Totally Biased Fan Review: The A-Z of Rex Dallas Vol. 1

 

The words “great” and “legendary” are bandied about with overkill. When used genuinely, one Aussie country music artist must fit into that rare category  of great and legendary and that is the guy whose name means King…..Rex Dallas. Very generously, Rex has also gifted us with further generations of Dallases, including son Brett and grand daughter, Ashleigh.

This album is the first of a series, rumoured to be just two, but I am pretty sure that a third could be conjured up with a little coaxing. I saw Rex first when I was just knee high to a grasshopper ( I know, I am not much taller than that now!).

Though we have Tamworth in common, we also have Wallerawang in common and it is my favourite Rex song, thus my favourite on this album. Workin’ Man, a much loved and much sung song (generally sung my women and written by one) is another.

This album is full with great memories. I am sure that all of us above 50 who have loved country music for all of our lives will be able to find at least a handful of tracks on this album that will bring back a memory or two.

There’s a bit of everything on here, from yodelling to bush ballads, to songs that are as Aussie as Meat pies….funny that I should mention that!  Aussies will recognize place names and characters in the songs and Rex’s gentle vocals will guide you through some grand musical adventures.

One of my favourite songs this year has been the duet that Rex wrote and sang with young Ashleigh. I think that when people of a different generation have heard that song, (Wide Brimmed Hat) a new audience opened up for Rex. I am sure that there will be others lining up to hear Rex who hadn’t known of his music before.

There are 20 tracks on here and something for everybody, especially if you appreciate traditional country music.  Every song tells a story and Rex tells them well.

I especially love A Stranger in my place and Miner’s Son too.

This album is well produced and polished. This album is very Australian. (with a few international flavours). The images of our country and its characters are vivid and true in these songs. Who better to deliver them but a true Aussie Legend?

Tracks

My Swiss Miss Yodel

Ellensborough Falls

Old Wallerawang

Working Man

Yodelling Around Australia

His Spurs are Rusty Now

Easy Lovin’

Yodel and Smile

Born to the Saddle

Song of the Country

A Stranger in My Place

Miner’s Son

Bicycle Wreck

Rusted Love

The Old Briar Pipe

Love song of the Waterfall

Cuckoo yodel

Gumtrees are falling

Australian Hot Meat Pie

White Crosses in the Jungle

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Amber Joy Poulton – How it Used To Be

 

 

Country Music in its most natural form will never die in Australia as long as the likes of Amber Joy Poulton and that Sandra Humphries chick are around. Ironically, they are from the same neighbourhood and they have done many gigs together, honouring some of the legendary ladies of country music.

Together with one of Australia’s finest songwriters (now based in USA), Sam Hawksley, who also produced this album, AJ has written some very cool country tracks and she has delivered them in style…..country style, that is.

The influences are clear, then you look at the credits and see who AJ has dedicated the album too (apart from her family) and there they are: Loretta, Patsy and Dolly.

While the songs are mainly originals, the feel of this album is like stepping back in time – probably about 40 years. When I reviewed Foolish Things (Amber’s previous release), I said much the same. The two albums are very different, but they have that wonderful element of nostalgia transferred to freshly minted songs in common.

One of my Country Music heroes is Tanya Tucker, as much for her persona as for her singing. Musically, this time around, AJ reminds me of Tanya as much as she does equate with Loretta, Patsy, Dolly, Tammy and the like, especially on the I Tell it Like it used to be track.

A.J. probably mixes it up more on this album than she did on Foolish Things, though I did love that album for other reasons. There are some very cool guitar solos on this album, and there are some country rock numbers mixed with the incredible torch and twang tunes.

I get excited whenever an original AJ album is released. As much as I love the tribute shows and albums that Amber Joy does, I love the trip that she takes me on with her new spin on an old style, a style that takes me back to days that were much more simple and earthy.

For an extra special treat on this album, one of our national treasures, Troy Cassar-Daley, is featured on the song that he wrote, In Case You Ever Think Of Me.

Well done, A.J. and Sam.

Tracks:

Trouble looks good on you: Amy Speace and Doug and Telisha Williams – a good way to start the album.

Hazel Eyes – Amber Joy Poulton and Sam Hawksley – I love this. Reminds me of Loretta’s sister’s classic, Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.

Best Liar in Town – Amber Joy Poulton and Sam Hawksley – the single and a good choice for radio.

I tell it like it used to be – Ron Hellard, Michael Garvin and Bucky Jones – one of my favourite songs on the album. So fits A.J, strangely, because it is one of the few that she didn’t have a hand in!

Not Foolin’ Around – Sam Hawksley – A bit more uptempo but always good to add a bit of spice to the mix.

