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Totally Biased Fan Review – Underdog – Gary Hammond

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One day, I will get to see Gary LIVE. I have come close a few times….extremely close, like a couple of kms’ away. I have reviewed Gary’s music before, another Victorian who is in that big old pot of unbelievable talent down there.

Gary’s music has the element that I love most about country music, it has heart. His music borders on country/folk and just pure folk and country/Celtic, which in the end, are all relatives. All of Gary’s songs have a story to them. He has a distinctive voice, a distinctive style and he always has something to say and he says it well.

“This album is dedicated to those who live on the fringes of society. From the homeless to low paid workers and from domestic abuse victims to refugees and more.” Gary states. “The definition of underdog is a victim of injustice or persecution. A person who has little status in society. One that is expected to lose a contest or a struggle. These are their stories.”

I have always been a champion for the underdog . I think, generally, it is the Australian way to cheer for the underdog. There are underdogs on this album who are very much victims of changing times, Government regulations and in short, the way it is. That doesn’t make it right, make it acceptable or make it the way it should be.

This album is very timely. Elections are coming and issues are about to be driven home. The people who serve as subjects in these songs need people to help them help themselves. They need a fair go.

The Songs:

Howling at the moon (The best laid plans….)- from the first howl, the scene is set.

Out of money (The working poor…) – About those who work menial jobs, work hard, long hours for very little and never seem to make ends meet.

If you love me (it shouldn’t matter)- I think the title says it all. Some songs are like that.

A Single Man: All the lonely people…..

More Trouble (They’re locking me away….) – Wrong time, wrong place, not given a chance to start again. Once in trouble, always in trouble.

A Homeless Man – the diversity of homeless people and sadly, the large amount of them.

All you want is freedom (The refugee song) – Very topical at the moment.

The greatest show you’ll ever see: This song has many meanings. I found about 4, I may be wrong about all of them. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Redundant (Thrown on the scrap heap..) – The word makes you feel enough. The workforce is getting tougher, this is happening more often.

The Black Dog: Another very topical subject, an all too common problem these days. Depression and all that comes with it.

The Black Sheep of the family: The ultimate underdog, the black sheep. Every family has one.

A Perfect day (with a pent up violent streak): Domestic violence, alcoholism, denial.

This album is a departure in many ways from Gary’s other albums, but it has the same heart and conviction of the other albums. This album is very timely, with the songs – some subtly, some not so subtly, delivering a message. The thing with underdogs is that with the right guidance, help and confidence, they don’t have to be underdogs anymore. They can rise above it. As Mr Campbell once sang, Try a little kindness.

I took a while to review this album. I have played it many times and I admit to not saying as much about each song as I normally do. This is because, each one has to be listened to very carefully. I think even after a hundred times, I will still be discovering things in these songs that I didn’t hear the first time.

Some of these songs may be confronting to some listeners. When we are going on with our lives, which are usually more positive, we sometimes put our blinkers on and try not to see these not so pretty parts of Australia and Australians. They are there, though, and we can’t go on avoiding them.

Musically, apart from guitar on one of the tracks, all of the instruments are played by Gary. All of the songs were written by Gary. As a former footballer, I am sure that Gary knows what it is like to be an underdog, though in a different sense. If just one of these songs makes you look at the underdogs twice and think about ways of helping them, then they are more than songs, they are more than messages. The blinkers will come off and your heart will find a way.

Totally Biased Fan Review: Happy Days – John O’Dea

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I had heard John’s name bandied about before, but I did not actually catch him LIVE until a few Tamworths ago. He seemed to turn up at a few gigs, most predominately at one with Camille and Stuie. John has a nice and easy style to him. He is a no bulldust, what you see is what you get, very Australian artist. I can imagine him propped up on a tree stump with a guitar, checked shirt and a guitar singing a few country ballads or around a campfire. His delivery is as natural and as honest as the land and the people that he writes about.

It is difficult getting a hard copy of this album, but you can off his website or even better at one of his gigs. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I downloaded it, but will get a copy next time that I catch a gig. Put your feet up and chill out to this fair dinkum offering; a step back in time; a sample of what still exists; a slice of Australia.

