Totally Biased Fan Review: Campfire – Kasey Chambers and The Fireside Disciples

Kasey Chambers has a unique trick. She has probably one of the most “country” voices in Australia, but she can toss this fairy dust over a song and make it appeal to all kinds of fans of country music and even fans outside the country music genre. It is a clever thing, that.

Kasey grew up in the middle of Australia around a lot of campfires. It is not a strange thing that she recorded this album, at all. I was kind of put in the mood for this album via another release, Jen Mize and Mark Sholtez’s Twilight on the Trail (see review). Though that is an album of classic cowboy songs, and this is an album of original songs, they both have a similar premise. They are songs that can be sung around a campfire. They are sung with a traditional country tone and a touch of Mexico here and there as well.

They could easily be companion pieces, though in many ways, they are different to each other. That is the beauty of country music, these days.

Something that people love most about Kasey is her sense of fun and her sense of family – though her family is perhaps unconventional in many ways. The simplicity in which she puts “featuring my Dad” on Little Chicken instead of putting “with Bill Chambers”, and the casual banter between some of the songs prove that tenfold.

I have always been of the belief that Kasey sounds her best when she is harmonizing or singing with others. That is not taking anything away with the sweetness of her voice in songs like The Fox and The Bird  and previously the cleverness of  Pony and Little Bird and many others. When you think of her work in The Dead Ringer Band , her duets with Beccy Cole, Shane Nicholson and others, including the work that she did on the Karl Broadie tribute, or one of my favourites, the duet that she did with Lucinda Williams – it seems, ironically, to be where her voice shines brightest.

The beautiful harmonizing on Go On Your Way, that makes you feel like that you are in a desert church or rowing a boat to an island in calm waters, or the warmth of The Campfire Song, or the absolute joy of Happy (one of my favourites) and the fun that she has with Bill on Little Chicken, she seems very much at home.

Orphan Heart is a little reminiscent of her work with Shane, I feel like that I am wading through a swamp with Daniel Boone or trudging across the desert with a Nomad, but in a good way.

The most amazing moment of this album, is the meeting of two Queens of Country. Emmylou Harris, for God’s sake! How cool, how fabulous. And the song, The Harvest and The Seed, is just awesome. It is the kind of song that you expect that Emmylou to sing.

Early Grave is one of those songs which has a tough storyline but it comes across as a sweet refrain.

There are a few E’s on this album, but they are a little subtle. One is said in the casual banter and on the incredible Abraham song, the f word is almost whispered in prayer.

Now that you’ve gone is probably the most up tempo song on the album.

You can hear all of these songs around the campfire, you can almost smell the smoke. They all have a traditional country sound though some have a modern twist.

This is an astonishing album. All of Kasey’s albums have a unique and special quality to them, but this is really up with her very best. The imagery is strong and sticks with you…Big Fish will definitely be a shower song.

Another hit for Kasey Chambers. Now where are those marshmallows?

 

 

Tracks:

The Campfire Song – featuring Alan Pigrim

Go On Your Way

Orphan Heart

Abraham (E)

Early Grave

The Harvest and The Seed (featuring Emmylou Harris)

Big Fish

Junkyard Man (E)

Now That You’ve Gone

This Little Chicken (Featuring my Dad)

Fox and the Bird

Happy (Feat. The Little Pilgrims)

 

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Collide – Imogen Clark

I often tell this story, because it is a rare thing, and it is a true story. In country music in Australia, there have probably been five people who have had this effect on me…..that is, within one line, an original one by the artist concerned, I was absolutely gobsmacked. Imogen is one of the five. I was standing next to one of those other rare individuals who had that same effect on me a couple of years before. We were at a late night alt. session at The Tudor Hotel in Tamworth. We had come to see Gretta Ziller, but she had to pull out as she had some Toyota Starmaker commitments. The Weeping Willows filled in for Gretta  – not a bad substitute! There were some fine acts on and this young one, barely out of her teens, if that, got up and shot bullets straight through our hearts. Imogen Clark….destined for greatness within a short breath.

I have since seen and heard Imogen at lots of gigs and I got my hands on anything that she recorded. Needless to say, I am always excited when I hear new songs from her. I saw her a few weeks ago in Melbourne and I was more than ready to hear the new album.