Go get your guns – Amber Joy Poulton and Sam Hawksley – reminds me of a Paul Kelly song or a walk into one of those old Western movies. Go get your air guitars, I reckon.

In case you ever think of me – Troy Cassar-Daley (with Troy Cassar-Daley) – an absolute treat. Such a great true country song, I will be playing this one a lot.

You’re already gone – Amber Joy Poulton and Sam Hawksley – very Loretta….I can hear Sandra singing this with AJ too sometime, it would suit both of them…..look forward to that at a gig one day! A touch of Allison Moorer too.

It wasn’t you – Amber Joy Poulton and Sam Hawksley – This is a little bit different for AJ, content wise. More Tammy than Loretta on this one. Love the Mando.

In your wildest dreams – Amber Joy Poulton – a good track to finish on. A catchy tune and rhythm and the toes will tap. With two sons, I can pretty much guess who this is about.

Musos:

Acoustic, electric guitars and harmonies – Sam Hawksley

Electric Guitar and Mando – Johnny Duke

Bass – Lex Price

Pedal Steel – Dan Dugmore

Drums – Nick Buda

Piano – Kevin McKedree and James Farrell

Backing Vocals – Sam, AJ, Danielle Deandrea

Producer – Sam Hawksley

Engineer and Mixer – Matt Legge

Mastered by Jeff McCormack

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Paddy McHugh – City Bound Trains

 

 

Any album or song title that has the word trains in the title is going to win me over on first glance! But one should not judge an album by a title, so one has to delve further!  Paddy co-hosts one of my favourite radio shows with one of my favourite artists, Jen Mize, so he is already a winner!

This album is a must for all of those who like the sounds of folks like Paul Kelly, Michael Carpenter, Shane Nicholson, Ed Kuepper and the like. Paddy’s music is thoughtful, present and extremely listenable. It is Aussie through and through, with references to Australian entities and double meanings.

The songs are catchy as well as thought provoking. There are a few tracks with the E next to them but truly, they are just an obligatory warning, there isn’t really anything more insulting about them except for the truth.

There are some great guitar licks and lots of awesome lyrics. It is a very enjoyable album with room for thought and re-thinking. Gentle melodies and some sweet rhythms.

I have really been looking forward to this album and I wasn’t disappointed. Lots of wonderful songs, but my absolute favourite is Held Back Your Hair. What a great song…such amazing imagery and emotion.

This album is hard to put into one type. I would say that it is a mix of Alt. Country (Americana), Folk, soft rock and Celtic musings. Whatever you want to call it, in the end it is just bloody good music.

More please.

Tracks:

City Bound Trains

Meanwhile in Wilcannia

Great Dividing Range

Down to Sydney

Held Back Your Hair

Rita

Sean McDonough

Happy Man

Loneliness

Old Men of the Railway Hotel

 

Totally Biased Fan Review – Davidson Brothers – All You Need Is Music

Sorry fellas for the delay in the review of this album that was released earlier this year. I have always enjoyed going to gigs of these two talented brothers at Tamworth and now that I live in the same state as them, I hope to see them more often. Lachlan and Hamish have been on my go to list in my hometown many times. They have a fusion style of country music and bluegrass and a good sense of humour and the ability of telling a great story through song. I have followed these guys since they were knee high to a grasshopper and the years only make them better.

This album is full of lively picking and sweet melodies. I think that it is their best album yet and that is a big call, considering that they have recorded quite a few albums and they have won and/or been nominated for many Golden Guitar awards.

With a baker’s dozen of songs on this album, you will be air banjoing and foot stomping and humming along to various tracks. 13 is lucky on this album, as you listen to each and everyone of the fine tunes that it gifts you. Lachlan and Hamish have a style in Australian Country Music which is a unique fusion between traditional and modern bluegrass and country.

These lively and very talented brothers are a blessing in Australian Country Music. They are magnificent live and they are fine examples of being able to bring traditional country into a modern world.

I hope that I am still around in 10 or 20 years time to hear what these brothers develop into.

I can’t fault this album and I don’t want to. Just a joy, pure joy.

Tracks:

Back Where I Started

What You mean to Me

Evelyn’s Kitchen

Can’t Change the Weather

All You Need Is Music

These Old Blues

Brown Snake

See My Girl

Lock Horns

I Won’t Give Up

Take  a Little Drive

Pending Arrival

Scrambled Eggs

 

Totally Biased Fan Review – Rick Hart: Let Me In

2017 has been a boom year for Australian Indie Country Music Artists. Every release has been long awaited and much anticipated and we have been teased by singles and promises of the gifts that music brings our hearts, souls and ears. This was one such promise, and not one of the releases has let me down yet, on the contrary, they have been all beyond my wildest expectations.

