Totally Biased Fan Review: Cathy Dobson: Tales from a Suburban Housewife

My creative writing lecturer at university told us “You are what you read”, meaning that often what you read, you either consciously or subconsciously mimic in your writing, in part, in big chunks or in style. The same can be said in life for most things in life. We are often followers of the things that our parents followed, or we go in the opposite direction. Painters paint like their heroes, sportsmen and women take in what their heroes acted out, actors follow their mentors, students follow teachers and songwriters definitely absorb like sponges their favourite songwriters and Singers.

It is not plagiarism, it is actually, in many ways, an act of admiration and a mark of respect.  Sometimes it is just that we are products of our environment and genetics. Sometimes it is giving a fresh coat of paint to an historic monument and other times it is just by accident. The Greeks invented a lot of things, began a lot of things, and The Romans took these concepts and improved them, enhanced them or just made them different.

What has this got to do with one of the best written albums of 2018, so far? Well, when you give it a listen, you can hear Cathy’s influences, whether they are accidental or on purpose.  Sometimes, she takes what the “Greeks” invented and gives them a “Roman” treatment, giving that fresh coat of paint to an historic monument.  You can hear lots of musical legends in Cathy’s songs. Well, Kaz can.  I can hear a Bruce Springsteen touch on one song, an Aretha Franklin gusto on a couple of others, There are some 70’s and 60’s bluesy, rocky vibes and some peaceful, easy, feelings on some others. There is absolute torch and twang in some songs and a folky feel in others. The words are Cathy’s, the melodies are Cathy’s but you can hear your own story or the stories of many in these songs. I am not a suburban housewife, but I can relate strongly to many of Cathy’s lyrics.

The other thing that my Creative Writing Lecturer told us was write about what you know. Cathy certainly does that.

Cathy has always been an inspiration to many fellow singer/songwriters. I have heard many stories of admiration and respect from her peers and those who she is mentoring, sometimes without her knowledge.

Cathy doesn’t pull any punches in her songs. I think that she has reached a point where she doesn’t mind baring her soul so much. Younger writers can get a little bit scared of doing that.

Dobson has won many songwriting awards for her songs over the years. Commercially, she probably hasn’t had the success that she deserves. She hits the nail on the head in more ways than one. Her songs are gutsy explorations of the truth and she just tells it like it is. Like Michael Waugh does with his songs, she takes and ordinary, every day tale and makes it extraordinary.  Some of these songs must have been difficult to write, as they are extremely personal. I think that makes them even better.

Some songs will make you want to get your air guitar out or your pots and pans drum kit out or make you dance like no one is watching and then others will make you sit back in an easy chair and absorb their nuances and the history of your own family.

Cathy has put her washing out to dry on this album and the sun is shining on it. It is a brave and courageous album in many ways. For women of my generation in Australia, and no doubt other places in the world, we can relate intensely.  It is not just an album for women of a certain age though. There is something for everybody here.

It is a beautifully crafted and produced album. The musicianship is top notch and reflects the life of woman who is inspired and inspiring.

Tracks:

A Break In The Clouds: This song is probably my favourite. It has a lot of wonderful imagery and it is a sad reflection on the lives of many women.

Down in The Boneyard: Cathy said at her album launch that this was the song that started this album. I can see how that came into being.

Jericho Rose – “Her mamma struggled from the start with this life she hadn’t planned, said it sometimes crossed her mind, God must be a man” – Cathy comes up with some great lines, lines that you wish that you had come up with yourself.

Nobody’s Business – People often presume, assume and put life together like a jigsaw puzzle but often the pieces don’t fit. When the pieces don’t fit, they make things up to make them fit. The hurt that it causes and the ignorance that they display is in the end merely gossip that can ruin people’s lives.

No More – Everybody has a point when they have had enough. The line has been crossed, the straw has broken the camel’s back and they say…No more.

A Moment Like This – This is a favourite as well. This is Cathy’s song, but like all of the songs, you can see a part of yourself or someone that you know. in them. I too, believe that all we go through in life leads to the best moments, the moments that are meant to be.

Tequila Romeo: Every Victorian should have a song with Tequila in it. I think that it is pretty much mandatory for those south of the border. A song which has more layers than a french pastry.

The Borderline: The opening line says it all really….it sets it up for the lines that are to come….they left town in a cloud of dust.

On the Corner of Hope and Devine – Another favourite.  This reminds me of an episode of “Brides of Christ” when a Catholic mum in the 60’s was caught between the old ways and the new and she wasn’t sure whether to have more children or not. Personally, from a nostalgic point of a view, this song had me from the first line, ‘children racing billy carts up and down the hill’.

Hurricane Child: I think that Cathy said this was about her great niece at the launch. It is quite a wild sounding tune, which goes with the title.

Think my Mamma loved my Daddy: A great way to finish the album and to close a book with this chapter. I think that a lot of people of our generation can relate to parents like this. Some of these lines totally resonate with me…’like so many in the fifties, daddy  wore no wedding band’ and ‘Think my daddy loved my mamma, once heard him tell her so’ from a time when people didn’t publicly show their affection. Some stayed together and things changed, others didn’t.

All songs written by Cathy Dobson

Produced by Brian Baker

Musos:

Cathy Dobson: Vocals/Backing Vocals/Guitar

Brian Baker: guitars/Slide/Bass guitar/Keys/Backing vocals

Leanne Koska: Backing vocals

Hamish Davidson: Fiddle/Mandolin/Banjo

Mark Smith: Guitar

Steve Wells: Drums

 

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