She is under a different mentor these days, the one and only Aussie legend, Diesel, or Johnny Diesel or Mark Lizotte. Hence, some of these songs have more of an edge to them and some are rockier. They still have the essence of Imogen in them, haunting, melodic vocals and vocal gymnastics that take us high, low and everywhere in between.  She has been touring with Diesel as well so she has probably picked up a few tricks from the master as well.

Since the last music that she released, Imogen’s life has taken a few turns, personally and professionally. All positive, I have to add, and all which have put a new fresh coat of paint on her music and a maturity that most people of her age don’t have. She’s about 23 or 24 now, and I have to wonder if she is this incredible now, what is she going to be like at 40.

Last night she launched this new album to her hometown crowd in New South Wales. If you get a chance to see her LIVE, please do, you won’t be disappointed. She will have you hooked from that first line too.

Imogen is still at her best (in my humble opinion) when she is singing slow songs, but that is my preference of music as well, but all of this is just magic, pure magic.

I listened to this once, last night, and it met all of my expectations, months of waiting were well worth it.

Songs like High Tide, Collide, Too Late and Your Anything at All, Play it Safe are probably my favourites, but there is not a dud amongst them, as you would expect there not to be! Her voice is everything, from sweet to powerful, rocky, edgey, almost operatic. All kinds of country are covered here, plus a little bit of bluegrass in Your Anything at All, and a folky feel to some songs. There’s a touch of blues and rock and some soul moments.

Imogen will soon tour Europe with The Weeping Willows and Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes and that will open up other doors for her. She has a universal sound, her voice has no fixed address. I think that Imogen will set the world on fire.  Make sure that she comes back with you, guys.

As you would expect, the musicianship on this album is very polished and professional. The guitars are strong in several forms throughout the album. They don’t drown out her voice though, they couldn’t if they tried.

Oblivion is a great way to go out….great drums and percussion on this one…..it sends us soaring.

Tracks:

Collide

Late Night Girl

Too Late

You Got the World Fooled

Strike a pose

Left Behind

Tear It Down

High Tide

Your Anything At All

Play it Safe

Oblivion

Totally Biased Fan Review: Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves is the other “savior” I was talking about. A few years ago, I didn’t know anything about this young lady. Some friends said that I would love her and that I should go and see her when she was doing a random gig in Sydney. The place was packed, largely with other musicians. It was standing room only. I could see why.

You can generally tell someone is good when your musical heroes go to see the concert. Shane Nicholson was her support, so I also had back up, there! This album is probably the most crossover sounding album yet, but she doesn’t lose track of her country sound, she just plays with it a bit.

By her own admission, Kacey said “I wanted to change it up a bit”.  This album isn’t nothing like her last albums, save to say that she still tackles the tough subjects and she is unNashville like in the fact that some of those subjects are usually off limits in America’s Country Cap.

There are quite literally hundreds of reviews on this album, such is the broad appeal of Kacey. Some are disappointed that it isn’t following the point to point feel of those previous works. Some say that she carries on the “tackling the issues” thread of those albums. Many say that it is her best album yet and in some cases the best (American) country album of the year so far.

It is probably an album that sounds like it is made by an artist who is happy in her own skin, someone who is comfortable with gear changes and breaking the rules.

Some of the songs are much more poppy in their melodies but the words and her voice are still very country. Kacey often presents that in her music though. There is always a little mystery to the layers of a Kacey song.

One reviewer said something along the lines of: “It is like she is telling you about something for the first time,  and you believe it is the first time that you are hearing it.”

I don’t think that Kacey has “sold out” on this album. It is still country on many levels with a modern twist. The same messages and the distinctive voice are there.  Even in a disco sounding song she sings about John Wayne, giddy up and a high horse..it is certainly different to what we are used to, but not to the point where we put it in the basket with some other artists who defected from the campfire or were never really there in the first place.

It wouldn’t surprise me if after this little experiment, Kacey gets back on the trail and goes back to her more earthy country stylings. Kacey has never been conventional or a conformist. She likes to surprise and shock and test the waters. Her life has been colourful and unique.

