My dear friend and fellow country music nut, Lynne, has been telling me for ages to listen to Craig. We have similar outstanding taste, so I knew that she wouldn’t lead me astray. I did catch Craig years ago, probably at Tamworth, but I hadn’t heard of him for a while and Craig explains that he has had a break from song writing in the liner notes.
This is a concept album, something that has been very “on point” over the last few years – think Darren Coggan with his War Stories and Billy Bridge with Stories Through Time for examples. You shouldn’t judge a book or an album by its cover, but as soon as I saw the Frederick McCubbin print, I was already there. Having majored in History, I knew where this was going. The Mark Twain quote on the sleeve also sets the scene.
This is a walk through time…. Chris Haigh is his only companion on this trip, on acoustic and electric guitar and base. Craig wrote all of the songs (with a little help from history makers) and he also produced and engineered it as well as acoustic guitar, vocals and drummy stuff. (To quote Craig).
Craig Stewart has a similar voice to the guy from the Walker Brothers (No Regrets) and Kevin Johnson. He probably has a similar philosophy and songwriting edge to the latter.
Australian History is unique. It is a young country as far as white settlement is concerned, one of the oldest, if not the oldest from an indigenous perspective. Our colourful and dramatic history, as a whole, has many stories to it. Some of the stories are painted on rocks, passed down from generation to generation through song or word of mouth in the case of the indigenous peoples, or crudely written down or crafted from free settlers and convicts to their future generations.
Our country holds immense beauty, but also heartbreak. Explorers, pioneers, innovators, incredible geography, colourful characters and hard work on top of bravery, failure, success and blood on the wattle have been elements in creating the country that we call Australia today.
Craig Stewart attempts in 10 songs to tell an Australian Story. As he said in a gig at Mildura today, (26/9/2016), he is not telling his story, he said to the audience “I’m telling your stories”. Australian History is not an easy one to encapsulate, especially in a brief but important rendition. However, even though every episode in history can be told in different ways, the facts remain, and where there is smoke there is fire. We have often been told lies over the years, yarns that could be open to interpretation, moments in time that have been speculated.
It is very much an Australian Story. It has a Celtic feel about it, as our early white settlement days and years demand. There is a nod to the original owners of the land beneath our feet, and the continuing story into the early 20th Century. Perhaps another cd can be released in a few years time called The New Frontier.
It is a very thoughtful and respectful look at our yesteryear with a nod to today and tomorrow.
The Songs: (All written by Craig Stewart)
Flowers of Blood: A nod to the original Australians. The original storytellers of our land.
One Satin Dress: Probably the most beautiful and saddest songs on the album.
Government Man: A song of the convicts. For many years, you never mentioned that your ancestors were convicts. History has revealed that it is now something to be proud of. They were transported here from England and Ireland for piddling reasons and endured incredible hardship. In many ways, they founded the white history of this country.
Frontier: The early days of white settlement and the war dance that went on between the original peoples of the land and the new settlers. The confusion, sadness and degradation of a proud people.
Burke: One of the major explorers in Australian History: Robert O’Hara Burke.
The Murray and Me: The world is full of great rivers. The Murray is ours, and it tells many stories from beginning to end.
Beneath the Southern Cross: Eureka is probably one of our most amazing stories. It was a turning point in our history.
Irish Son: One of our most famous characters. Like many, Irish born. Like many of his time, the English were his opposition, his hurdle to living his life as he wished. An articulate man with a rebellious nature by birth or by necessity, Ned Kelly is an enigma, a larger than life icon.
Keep the flame for me: World War I, a time when Australians came of age. The war where the ANZAC legend was born and honoured and set the stage for our own form of independence from the mother country to a certain extent. The moments where we stood up as our own nation and not just an extension of England.
Christina’s Waltz: An appropriate way to end the album with a song of a song that most of the world think of when they hear of Australia.
Australian History is one big old yarn, spun in many different ways. Craig spins some beautiful yarns here, as all good storytellers and songwriters do. Rich vocals, wonderful concept, brilliant sound. Raw Aussie stories in raw Aussie songs. As a Colonial Girl, I can’t really ask for more.