When Michael Bryers finally released his album last year after the long wait, country music fans all over Australia sighed with relief and kissed the country road that it had travelled along. An artist who is not dissimilar to Michael, Darren Colston, falls into that category this year.
From the slightly changed title of this review, I am not going to lie….Darren is one of my absolute favourites and it is going to fall into a deep bias. However, I only review the best, and as far as I am concerned, Darren is one of our best and like Michael, very underrated.
My favourite country music songs are not in your face songs. Yes, they may have some political content, yes, they do tell a story – generally from history – but they are delivered in such a way that you don’t feel threatened or preached to, and you can quietly respect the intelligence of the message that is being delivered.
I also love artists who have unique voices. I love it when you can hear a song out of the blue (pun intended) and know that it is Anne Kirkpatrick, Michael Bryers, Allan Caswell, Lachlan Bryan, Aleyce Simmonds, Amber Lawrence, Luke O’Shea, Allison Forbes, Mike Carr, Reba, Trisha, George, Randy, Alan, or Darren and a select group of others.
I have been a long time Darren fan. I have heard him compared to John Denver and I understand that. While Darren’s songs are unmistakably Australian, a lot of his writings have the feel of Denver songs. They are about the country that he was born in: the history, the environment, the rivers, land, and its people. There are love songs and gentle messages. Their voices are distinctive, subtle and calming: even when delivering a strong statement. Denver often said that he never considered himself a country music artist. He called himself a Western artist, as he wrote about the West. Folkies claimed him as theirs, Country Music fans claimed him as theirs, Darren follows that tradition. These days it is just classified as good music.
On this offering, we have been given a feast of Darren songs, with only one song, Neil Young’s Comes a Time, not an original Colston song. Part Two is “warts and all” – just Darren and his guitar. The second cd in this collection is virtually a greatest hits of Colston Songs – singles and most requested songs.
The Happiness Tree:
Happiness Tree: Has some similarities in the melody to Mary-Chapin Carpenter, and in many ways, Darren is a male version of Mare. (You can’t really get a bigger compliment from me than that). It is an upbeat, happy song and a good way to start an album.
Drinkin’ through memories of you: An interesting take on lost love. Beautiful song, Darren and a new favourite.
Leave me there: Darren released this at the end of last year, and I was lucky enough to get a preview of it. Reminiscent of the Russell Crowe movie, “The Water Diviner” and apt in a year of commemorative war songs, but a little different. This is one of the more thought provoking songs of the year.
She’s not you: Similar songs have been written, but this has a bit of a twist.
I wish I were him: Lyrically, very different. The base line is familiar but the words are very interesting. You could take this song a couple of ways. The Him in this song could be the bloke upstairs or the guy that got the girl. You can hear it both ways, depending on your mood.
(Darren and his guitar)
Come by Chance: Title track to one of Darren’s previous albums. This is the raw version. With the original version, I dance around the flat and/or doing my cleaning to. It is very catchy. (kudos to Banjo Patterson)
Riverbend Jack: (from the Come by Chance album)- Daz at his John Denver best.
Moving the Mullock: (from the Come by Chance album) – My Dad’s favourite Darren Colston song. I think that he would like this version even better.
On the bend by the Willow: (from the self-titled album) – One of my favourite Darren songs. A river, like a road is often a metaphor for life. This song is about life.
Sweet Sad Annie: This is a new song to me. I can’t find it on any previous albums, or remember Darren singing this LIVE. It is a lovely sad song, what Darren does best.
Comes A Time: The well known Neil Young song and the only unoriginal track on this collection. The song fits Darren’s voice and visa versa.
Bonus Disc: Back Tracks: (singles and most requested songs – sort of a greatest hits collection)
This is good for those of you who are discovering Darren for the first time and good for old fans like me whose old albums are plum worn out.
Fly Away (self titled album): Not the old hymn, but a Darren Colston original and the biggest singalong song at his gigs. Probably one of his most “country” songs and definitely one of my favourites.
The Boundary Rider (Come by Chance): Darren was nominated for a Golden Guitar for this song. One of his “character” songs and probably one of his best known songs. Enjoy the ride.
Come By Chance (Come by Chance): Kaz’s dance version! I challenge you to try and not get up and groove around to this….or at least tap your toes. The lyrics hold a bit of everything. I am often too busy dancing to sit down and listen to the words, but it does have a deeper meaning.
I am the sun (Bare Bones): I often get the feeling that this is one of Darren’s favourites of his songs. As I said earlier, he is like John Denver in the things that he writes about….this is a great example of the similarity in John’s later songs.
Will you stay (with Victoria Baillie) ( Self titled album): I love this song. It is one of the few official video clips available. I have put it on the blog before, but it is worth lots of looks and listens. Darren has sung with both Baillie girls before….they blend well together.
Watch it rise (self titled album): Another catchy tune with lyrics that have a more serious message. Country townsfolk will understand this better than anybody.
On the bend by the Willow (self titled album): Original version of the previously mentioned song. You will have this song on your brain all day. It has that magic.
Good Man (Bare Bones): Darren’s song about his Dad. A heartfelt and honest song.
Riverbend Jack (Come by Chance): See previous review.
Stay a little longer (Bare Bones): I get the feeling that this is one of Darren’s favourite songs of his, too.
Letters from the Frontline (Self Titled Album): Writing songs about soldiers is not a new thing for Darren. It is not a bravado song, it is a very honest look at the other side of a soldier…contains some of my favourite lyrics from any song that I have ever heard. Kris Kristofferson would be very proud.
Darren Colston is one of the most thoughtful songwriters that I know. The man himself is very much like that too. He generally lets his songs do the talking, but he can talk on lots of subjects, from sport to politics to children and he has a dry sense of humour that comes through in lots of songs. He is very much aware of the people and places around him and that comes through too. His unique voice is haunting at times, comforting at others and coupled with his guitar mate, Raphael, he always delivers.
He is joined on this album my some very cool musicians and singers, and Herm Kovac (you can tell that they have worked together before and there is a beautiful connection there with Harmony James as well, amongst others) puts the final polish on this truly enjoyable album. (Albums!)
Darren is a perfectionist when it comes to his music.
This collection is pretty close to perfection.
(check out other reviews on A Country Hattitude)