Songs:

Fishing:  A bit of the old calypso sound, channelling Jimmy Buffett. ‘a bad day’s fishing beats work anytime’.

Son of a farmer: I would guess that this is autobiographical. Shades of Ancestory.com. Songs don’t get much more Australian than this. A history lesson.

Everything: A beautiful little love song. Simple and sweet.

Shaney Boy: Interesting choice. This song was written by one of my favourite Australian songwriters, Kevin Johnson. I was lucky enough to see him again recently. He wrote this song for his son, Shane and another for his son, Scott. Kevin has since written a song for his grandchild. It is unusual that someone else would sing a song that is so personal, like someone singing John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy, or Melinda Schneider’s The Story of My Life. Somehow, it works this time.

It’s All I know: A song that many farmers would relate to and daughters of farmers, like me. Enhancing this song even more is the beautiful voice of Camille.

Yesterday: We have all been guilty of the things in this song. It is a fun song with a few harsh realities!

The Patchwork Quilt: A Celtic tinged, Aussie heartland song. Full of imagery and beauty, hum along and tap your toes slowly. A story song.

That’s what I’d do: I can hear my Dad in this song, this is just him all over. A time machine song. A song about times long gone, but not forgotten.

Wishing Tomorrow was Today: This is by far the best song on the album, and that is a big call, because they are all good. A song very firmly entrenched in modern times and current situations. Beautiful, heartfelt song.

Lend a hand: What Aussies are best known for. It is also a good sing a long song and a toe tapper. I know that it will probably be on my shower song list. I think that is the wonderful Kevin Bennett singing with John, I might be wrong, but it sounds like him.

A picture of home: From the first few bars of this song, I figured that it was a Slim Dusty song. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of this one before. You just know. Most of Slim’s songs weren’t written by Slim, they were written by Gordon Parsons, Stan Coster, his wife Joy and many others. Still, there was a feel to them all that was undeniably Slim. A nice tribute to that kind of song and that kind of legend.

Pa’s little mates: I think most grandfathers around the country could relate to this song. Some of the lines in this song are just absolute classics.

Lost the oldies: This is one of the funniest songs that I have heard for a long time. The style is like Bushwhackers and Bullamakanka. I laughed more because I have run into these grey nomads at Country Music Festivals and on my travels. Every word is true. A Ripper.

Happy Days: Nothing like a ukulele goodbye song. A good way to end the album or a gig.

This is a beaut little album. Support true blue Aussie music and grab a copy.

Totally Biased Fan Review: Love and Lovely Lies – Imogen Clark

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A couple of years ago, I was in Tamworth and went to an Alt. Country night at my fave hotel, The Tudor. I went to see my friends, The Weeping Willows and Gretta Ziller, (who was called out to attend another more important gig) I stood there with Allison Forbes and we were gobsmacked at this young artist….Imogen Clark. I bought her E.P. but did not review it, as it was of a different time. Now, Love and Lovely Lies has come along. I did order the hard copy with all of the information that I need as a reviewer and music lover, but it has not arrived yet, so the following is based on what I hear from Itunes, as I have grown impatient!

Songs:

Here goes nothing: Appropriate title, nothing like I expected. I was expecting a laid back, easy going ballad. That’s ok. Nice to have a shock tactic.

You’ll only break my heart: More like I expected. A nice, folky, meaningful ballad.

Things you never had: I love raw vocals, strongly strummed guitars and thoughtful lyrics. If the singer has a heartfelt voice, then, hey, you can’t beat it.

Take me for a ride: One of my favourites here. Something here reminded me of Martha Davis from the Motels. Maybe I am wrong, but it hits home.

How you spend it: Imogen has a unique voice. Her voice takes you on a roller coaster ride with a happy landing. Enjoy the ride.

Something out of nothing: Definitely my favourite off the album. Awesome track.

Keep me in the dark: Such a relaxed feel that I fell asleep!  Woke up,  played it again and mellowed out to it. What an extraordinary voice.

Drawing hearts: More upbeat track to round it all up and finish it off. Tap your toes and clap your hands and drive it home.

There was no doubt in my head that this would be a beauty. From the first time that I saw her and heard her, I just thought…Wow! Imogen is a definite talent and someone to watch in the future….call me wrong…I dare you