My favourite track on the album will come as no surprise to most who read my views and no my tastes. The very last track – Rainbow, which is piano and vocal. The quality of Kacey’s voice and the the lyrics of this beautiful song are pretty much perfection. It is a very appropriate song to end the album with.

Kacey is certainly an original. I don’t think that Kacey will be a defector, she just likes to try different approaches and ways. Overall, it is an experiment, I don’t think that she will ever wander too far from a dirt track.

 

 Tracks:
1 4:06
2 3:46
3 3:39
4 4:01
5 1:18
6 4:16
7 3:36
8 4:03
9 2:34
10 4:00
11 3:33
12 3:18
13 3:34

Totally Biased Fan Review – Ashley Monroe – Sparrow

Sparrow track listing (and songwriter credits):

1. “Orphan” (Ashley Monroe, Gordie Sampson, Paul Moak)
2. “Hard on a Heart” (Ashley Monroe, Blu Sanders, Paul Moak)
3. “Hands on You” (Ashley Monroe, Jon Randall)
4. “Mother’s Daughter” (Ashley Monroe, Brendan Benson, Ryan Beaver)
5. “Rita” (Ashley Monroe, Nicole Galyon, Paul Moak)
6. “Wild Love” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne, Brendan Benson)
7. “This Heaven” (Anderson East, Ashley Monroe, Aaron Raitiere)
8. “I’m Trying To” (Ashley Monroe, Kassi Ashton, Jon Randall)
9. “She Wakes Me Up (Rescue Me)” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne, Paul Moak)
10. “Paying Attention” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne, Brendan Benson)
11. “Daddy I Told You” (Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, Josh O’Keefe)
12. “Keys to the Kingdom” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne)

Produced by Dave Cobb

Poppy and Rosemary by Kaz Johnson

I am a 60’s Aquarian Child

I believe in peace and love and beauty

But I understand the need to fight for what is right

And a soldier’s sense of duty

A great man once wrote: As long as there are men, there will be wars

Sometimes, we all wonder what they are fighting for

They went off into the great unknown

A sense of adventure and into chaos they were thrown

Australia and New Zealand lost their innocence

On the shores of a far off land

And it has happened for years, again and again

So what do we learn from all of this?

As we farewell our soldiers with a hug and a kiss

What will end all of the wars

We dance around the reasons

And the whys and wherefors

All of the destruction and tears

As we pray for peace

And dream of a day

When all the fighting will cease

With a poppy in my hand and rosemary pinned to my collar

I hope for the day when the heart is mightier than the dollar

And I listen to the words of those who wish for love and peace

When we lay down our guns and shake the hands of our enemies

Wouldn’t the world be wonderful

If our children could run free

No fear of bullets and bombs

Only love and good memories.

Lest we forget those who tried

To make our world a better place

And hoped that one day there would be no divisions

We would just be called the human race

 

Kaz’s playlist for ANZAC Week (If I was still on radio!)

Three Brothers (The Great War) – Luke O’Shea

The Man Across The Street – Amber Lawrence

Bottle Tree Lane – Brendon Walmsley

Poster Girl – Beccy Cole

Postcards from Saigon – James Blundell

Roses Fall – Allan Caswell and The Weeping Willows

The Beat of A Drum – Emma Jene

Suitcase – Phil Doublet

The Veteran – Dean Perrett

Margaret and Vera – Tracy Killeen

Too Dark For The Light Horse (Too Light For The Clan) Darren Coggan

Keep the Flame for Me – Craig Stewart

Leave Me There – Darren Colston

Broken Soldier – Beccy Cole

Letters From The Frontline – Darren Colston

Through the eyes of a boy – Wendy Wood

His Old Piano – Allan Caswell

Albany – Jo Caseley

Come Back Home – Dianna Corcoran

Note from a Soldier – Jayne Denham

I was only 19 – Redgum

The ANZAC – Adam Brand

Missing Heroes – Adam Harvey

ANZAC poetry/ Top 10

And the band played Waltzing Matilda – Eric Bogle

Ragged Bloody Heroes – NZ and Aus Versions – Luke O’Shea and The Medicine Wheel.

