Totally Biased Fan Review: Sally-Anne Whitten and Allison Forbes at The Retreat

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This will be a totally, totally biased review. These gals are my “Tamworth Sisters”. I was so chuffed that they were appearing together (with Alwyn and Trev and Alwyn’s son) in my new home state. I recently saw them in Tamworth and Allison was here earlier in the year, so I have been lucky. Not only are Sal and Allison two of my fave singers (and people) but together with one of Australia’s finest guitarists and producers, Alwyn Aurisch and at one of my fave Melbourne pubs, The Retreat at Brunswick, a girl can’t really ask for more.

Allison was up first, with Alwyn and Trev joining her for a few tracks and Sally-Anne coming up for a few songs too. The two have written songs with each other and have performed with each other on albums and at gigs. It shows. They work with each other well.

Sally-Anne calls her music funktry or soultry. Allison calls hers punktry. I think that whatever the label, they are both amazing singers and songwriters and they always deliver.

Sally-Anne featured a lot of the songs from her latest album as well as some songs from her last album and some classics. Sal and I have talked about our music heroes over the years and we have even turned up at the same gigs sometimes! It is not a surprise that her influences (and mine) have effected her music.

The crowd was appreciative. They listened to all of the music and sang along, we even had some folks meandering through to the beer garden who stopped and paused to listen for a while.

To get such quality performers for free at a great venue is an awesome thing. These two girls never fail. They often surprise newcomers to their music and they are always good value.

If you get a chance to spin one of their discs or go to see them live, please do. These gals are two of the best in the country in any genre.

 

 

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Andrew Swift,Megan Cooper, and special guests Mitch Power and Gretta Ziller – House concert at Monica and Bruce’s.

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A lovely evening with great music, company and food….gosh Monica!  I finally got to hear Swifty sing more than a hand  full of songs. He wasn’t very well but you would never know, he hit all the high notes and sang most of my faves from the album…..the album that not all of us can pronounce! (It is one of the best of the year though….see my review…it will be on Country As – link is here). He was well supported by Megan Cooper who launched her album down here last week. It is a beauty too, also reviewed on this blog.

House concerts are great for us fans, probably more so than for the artists, as we get to talk to them and hound them a bit….sorry….I am very passionate about music and I tend to get excited around my faves. I don’t mean to be pushy, but what an opportunity. Beautifully assisted by the wonderful Queen of Boomtown (multi-award Kazzie winning and big award nominated,) Gretta Ziller and the Muso/Comedian/nice guy, Mitch Power.

We were very spoiled by 4 of the best Indies around. Fabulous music, stories and all artists had a great sense of humour. It was a fun night, with all of the elements that a country music fan wants. The Alt. Country scene in Melbourne is alive and well and all of those from different states are welcome to come down and enjoy the appreciative crowds and warm atmosphere….even in Winter.

Monica and Bruce do a a beaut job of presenting these evenings. They always have a great mix of artists on and it is a gig that I would gladly pay 100 bucks to go to.

It was just like being at home with the family, singing along to familiar songs and having a good laugh.

Totally Biased Fan Review: Under My Skin – Kirsty Lee Akers

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As always, when I do a review (the only thing that I am impatient with is new releases!) from Itunes (I will buy the solid copy soon), I don’t have much to go on about credits and liner notes. It has even been hard finding information on other reviews and such. However, I have every Kirsty Lee Akers album – in one form or another – and I have seen her in concert about 10 times and at Songwriters in the Round in Tamworth, so I know enough to form an opinion.

We are so proud of Kirsty Lee Akers. She started out young in the N.T. and her Kurri Kurri  ways endeared us to a down to earth, what you see is what you get kind of chick. If she was any more down to earth, she’d be called Dusty.

In truth, Kirsty Lee has been around for a long time now, but she started young and she is still a pup. To have achieved all that she has achieved in the short time that she has been on this earth and still be a natural, down home girl with no airs and graces is quite phenomenal.

She is one of the best live acts that I have ever seen. This pocket dynamo always puts on a great live show. She now lives a large part of her year in the U.S.A. but she always comes home and still remains the same girl that we know and love.

She produced this album, and that is a step up as well. The songs are always about things that happen to her or happen to people around her. She mixes it up a bit, but she sings them all – no matter what type of country – with her country twang. The pocket dynamo with the big voice is pretty much the dark haired, Aussie version of Dolly Parton.

There are a lot of shower songs on this album. I can see myself dancing in the shower and singing out loud – sorry neighbours. There are also the poignant, beautiful songs like House Full of Flowers (Hannah’s Song), about the young girl whom Kirsty befriended and who touched all of Australians with her battle that she sadly lost.

