Country music is, more than most other genres, the music of evocation. Songwriters conjure emotions of relationships and situations, sometimes long past; they describe worlds and places. It’s then up to the singer to call on their own experiences to bring out nuances that even the songwriter may not have been aware of, even if they are that songwriter. Sometimes the singer sounds like they’re calling the faithful to worship, and anyone who has fallen under music’s spell knows that transcendent feeling of listening to a song that feels spiritual in nature because those elements of writing and performance create something that connects so deeply to you.
It is no surprise that Queensland-born singer-songwriter Dan Parsons has created an album’s worth of such songs on his new album, Sunday Morning Cinema: it’s his fourth long player and it sounds like the work of someone who has developed a great interest in connecting with his listeners – and that requires honing your songs so that their meaning is always clear, and performing in a way that brings them fully to life.
Parsons has a great baritone voice that recalls James Taylor at his best, and the style of the songs does suggest that era of American songwriting (no bad thing) as well as some laidback West Coast country rock. The songs are so well written that nothing should get in their way, and accordingly the production on Sunday Morning Cinema is sparse without being spare. Steel guitar is given a prominent role (as it should be) but never competes with Parson’s voice, which brings us the many colours and shades in these songs.
Parsons is clearly a storyteller and he has created an album that delivers nine stories, all with their beginnings, middles and ends. This is an album for those who like their music intelligent and thoughtfully made; you can listen to this album over and over and it will always bring you something new each time. You can also simply close your eyes and let Parsons’s baritone call you closer, getting nearer to the centre of his story with each note.
Sunday Morning Cinema is out now.
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The album launch show will be at Northcote Social Club in Melbourne on 2 September. Tickets here.
Those who have seen South Australian artist Libby O’Donovan perform live know that they’ve been in the presence of something special. O’Donovan has one of the great voices: rich and versatile, springing from a well of willingness to connect with audiences and an obvious and effervescent love of entertaining.
Some of those audiences will have been introduced to O’Donovan – as I was – when she’s performed with her partner, Australian country music star Beccy Cole. Prior to this O’Donovan was not a country music artist, but that has changed with her new album, Back to Broken Hill. Not that this is a country album, but there are certainly country elements on it. That is evident right from the first, and title, track, which is about O’Donovan’s upbringing in Broken Hill and written by Cole. It is an exceptionally good song – Cole’s renowned storytelling ability mixed with O’Donovan’s incredible delivery – and it’s not the only one on the album.
Back to Broken Hill ranges across musical styles that encompass O’Donovan’s lineage, which includes jazz and cabaret; what’s constant is her voice, of course, and her heart. This is a collection of songs for people who want to engage fully in music, who are prepared to pay attention to lyrics, knowing they’ll be rewarded with a great story and songs that will keep them going for a long time to come. It’s for those who are not afraid to shed a tear knowing that they’re in safe hands with an artist who is being honest with them, whether the story is hers (‘From This Mother to My Mother’) or someone else’s (such as in the touching ‘Songs Remember Me’, which O’Donovan has played live for several years). It’s for dreamers of all ages who love to let a song carry them away so much they forget where they are.
On a technical level this is an album that showcases an extraordinary singer and writer. On an emotional level it’s an album that simply makes you want to listen to it over and over. Regardless of what sort of music you love, Libby O’Donovan’s talent, skill and ability demand attention – so give your attention to Back to Broken Hill.
Back to Broken Hill is out now from ABC Music.
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On the ‘about’ page of Andrea Colburn and Mud Moseley’s website there is this: The King and Queen of the Hillbilly Underground from North Georgia – which is a declaration and a story all in itself. In this way the statement is a very suitable introduction to Easy, Sleazy and Greazy, the new album from Colburn and Mud Moseley.
There are stories galore on this album, some of them exploring dark underbellies and darker emotions, some stepping straight into the toe-tapping traditions of country. Colburn doesn’t so much sing as you call you in, to pay attention to her (although she does have a great singing voice). She’s accompanied by guitar parts – presumably played by Moseley – that have their own stories, although at first you’ll want to listen to Colburn’s voice telling you what’s what.
This is not a beginner’s introduction to country music, particularly if you’re used to lyrics that sound like a repeat of so many other love songs. This is country music for those who love the storytelling side of country, and the side where people aren’t afraid to bring their real selves to their work. Colburn and Moseley seem so real that they could set up their gear in the corner of your living room and play just to you, and you’d think they’re singing just to you, but in the way of true artists their work is not only intimate but universal, familiar and strange all at the same time.
Easy, Sleazy and Greazy is out now.
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Brisbane band Good Will Remedy have released a glorious new album, Silver Lined, as the successor to their self-titled debut album. The album was recorded in Brisbane and features some luminaries of the local scene, including Danny Widdicombe. Good Will Remedy cite influences that include Tom Petty, Ryan Adams and the Black Crowes, although there is plenty of energy from illustrious Brisbane bands (such as The Go-Betweens all the way to Regurgitator) to be found in their sound.
To celebrate the album’s release, the track-by-track notes for the album can be read exclusively here – just click on the Soundcloud image to listen while you read …
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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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Australian country music artists often cover American country songs, which is, of course, completely fitting: our country music can trace a certain amount of its lineage from the United States. However, while many of those Australian artists do a wonderful job with those covers, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than American-born now Australian-resident Jen Mize and Brisbane artist Mark Sholtez, who have released the album Twilight on the Trail, a collection of old American cowboy songs such as the traditional ‘Home on the Range’, ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’ (originally sung by Doris Day in Calamity Jane) and ‘Cow Cow Boogie’ (sung by artists including Dorothy Dandridge and Ella Fitzgerald).
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The Wolfe Brothers have a reputation – a good one. It involves them being a country rock band, and always putting on a great show, and being very, very entertaining. They will put the same amount of energy into three songs at the Peel Street Fanzone as a massive festival show. They’ve been Lee Kernaghan’s touring band for years, as well as playing in the support slot at his shows, so they’ve had lots of opportunities to develop their skills and they’ve taken them. Nothing at all is wrong with what they’ve been doing, so it wouldn’t make sense to change it. More than that, they’d have to be brave to change something their fans love. Yet change it they have.
Country Heart is the Tasmanian band’s fourth studio album, and when I last interviewed guitarist Brodie Rainbird he mentioned that it was going to be very different to the first three. For the first time they had asked popular producer Matt Fell to work on an album with them, and Fell’s direction was not just completely different to what they were used to but they loved it. And that enjoyment of the experience is evident all over this record.
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