myth’. Within that family that same man has learned to look beyond himself so he can tell the stories of others, as in ‘Freshwater Lady’. It all suggests that over the past four albums Butcher has developed his understanding of what it means to take on the responsibility of being a storyteller. On earlier albums he might have been telling stories for himself – even though they’ve always resonated with many others – but now he’s firmly looking outwards. Or, rather, radiating outwards. He knows who he is and it is from that place of surety that he steps into the world.

Partly this is, no doubt, because he’s become that travelling salesman. He is going around the country, meeting people, playing to strangers, and all the while using his talent and skills to synthesise what he sees and learns. The result is this wonderful album, the fourth in an outstanding line, but the first, perhaps, of a new direction for Butcher, not only the travelling salesman but the roving storyteller who embraces his role and understands its importance to the people who come to listen to his tales.

Travelling Salesman is out now.

Apple Music | Artist’s website | Spotify

bradbutcher.com

Watch the video for ‘Nature’s Course’, the first track on Travelling Salesman, below:

 

Album premiere: Right Kind of Wrong by Megan Sidwell

Right+Kind+of+Wrong+Album+Cover.jpgEarlier this year Melbourne-based NZ singer-songwriter Megan Sidwell released ‘I Got You’, a single that provided a preview of her upcoming album. That album, Right Kind of Wrong, now makes its premiere here today (with general release tomorrow).

Listen to Right Kind of Wrong on Soundcloud

The seven songs on the album were written after Sidwell moved from New Zealand. Says Sidwell, ‘Over the course of these years I’ve met people who wanted me to change my sound and my look so I was an easier product to sell, and the name “Right Kind of Wrong” is about my own battles and acceptance towards my music. These songs feel right to me because they are my truth.’

Country music audiences expect authenticity from artists and it is immediately clear on this album that Sidwell is giving us her all. The songs are emotional and strong and sometimes defiant. They are more country rock than pop, and Sidwell has the voice to handle rock: it has depth and warmth, and great range, and there’s no danger of her disappearing inside the instruments. And it’s perfectly suited to a ballad like ‘The Chase’, where she is unafraid to show vulnerability inside that strength.

The album was recorded in Nashville and produced by Sam Hawksley, an artist in his own right who has worked with The Sunny Cowgirls and Adam Brand. It’s an album for those who want to be swept away by music – caught up in the sound as well as the lyrics. And it would no doubt be fantastic to hear these songs live – which you can do on the following dates (Victoria only):

Saturday 20th July – Album Launch – Grace Darling Hotel, Melbourne

Sunday 21st July – Little French Deli, Bonbeach

Friday 2nd August – Mitcham Social Club, Mitcham

Saturday 3rd August – Noojee Hotel, Noojee

Sunday 11th August – Inkerman Hotel, St Kilda East

 

Stream Right Kind of Wrong on Soundcloud

Find Megan on:

Apple Music | Spotify

www.megansidwell.com