Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, and the EG section of The Age, Friday December 9...
With his eleventh studio
album, Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock has proven, once again, that he is indeed the
master of juke joint swing. The Austin, Texas-based Hancock, who’s been active
since the late ‘70s (although not releasing his debut record until 1995),
delivers here a set that embodies the foot-stompin’ American south; a melding
of western swing, hillbilly and country, along with elements of jazz, to create
a sound that, while a throw-back, comes across as fresh today as it would have
been in the day of Bob Wills.
With a crack band behind him,
Hancock is at the height of his powers – the humid and slow Dog Day Blues, the
rollicking title track, the jazz-inflected instrumental Over Easy, a fine
reimagining of Merle Travis’ Divorce Me C.O.D. The man’s laconic delivery, his
mastery of the form, all this combines to create a record which just flows –
it’s not forced, it’s not pre-meditated, it’s not slick and sharp. Nope, it’s a
Friday night in a lean-to tonk somewhere in Texas, sweat running down your back
as you shuffle across the dance floor, cold Lone Star beer in hand – a cracking
release from the master.
Published in the December issue of Rolling Stone (November 2016)
Let Love Rule
Archie Roach’s tenth record
is a gem. At its core is the theme of love, but overall it’s an eleven
song-long message of hope, “what I wish for” as Roach himself says. Covering a
range of styles, Let Love Rule
centres around his deep and rough-edged voice, the mainstay through these songs
which paint vivid pictures of a theme which in no way seems clichéd or overused,
not in Roach’s hands anyway.
The addition of the Dhungala
Children’s Choir and the Short Black Opera Choir on the title track and No More
Bleeding is a masterstroke; Jen Anderson’s violin throughout plays a pivotal
role; the songwriting is poignant and as strong as ever, on an album which fair
oozes soul and honesty.
Samuel J. Fell
Key Tracks: Let
Love Rule, Mighty Clarence River, No More Bleeding
The rain has stopped. It’s
cooler now, the aroma of wet earth rising and mingling with the cigarette
stench and the smell of fish off the barbeque, long since eaten, digested;
we’re on to bourbon now, beer chasers, rolling new smokes and lighting them
with the stubbs of the old.
A clutch of moths hatched
somewhere in the garden earlier today and so the lights out the back are
being bombarded. Tiny flying insects chasing their sun. Bumping and buzzing with
a ferocious intent, getting stuck in your eyelashes, your ears.
Aside from their buzz though,
the croak of the odd frog, the cicadas, it’s quiet. Claire’s gone to bed and
I’ve shut down the endless Twitter staccato; the rolling analysis from the New York Times; the ABC; Fox News; all
the rest. Shut down the apps on my phone, closed all the windows on my laptop.
A couple of hours ago, Donald
J. Trump was named the forty-fifth president of the United States, a notion
which, only a few hours before that, was regarded as a long shot, a laugh, a
joke, and a bad one at that.
Earlier, we’d sat and
followed the results as the storm front came over, lessening the humidity, the
grey sky lowering as its moist loins girded and eventually birthed upon the dry
and crackling north coast a torrent. We watched as Electoral College votes
stacked up, and even though this was happening half a world away, we kept
watching, swapping stories we’d heard via various news sources throughout the
I was on deadline, not an
urgent one, but closing in, three days with the majority of reportage behind
me, three days in which to ruminate and write. I let it lie though, gave away
half a day, pulled down the rabbit hole by the events unfolding with alarming
rapidity across the Pacific.
I, like everyone else, have
spent the better part of a year smirking at memes, nodding with faux-educated
agreement at analysis, talking with friends and work mates about how this
imposter dares set foot upon the hallowed turf that is a presidential race, and
yet here we are now. An angry white male, about to take up a post in The Oval Office,
in The White House.
Indeed, it’s never been
At some stage, not long
before the heavens opened, we talked with my sister on Skype and the three of
us asked each other over and over how this could be happening. My phone, open
to some graphic or other, sat on the table next to my laptop and
mid-conversation, I’d lean to the right to check results. My sister, two
thousand kilometres to the south, would periodically do the same.
Claire’s sister rang at some
point. They talked briefly out the back. Incredulity was the tone that floated
back in through the open screen door.
As we shut it down, maybe an
hour ago, the analysis was starting to filter through. What next? What does
this mean? Where to from here? I don’t know and don’t pretend to. All I know is this
has ceased to be a sick joke and is now a sicker reality. It’s the uncertainty
that’s the killer, the feeling that anything at all could happen, and that most
(if not all) of it won’t be of the notion that respect, inclusion and diversity
is the key to a new world order.
The uncertainty, that’s the
The rain has started again.
The moths and frogs and cicadas have gone. There’s another storm brewing.
Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, November 4.
Claude Hay’s latest release
is a considered affair. It’s considered in that the Blue Mountains native has
put aside the rambunctious and raucous delivery of past releases and opted
instead for a more subtle approach, putting more focus on the arrangements and
layers these songs contain, as opposed to foot-percussion-fuelled guitar jams.
There was nothing wrong with
those, Hay was the master, but this is the man thinking outside the box.
Bringing in Ryan Van Gennip on bass (Chase The Sun) and Brian Cachia on
percussion, along with a smattering of cello and backing vocals, the songs
pulsate with a maturity, the mark of an artist who’s spent time thrashing, and
is now looking for something a bit more artistically substantial perhaps.
Still based very much in the
blues, Hay delves into mellow stoner rock territory (the title track, Love No
More); slow and melancholy (Never Say Goodbye), along with a healthy dose of
groove, all of which marry well. While his lyrics still leave a fair bit to be
desired, Claude Hay has upped the bar with Roller Coaster, further cementing
his reputation as one of Australia’s more powerful roots music performers.
Published in the November / December issue of Rhythms magazine.
Red Wine, Late Nights
Tennant’s second record is a raw affair, stripped back and simple, a quiet
power emanating from this clutch of songs, both personal and broad, all
Tennant’s voice takes
centre-stage for the most part, whether soaring or almost whispering, the
addition on ‘The Pages Are Still White’ (a song about writer’s block) of Luke
Daniel Peacock, who’s possessed of a deep, ragged voice, a fine counterpoint.
‘Lay Me Down’ is perhaps the gentlest track on the record, fingerpicked guitar
and Tennant’s voice, there’s a certain vulnerability to the song which softens
the edges and the creeping onset of dark that defines a lot of the rest of Red Wine, Late Nights. The album closes
out with ‘No More My Lawd’ on which Tennant really shines vocally, a powerful
way to wrap up what is a fine record.