Under My Skin, the title track, is probably one of my favourites, too. Very catchy and boppy but still has the country sound.

I love Fallin’ and The First Time too, they are awesome songs.

The thing that I love about Kirsty’s songs is that she is never afraid to tell it like it is.  Whether it be a sad or tough issue or an everyday thing, she is always honest, frank and not afraid to tell the story.

We are all so proud of her for her launch overseas and all that she has done as an Aussie Country Music Artist. She has worked very hard for a long time and the best is yet to come. Like Kasey Chambers and Jasmine Rae, you wonder where the powerful voice and huge courage comes from, but then you see their hearts and you know.

Change the world probably sums up the journey….unless I am reading too much into it…..I do that sometimes. There are some dynamic tracks on this album. As always, Kirsty Lee delivers the songs with gusto and truth.

Go along for the ride….you won’t be disappointed.

Great way to finish with That Ring don’t fit my hand…..great song.

 

Tracks

Skeletons

Under My Skin

Fallin’

Change the World

Chasing Ghosts

House Full of Flowers (Hannah’s Song)

It was Always You

Heart of stone

The First Time

That Ring Don’t Fit My Hand

Totally Biased Fan Review – Number 26 – Gary Leonard Hammond

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Anybody who has been reading my reviews on my blogs over the years, knows that I have reviewed most of Gary’s albums. Gary’s music doesn’t have a specific genre. It tends to bounce around between many kinds of music. Gary writes all of his own songs that he records, as well as featuring in a covers band regularly. Gary was a footy player in the VFA and is still ranked in the top ten goal kickers of all time. His number was 26. There is an interesting video on Gary, I think that it is still on Youtube which looks at his footy, his life and his music.

I love Gary’s songwriting. He is never afraid to tackle big issues or controversial ones. His views are similar to mine, so it is easy to connect on that level. His songs go down easy, like a fine cognac (or how I imagine a fine cognac to go down if I wasn’t on a beer budget!)

If you have listened to Gary’s music before, you will recognise a few of these songs – like Would You Marry Me Again, which I have played a few times on 2GLF and the single Have You Seen Ruby? The opening track is quite uptempo for a Gary recording. I really like it, it is a good way to start. Rolling Hill is beautiful, apparently, from what I have read, it is about Gary’s parents. It will definitely find a way onto my new playlist.

We are gifted with a baker’s dozen on this recording. There are some gentle, celtic like tunes, some soft swing, some blues, and yes some country. There are some folkish songs and they are all good, whatever the album. I have often thought that Gary is like Dylan and Kristofferson, his voice fits his songs. It Amazes Me is one of those soft swing songs and it is almost making a crooner out of him.

Each song has a unique fade out to it. You have to be a little bit prepared for it, but once you get used to it, it just adds to the ambience. I liked Have you seen Ruby? from the moment that I heard it. It almost has a 50’s sound to it. Over the Hill goes back even further, it is a fusion between a few bluesy/jazzy styles.

Caught in the Rain has a touch of Gilbert O’Sullivan about it from the seventies but it also has trombone representing that 40’s sound. That is the beauty of Gary’s songs, they not only represent different genres, they represent different decades and eras.

Any train song is good by me. All Aboard the Train almost sounds like Peter Gabriel. There…another one.

I have already mentioned Would You Marry Me Again…it is a slightly different version from the original, but it still cool. I really like this song.

In their shoes has a touch of the George Benson about it, Father has some beautiful harmonies and the musical arrangement is spot on. It is a sad song in many ways….old softy here had a few tears….but that’s not a bad thing.

I think that Travelling is the most country kind of song that Gary sings. It is catchy and has some cool twangy guitars. This one would go down very well at Tamworth.

Holy Man has a touch of Paul Simon’s Gracelands about it. It also has a bit of a doo wop feel about it as well.

Typical of Gary, he finishes with something that most people would probably start with, “In the Beginning”, however, it is a good fade out song, instrumentally and a launching pad….as well as being a reflective piece in many ways.

Gary and I have never met. We have been facebook friends forever and we have shared thoughts and “we have to catch up” but we keep missing each other in real life. His wife has become a good pen pal too! One day we will get our act together. If you like a bit of everything, this is a thinking person’s artist and a thinking person’s music. You can also just mellow out to it.

Tracks

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Where Were You? Adam Toms

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The fact that I call this young man my country music son, should be enough to tell you how much I love this guy. Not only is he one of the most generous, sweet fellas off record and in his community, he is a fabulous talent.

Some people will be surprised how much I love Adam’s music, because I am generally not known for a love of the rockier style of country music…I am primarily a ballad girl and my taste is more country folk, alt. country and the bluesy side.