100 Year Handshake – Amber Lawrence

Montevideo Maru 1942 – Kylie Adams-Collier

Birthday Boy – Darren Coggan

Waltzing Matilda Still Makes Her Cry – Darren Coggan

Jungles of Vietnam – Reg Lindsay

Kokoda – Slim Dusty

Spirit of the ANZACS – Lee Kernaghan and Friends

100 Years the ANZAC – McAlister Kemp

Free John Zarb – John Flanagan Trio

Where Have All The Flowers Gone – Melissa Robertson

Poppy and Rosemary  – Kaz Johnson

 

Totally Biased Fan Review – John Flanagan Trio – Honest Man

 

I am so lucky to be living in Victoria where the alt.country/folk scene is so strong. In my review of John Flanagan’s last album (when he was just listed as a solo artist), I told a lot of little stories and how he reminded me so much of my hero, James Taylor….there is also a bit of Paul Kelly in John (and he even gets a mention in one of John’s songs on here), there is even a touch of Paul and John (you know those Beatle blokes) but there is much to value and love with John as just John and now John and his trio. Please read my review of his last album for that other info, but also, please buy that album too, as it is a beauty. I flogged it when I was on community radio and I convinced my more experienced co-host that he was worth playing too. John said that he had lots of influences – and his parents’ music collection as well.

I have been waiting not so patiently for the release of this album. I loved the other one so much and that sometimes, can be a problem….there is so much anticipation and so many expectations, but while this is very different in many ways, it is just as fabulous. John and I are on the same wave length as far as music tastes, values and politics go. When you feel so strongly about certain things, it reflects in your writing.

This is a real mix of upbeat and slow and sad songs and most of all songs that tell a story. I can’t wait to see them LIVE next month in Melbourne.  There are songs on here that perhaps John would not have recorded as a solo artist but with others, it makes sense. He is more mellow as a solo, more open to variety with others.

These guys, like The Weeping Willows, would not have been out of place in the 1960’s. And I mean that with love.

The album has two lovely things about it, the chords to play and the little cork that the cd sits on….nice touch, guys.

When I do these reviews, they are from the heart. I am not a professional, I just write what I feel. I always worry that I don’t express properly what the singer/songwriter is trying to convey. John was one of the first to tell me that “I got what he was trying to say. ” I hope that I have done the same here.

Tracks:

Beauty on the bottom:  I know this place very well!  What an amazing wake up call and perspective. Awesome song.

Nomad – A sort of a Right or Left at Oak Street kind of song….go or stay….being true to yourself or doing what your other self/convention may say to you. Nice stuff.

Something to Complain About: What an awesome song…catchy and yee haa but also lyrically interesting.

Free John Zarb: Very Paul Kellyish singing/speaking here, John! What a great song. John Zarb was a real person. As a 60’s Aquarian flower child, this sort of story is very close to my heart and mind. I know of similar stories, but John was Australia’s first Conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. Wonderful story and great song.

The Last of the Cassette Men: The songs that mention Paul Kelly. The song itself is very reminiscent of what Paul would write and deliver. Like Melissa Robertson wrote about Luke O’Shea, John writes about Paul Kelly here. You can’t really go better for me than one of my favourite singer/songwriters singing like my all time hero and singing about my favourite Australian Musician….what’s a girl to say!

Honey I’d buy you a home: This one takes a few listens to get the drift, at least that’s what it took for me. There is a touch of sarcasm, irony and 21st century reality in this song.

A place untouched by man: A soft, bluegrassy song. I drifted away listening to this song….down to the creek lined by trees and the soft touch of sunshine on my face….ahhh, the serenity. Then the boot in the bum with a touch of industrialization – how to destroy a beautiful place.

Ripples: A sweet song of love and reflection. Lovely.

You can love yourself: The only song on the album not written by John, but it fits into the puzzle. There is humour in this song but also food for thought.

Honest man: The title track. – sounding at his most James Taylorish! Such an amazing song lyric wise too…a very different way of expressing a common situation.

Young Minds: Instrumentally as effective as it is lyrically, this is an interesting song…..instrumentally it expresses what it is trying to convey as much as the lyrics are….much like a picture book when the pictures say as much as the words.

Leave me to my blues: A beautiful way to end an album. Probably my favourite song on the album with the John Zarb song. Winds it down so beautifully.