This is no exception. Rick has teased us with singles and E.Ps. This is a definite album, with all of those little hint singles and a whole lot more. I know that Rick has worked hard on this album. He has poured a lot of love and time into it and the finished product shows just how much.

Rick has a unique gift in the way that he can alternate his voice and his sound for each song. No two songs are alike, apart from the fact that they are all special.

Let him in, and bolt the door behind him.

Tracks:

 

Sweet Emmylou: Beautiful harmonies and a sweet sounding country song to open up proceedings. Full of imagery and melancholy.

Shooting Star: Catchy opening riff and some clever lyrics. Almost sounding like Harry Chapin here. Could be a shower song contender come Kazzie Awards time.

Cyclone Nancy: I think that we have had someone like Cyclone Nancy in our lives. This is almost a bit John Lennon like….it is pretty hard to get a higher honour than that. Well thought out lyrics.

To the Grave: This song is one of my favourites of the year, and I am not alone in that one. The video is terrific too. Rick at his best.

Levon Helm: I remember the first time that I heard this song. I just actually heard the title and I smiled. Considering that The Band is one of my favourite bands of all time – who doesn’t love the dvd “The Last Waltz” and the wonderful acting performance by Levon in The Coalminer’s Daughter? – I had to love this song.  I even won a few dollars on a pacer at Harold Park called Levon Helm. The image of Levon’s face was with me when I heard it first and it is still with me when I hear it. A sad song that sticks in the memory.

Let Me In – He’s the real thing, for sure. Beautiful song and an appropriate one for the title track.

Driver Alone:  A multi-layered song with a good backbeat.  A little more uptempo than some of the other songs.

Little Pieces with Vanessa Hart: Lovely duet with the Mrs. It doesn’t get much more country than this. Eat your heart out George and Tammy.

Close the Door: A little country rocking number without going O.T.T.  A nice rollicking groove. A little Travelling Wilburyish. It might be one for the air guitar or the dance floor.

Weighing on My Mind: A little bluesy number. It is one of those songs that you will hum long after the music finishes.

Love Gets The Better Of Me With Elysia Gomez: A lovely way to end a beaut album. Sounding like a cross between Bob Dylan and Tom Petty with the sweet sounds of Elysia, this is a gem.

All songs written by Rick Hart, except for Shooting Star, written by Rick Hart and Evan Hart

Produced by Michael Zammit and Rick Hart

Recorded and Mixed by Michael Zammit

Mastered by David Briggs

Rick Hart: Vocals and Acoustic Guitar

Michael Zammit: Guitars, Bass, Drums, Keyboards, Violin

Althea Del Veccio, Vanessa Hart: Vocals

Brendan Mitchell: pedal steel

 

That old chestnut raises its head again….

Two of my most popular posts ever were sadly, two posts that brought up the attitude towards country music women in Australia. One was about a certain judge on a talent show saying that there wasn’t any women in Australian Country Music and the other one about a woman not being allowed to perform at a venue because she was a woman and ‘too old’. Two totally crazy situations.

Golden Guitar winner for best new talent this year, Fanny Lumsden, pointed out on Facebook this week that most line-ups for upcoming festivals (save a few like Tamworth and some smaller Indie ones) featured only a few token females.

I am of the opinion that Australian Country Music is at its strongest at the moment, and women are leading the way. I have been following country music for nearly 55 years and I truly believe that the last couple of years have been the strongest in talent and songwriting in our history. There are some wonderful women artists and they need to be recognised and appreciated as much as the men.

I shouldn’t have to write articles like this in 2017. Fanny shouldn’t have to post this grievance on Facebook either. It should be a given that women be awarded equal consideration in selection of line-ups for gigs and festivals. I know that a lot of Australian Male Country Music Artists would agree too.

If you look at the charts and releases in the last few years, they are dominated by women, or women who lead bands. A lot of our women have gone off to be trailblazers overseas as well.

My collection and my taste is well balanced, not dominated by one gender or the other, it is all just great music. When I was selecting for Bob’s radio programme, I tried to play equal share. Sometimes it had more women or more men depending on current releases, so I balanced it out by playing some classics by either gender to make it fair.

I welcome the day when it is not necessary to bring up these issues. It shouldn’t be an issue. If it is great music, whether it is a male artist or a female artist, it should be played and both genders should be represented equally. No tokens, please, that it is just as insulting.