Adam mixes it up. It is much like a Gumpism,….like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. He tosses in a surprise or two and every track is different. Primarily, Adam is known for how he belts out a song and a heavy use of guitars but he can blues it, rock it, soul it, and yes, do the gentle country rhythms as well.

What I find with a lot of the heavier country rock is that they all sound the same, where Adam differs is that his songs don’t sound the same. Every album is different, every song is different and as I said, he mixes it up. Even the rockier tracks have lyrics which are thoughtful and have meaning.

On this album, he has some mega gods of Aussie music with him, like Michael Carpenter and Matt Fell. These guys add a bit of additional guidance and up the ante.

I have heard Adam sing just about every style of music that there is out there. He never fails. As much as I love all of his albums, this one is probably his best. It has been a long time coming. He took some time out to regroup, to spend some time with his family and he has come back with a fresh amount of gusto and he is firing.

He has teased us with a few singles and after his launch last night, no doubt, he will be out there promoting this beautiful gift to us all.

Adam has had a few blows over the last few years and as hard as they were, he has come back with a new maturity and an extra polish. There are a lot of us out here who have missed him and his music. Sometimes you have to take a time out to recharge the batteries and see things from another perspective.

They are all originals, apart from “Signs” the Five Man Electrical Band song written by their frontman, Les Emmerson , from 1971 (I thought it was the late 60’s at first….I remembered it from my childhood and it was a fave with Vietnam War vets, but the late 60’s and early 70’s can be a bit of a blur for me….Adam thought that it was more early 70’s and it was.) You will know it, anyway, it is a classic.

The opening song is a thumping intro to the album, a bluesy, rocky song that will be great at LIVE gigs. Where were you when is one of my favourite songs on the album and one of the songs that Adam teased us with. It is the kind of song that Adam does best. There’s a message and it is delivered with his husky, bluesy voice, sort of like a power ballad. Josephine is the kind of song that I think Adam likes singing and playing best. He seems to almost bust his veins playing these types of songs. Say you love me is another favourite. I loved this from the first time that I heard it. Adam must look after his throat pretty well, I don’t know how he could sing like he does without intensive care. He is sort of a Joe Cocker/Jimmy Barnes of country music. Too Busy is a toe tapping song with some great riffs and a catchy, shoulder shifting feel. There are some seventies songs that have this cool feel. There are definite shower song elements to it! The aforementioned Signs is next, it was an interesting choice but a good one. Adam has always had an ear for the classics. Any song with the title ‘Coffee’ will do me. It is a cool little ditty with a country twang that you will have going around in your head for a while. This Old Mandolin is pretty much what you would expect from a song with that title. It is probably the most “country” song on the album…..and of course one of my favourites. It is a sentimental, sweet song. Weak is this man ups the tempo again with a thumping drum beat and vocals and guitars that will get you up on the dance floor to stomp. Never not ever is another favourite and you won’t be surprised to hear that. A love song with a touch of Jon Bon Jovi with a cowboy hat on. Some cool guitars. Something Borrowed is almost like early Johnny Cash and I detect a bit of Michael Carpenter in this one. Definitely a shower song, I will be dancing in the bathroom with this one. It has that train on the tracks beat to it and I absolutely love it. A nice touch is a live track to finish off the album. Bluesy guitars and some hand claps. Sounds like something straight out of Memphis. Oh yeah!

So if Adam asks me “Where were you?” I would say, I have been here all the time, waiting for this comeback album which is just awesome and well worth the wait. Do yourselves a favour folks. Go Tomsy!

Tracks:

1. Too Young to Know Better

2. Where were you when

3. Josephine

4. Say You Love Me

5. Too Busy

6. Signs

7. Coffee

8. This old Mandolin

9. Weak is this man

10. Never Not Ever

11. Something Borrowed

12 Walkin’ Over Me (Live)

All songs written by Adam Toms except 2. Adam Toms and Troy Kemp, 6. Les Emmerson 9. Adam Toms and Lianna Rose.

Musos:

Adam Toms – Guitars, vocals, Backing vocal and fiddly bits on most songs

Anthony Stix Sebaly – Drums

Sonic Edwards – Bass

Tom Beappler – Additional guitars

Produced by Adam Toms

Recorded by Adam Toms and John Johnson

Some mixes and mastering by Matt Fell, William Bowden, Michael Carpenter Adam Toms and John Johnson

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Adam Harvey – The Nashville Tapes

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They say that there are only two sure things in life: death and taxes. I am prepared to add a third – death, taxes and an Adam Harvey album.

When I heard that Adam was heading off to Nashville to work with Nash Chambers on a new album, my heart felt good. There is nothing more country than an Adam Harvey album. Even when he sings songs that are borderline pop/rock he makes them sound like they are fresh from the two Hillbilly Heavens, Tamworth and the Central Coast of New South Wales or Nashville itself. I was raised in two of the three.