All songs written by John Flanagan, bar You Can Love Yourself by Kevin Moore

Nomad and Leave Me to my blues by John and Thomm Jutz

Honey I’d by you a home by John and Daniel J Townsend.

 

John Flanagan Trio:

John – Vocals, guitar, banjo

Liz Frencham – double bass, bvs

Daniel Watkins – mandolin, guitar, bvs.

guests: Justin Disson Drums

Pete Fidler – dobro, lap steel

Kat Mear – fiddle

Produced by Erick Jaskowlak and John Flanagan Trio

Kaz’s Playlist if I was on the radio – Episode 7

Theme song: Luke O’Shea – Listen to the Words

Chalkie White – My song isn’t written yet

Rose Zita Falko – A Town called Lonely

Connie Kis Andersen – Unclouded Day

Andrew Swift – Georgia

Jodie Crosby – (I’d be) A Legend in My Time

Anthony Taylor – I’ll love her long

Col Finley – Jacaranda Tree

Susan Lily – You’re Gone

Sally-Anne Whitten – Tennessee Lullaby

Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes – It Tears Me Up (Everytime you tear me down)

The April Famiily – Don’t Walk Out Now

Roo Arcus – Cowboys are little boys first

Paul Costa – Chapter One

Dan Murphy – Grandpa’s Song

Adam and Brooke – Out of My Hands

Allan Caswell – It’s not over til it’s over

Amber Joy Poulton – In case you ever think of me

Sandra Humphries –  You drink

Rick Hart –  Shooting Star

Darren Colston – Come by chance

Tania Kernaghan – Light in the Window

8 Ball Aitken – Say you love me

Ben Ransom – Be with you tonight

Aleyce Simmonds – Anchor

Arna Georgia – Nowhere else to fall

Angus Gill – Hands are clean

Brad Butcher – Glasgow Train

Catherine Britt – Charlestown Road

Gretta Ziller – Let it Go

Ian Burns – Safe in the Arms of Love

Darren Coggan – Seventeen

The Bushwackers – Dirt Under My Nails

The Weeping Willows – Acorns

Melody Pool – Romantic Things

 

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review – Lost and Found – Troy Cassar-Daley

This is probably the best value album this year – so far! 25 songs for 9.95 on Itunes!  These songs are from B sides and recordings that have not been released before by Troy. The first few tracks are great but they don’t sound like the more recent Troy at all….totally different sound!  Good but different, as the saying goes.

There are some classic tunes like  Ramblin’ Man with Tommy Emmanuel, The Biggest Disappointment with Slim, Collin Raye’s Love Me, Johnny Cash’s Long Black Veil, John Denver’s Back Home Again, and quite a lot of Troy originals. This is a wonderful album of hits and rarities.

Troy is one of our most gifted country music artists, loved by fans from 0 to 100 and I know many folks who respect and admire him, in and out of the music industry. He has won many awards, and his longevity and consistency speaks volumes. He has written a book about one part of his life and I am thinking that this is the launching pad for the second book, as it is like going through a trunk in the attic for songs, and probably more stories.

This album has a variety of songs on it, a mixture of standards, classic modern country and some typical Troy kind of songs. He has a unique timbre to his voice and it is so smooth and easy to digest that he makes it sound like falling off a log.

If there isn’t a song in this 25 track offering that you don’t like, then you are very hard to please. It is a really great mixture of types of country and it has the flavour of rich country throughout  the album.

This is a must for every diehard Troy fan but also for those who want an alternative to a Greatest Hits or people who just enjoy good, honest, country music.

The Tracks:

Proud Young Man, Should have been there, The river of sorrow, Wet a Line, That’s why I’m your friend, if you ever think of me,  goin’ straight, Almost Home, Original Australian Working Man, You Can’t Take the Country Out…., Back Home Again, You’ll Never Know ‘Till You Try, Always Running, Music Man, Love Me, Your Broken Heart Gets in the Way, The Biggest Disappointment, Ramblin’ Man, Someday, Long Black Veil, Everything’s Going to Be Alright, Last Mile Home, Yesterday’s Bed, Down to the river to pray, Language Song.