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Michelle Plozza – Stones

Three years ago, Michelle Plozza released an EP called Colour Me Happy. I bought that EP after hearing her at the ICMA awards at Tamworth. I had not heard much about her, save for a few rumours going around that she was one to watch and I’d better get my hands on some of her music.

The long awaited follow up is finally here and this EEP (extended, extended play) is well worth the wait. While the EP was great, this is such a big step up in range, quality and an answer to the promise that the first EP delivered.

Her vocal ability was never in doubt. From the first moment that I heard Michelle at Tamworth, I knew that she would be gold. Her songwriting has just stepped up several notches and her flexibility is amazing.

I love every track. She is joined by Australian Country Music Legend, Allan Caswell on the second track, Today, Tomorrow and Always, which an absolute gem. Every Yesterday is probably my favourite track, but there is not a bad one on the EEP.

Michelle crosses borders and boundaries with her songs, though the songs have elements of all kinds of country, blues and a huge crossover sound.

The song that was lifted as the first single off the EEP, Works Better in the Movies, has a similar feel to Gretta Ziller’s Slaughterhouse Blues. Kevin Bennett also features on the EEP.

The only gripe is that it would be nice to hear a full album from Michelle. I know that they are expensive to make for our Indies, but with the quality that she presents and shares with us, 5-7 tracks is never enough.

Michelle has one of the best voices in the country and her sound is very easy on the ear and as variable as sunrise and sunset.

Grab a copy and indulge yourself in some beautiful music.

N.B. Itunes mentions that the title track was written by Neil Diamond. I was fooled by this. Just double check the writers….this happened the other day too on another album that I reviewed.

Tracks:

Stones

Today, Tomorrow and Always (with Allan Caswell)

Strongest Man

Pictures on the Wall

Get Outta Town

Every Yesterday

Works Better in the Movies

Totally Biased Fan Review: All The Rivers In Between – Peter Dawson

 

About 3 or 4 Hats Off To Tamworths ago, I arrived from Sydney about half an hour before a gig was to start at The Oasis Hotel. My dear Tamworth Sisters, The Crosby Sisters and Sally-Anne Whitten were going to perform there and a series of walk up artists. As it turned out, Kelly Crosby could only be there for a little while because she was sick with the flu. However, the walk ups, included a young fella by the name of Chandler and a guy closer to my age who called from the back, wondering if he could play a couple of tunes.

This fella had a couple of famous names. He went by the name of Peter Smokie Dawson. Peter Dawson was quite a famous opera singer many years ago, or at least, he sang some pretty upper class songs and Smokey Dawson was a famous country music singer and radio personality. Peter had a story of his own…..several stories, actually.  He had been a Tamworthian too, but had since moved to the South Coast of NSW. He had his share of troubles and injuries and hard times. He was always passionate about music and he was an obvious story teller before he even started to sing or strum his guitar.

A couple of days later, I saw Peter out at The Dag, with a heap of other up and comers, including Kallesti Butler and Cathy Dobson and a local called Allison Forbes. They were mixing it with some fairly promising songwriters: Luke O’Shea, Allan Caswell, Tamara Stewart and Karl Broadie.  That was probably one of the best country music days that I have ever spent with some good friends and great music.

I digress. The point is, that Peter has come a long way since then, with his batch of cds with his name handwritten on them with black texta.

Peter has now produced a fine album, All the Rivers In Between, where he has written all of the songs, bar one which he has co-written with one of those promising songwriters that I mentioned before, Allan Caswell.

He has appeared at several festivals and has been involved in the Slim Dusty weekends at Kempsey.

Pete’s style is what I like to call a new twist on bush ballads. His voice is easy on the ear, the music is laid back and the stories are truly Australian. He is one of the most natural, down to earth guys that you could meet. That reflects in his songs.

He has some of the best in the business backing him up here, Parris Macleod, Mitch Farmer, Michel Rose, Phil Emmanuel to name a few.  It is not an over produced album, Parris has been very careful to allow Peter’s true character shine through without over complicating the production.

I love all of the songs. I found this a very relaxing album when I listened to it the first time. The second time, I listened more closely to the lyrics and reflected on the ones which I have heard Peter sing before, LIVE.  I was very glad to see Fisherman’s Daughter on here and the Tamworth connected Moonbi No. 1, which reminds me of home. The words to All the rivers in between and the simplicity and sweetness of the songs on this album make it a perfect album for a lazy day.

Long awaited and well received.

Tracks:

Fisherman’s Daughter

Johnny was a boy

Breaking in Brumbies

Moonbi No. 1

Satelites and planes

Lazy Moon

Morning Ride

All the Rivers in between

Moving on

All songs written by Peter Dawson, bar Moving On – Peter Dawson and Allan Caswell