On this album, Hubba Hubba Harvey sings a few well known songs: The Ricky Nelson Hit: Never Be Anyone Else But You, Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man and Stan Coster’s classic Three Rivers Hotel with Lee Kernaghan.

He sings about Willie Nelson in the co-penned, sure to be a classic, When Willie’s Gone with Bill Chambers and co-writes a lot with my Australian Country Music hero, Mike Carr.

As usual, Adam melts rock with his beautiful deep, chocolate, velvety voice. At times on this album, he has a Johnny Cash quiver to his voice. There is the obligatory drinking song, co-penned by Troy C-D and my favourite, Lucky, with Godmike. That song is probably one of the best of the year. It is in the vein of Shake of A Hand and my Dad will eat it up. He is a big Adam fan.

There are some guys that you can listen to all day. Adam Harvey is one of them. He always throws in a surprise or two and the songs are always very country and very easy to sing a long to.

I love What A Song Can Do, which is co-written with Jake Sinclair and Luke Austen.

There are some gems on here. I am blessed – we all are – to have Adam and Mike combining on some beautiful co-writes. You really can’t go wrong when you have Australia’s answer to Randy Travis writing with the amazing Mike Carr.

Yes, I am biased, but I also have great taste and I have been around long enough to know good from bad. My dad will also be pleased that he sang a song about Holden Cars, penned by Stuart French.

This album sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1970’s. It has that feel and richness of a time when Country Music was constantly on the general mainstream album and singles charts.

He can make you tap your feet, hum, strum, smile and laugh and feel damn good to be an Aussie. Adam Harvey could have been a big star in America…..he has the sound that they would have lapped up like a bowl of milk but he has chosen to stay here and spread the word across Australia.

He learned from the legends of American country music, but he is ours. Hands off!

Tracks:

Less of a thinking man (Adam Harvey/Mike Carr)

I’d Rather Be A Highway Man (Adam Harvey/Mike Carr)

This Lovin’ You (Adam Harvey/Mike Carr)

What A Song Can Do ( Adam Harvey/Jake Sinclair/Luke Austen)

Never Be Anyone Else But You (Thomas Baker Knight)

When Willie’s Gone (Adam Harvey/Bill Chambers)

Solitary Man (Neil Diamond)

Lucky (Adam Harvey/Mike Carr)

Three Rivers Hotel (Stan Coster) with Lee Kernaghan

Anything you want me to (Adam Harvey)

Those Holden Days (Stuart French)

We’ll have to drink our way out of this (Adam Harvey and Troy Cassar-Daley)

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Libby O’Donovan – Back to Broken Hill

 

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To be honest, I would have probably never known about Libby O’Donovan if it hadn’t been for my huge admiration for Beccy Cole. And that would have been a huge loss. I am a musical tragic, so I may have eventually found her that way but after being to 46 Beccy gigs, having all her albums, sharing the Central Coast with Beccy and Tamworth and reviewing her book as well, I am a bit of kinda a huge fan of Beccy Cole.  Beccy introduced me musically to Libby O’Donovan. There is nothing that this woman can’t sing. What a bloody amazing talent. There is not a style of music that she can’t power through.

As part of Beccy’s band and her support act, I have been able to hear and see Libby. I particularly enjoy the Australianization duets of Jolene with Beccy and their mix of styles in their medley at their gigs. You have to hear and see this to believe it. What did my heart in was when Libby sang the song that she co-wrote with Beccy from the album Sweet Rebecca, Songs Remember When. Both versions of the song are extraordinary. I would go as far to say that it is one of my favourite Aussie songs of any genre. It hits home for me, which probably makes it more poignant, and I do cry when I hear it but it is just beautiful.

Naturally, this album has Libby’s version.

This album is basically autobiographical. It is branded Adult Contemporary, but it is a mix of many styles, and yes, some are countryish. Libby has had an amazing life. It is pretty much all covered here with songs about her parents, her youth, her ups and downs and her family and relationships in general. There are a lot of Australian references on this album, from a salute to our wide, great land to the little idiosyncrasies that are in our lives.

It is bluesy, jazzy, country, soulish, a song or two that you would imagine in a musical, just about everything.

This is an amazing album. I am not really surprised, just delighted that it is everything that I expected it to be and more.

Thank you Beccy for introducing me to this wonderful woman and her music. Thank you Libby, for delivering such an amazing album.

Tracks:

Back to Broken Hill

Don’t Feel Down

Estelle

From This Mother To My Mother

Preacher Man

No one tells my darling what to do

Donna

All that I wanted

8 Years and Counting

Songs Remember Me

Not Gonna Miss Me