Totally Biased Fan Review: Another Habit – Liam Kennedy-Clark

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This young man was everywhere at Tamworth this year. However, the now Queensland based Kiwi has been playing and singing for most of his life. He has travelling with some big names lately, but he started at about 7 playing piano and trumpet….and at 11 he picked up a guitar.  He has been performing publicly for a long time. Not that he is that old.

I have seen Liam perform with others over the last few years, and he has a couple of E.Ps but this is the first album, I think. Sadly, I don’t have the credits for the album but I picked the voice with him on The Line Drawn to You – Aleyce Simmonds. Aleyce doesn’t just sing with anybody. She has excellent taste. This song is so country you can put it in the hayshed.

All ten songs are fantastic. I think that Tails You Say the Same is one of my favourite songs of the year so far. Bottom of an Empty Bottle is a necessary element on a country album and a fabulous one at that. Man I used to be is as strong instrumentally as it is lyrically. Old Family Home is a favourite too. It is very easy to picture.

His songs are varied, some are bluesy, others are pure country, and others are somewhere in between. And others are a fusion of both with a little rock and roll added to the mix.

This album sounds like it has been performed by a much older, world weary cowboy, rather than a young Kiwi. It has an amazing maturity to it and a great quality that is usually only produced by those much older and experienced.

Many folks have been looking forward to this album and I can see and hear why now. The little bit that I heard at Tamworth was pretty cool, ditto on some radio station interviews.  It has something to please everybody and my bet is that this young fella will just get better and better.

The production is polished and the musicianship is spot on. I predict Bright Lights and Big Dreams for this young artist.

Tracklist:

01. Bottom of an Empty Bottle
02. Tails You Say the Same
03. Old Family Home
04. Nothing to Do with You
05. Bright Lights (Big Dreams)
06. The Line Drawn to You
07. Man I Used to Be
08. Some Things
09. South of the Border
10. Wrong Turn Right

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The Single Life – Episode 5

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Aaron D’Arcy is releasing a new song, officially, on 31st May, called Postcard, featuring Dani Young.  It is currently being flogged on Community Radio as it should be. It is a beaut track. A bluesy number that is just a bit longer than most commercial singles, but well worth the listen.  Aaron has an album later in the year, but this is just a great start. Gareth Leach has released another single of his last album, (Death and Taxes) – this one is Better or Worse…..the tune sounds like gunslingers coming into town. It fits the lyrics. Gareth and Aaron have a similar energy. (Check out the 2018 album if you haven’t already, it is very good). From two bluesy sounding boys to the sweetness and mellowness of Cassidy-Rae with More. It is a good role model song for teenage girls, in particular. Cassidy-Rae sings a bit like Aleyce Simmonds, I look forward to hearing more. It is a knockout song. I would have to be hanging from the Moon to sing notes that high.

Toyota Starmaker winner for 2019 this year, Blake O’Connor has released a new song, Beautiful as You. Blake is quite an extraordinary singer who makes great choices in what he sings. I really like this song and can’t wait for the album. One of the busiest boys at Tamworth this year was Liam Kennedy-Clark. The Kiwi who is now firmly ensconced in Australia can play just about anything. His album, Another Habit, will be released soon but this song, Bottom of an Empty Bottle is a pure country song featuring two of the essentials of pure country songs, booze and a broken heart. Liam has a beaut, big, booming voice, that can also mellow out. I can’t wait for the whole album, the three songs that I have heard so far are just fabulous.

If you have a single, let me know.

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: This Girl – Andersonlane

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For those who doubt that “real” country music is still alive, give this album a real good listen. Along with the likes of the retired Sandra Humphries and Amber Joy Poulton and Marie Hodson, this lady is keeping the trad sound pumping. All original songs but with that great balance of torch and twang and very reminiscent of folks like Loretta, Tammy and co, but with her own twist.

There’s nothing girly or pop about this album. Fairytale is a big shower song contender for the Kazzies this year. It is really catchy without being poppy. If you look through the musos listed below, you will probably get the idea how polished this album is instrumentally. It is backed up with one of the most pure country voices that I have heard for a long time.

As a girl from Tamworth and the Central Coast, I know about country voices. Cheryl Anderson has the goods. It’s a cowboy thing was written with Sir Allan Caswell (no surprise) and a collection of songwriters at another one of Allan’s songwriting sessions.

Each of these songs could be released as a single and do well. James Dean, a quirky, fun kind of song has been the official single but there will be plenty more. I am not sure if others have been released, but they will be. They are all different, some heartbreakers, others following the ingredients of what makes up the subjects of a lot of country songs….good country songs.

Some are slow and steady, others are uptempo and shoulder shifting, and foot stomping. This album will play well in Tamworth. I hope that Cheryl will take it there and play the hell out of it. They will lap it up.

I am really excited about these well crafted, down to earth songs and the strong vocals and great musicianship.

I am the jukebox is a song that the likes of Patsy Cline, Loretta, Reba and Tammy would have loved to have sung, as well as Don Williams, Tom T Hall, Charlie Rich and the like.

This album is a great balance between tempos, subjects, moods and lots of attitude.  While it has that 70’s American Country Music sound, it is by no means unAustralian. It has a lot of the Aussie ratbag about it and the type of songs that true country fans just lap up.

This is a rippa. Go fetch it and play it. I have played it 5 times already – it goes faster than a bushfire through the Blue Mountains and I can imagine that it will be on every Truckie’s trip. It is a real road album, or something for a lazy Sunday arvo or fired up Saturday night. Mellow out or rock on down the road. Well done Andersonlane.

 

 

Tracks

I am the jukebox

I saw mumma crying

Hitchhiker

Strum

James Dean

This girl

Fairytale

It’s a cowboy thing

Stay

Just For Me

All songs written by Cheryl Anderson apart from It’s A Cowboy Thing – written by Anderson, Brain, Caswell, Charles, Dimmock, Scott ad Thompson @caswellsongwriterworkshop.

Mixed and Mastered by Jason Millhouse, Recordworks Brisbane

Guest Musos:

Dave Francis: Acoustic guitars

Robert Mackay: Keyboards, Bass, Baritone and Electric Guitars

Backing Vocals: Garry Koehler

Pete Denahy: Fiddle

Marty Smith: Drums

Michael Flanders: Steel Guitar

Michael Durham – Electric Guitar

Brendan Radford – Harmonica

 

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: My Version of The Truth – The Autobiography – Allan Caswell

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I have written many posts about Allan Caswell. I have reviewed his concerts, his albums, his singles, and award ceremonies where he has been honoured. I have written articles about his milestones and I have defended and supported him by writing articles that point out the facts. Doing all of that stuff is a labour of love, and a payback for all of the joy, fabulous music and the lessons that he has taught me.

This review will be a little bit different. Reviewing a book, particularly and autobiography, falls into a different category.  I have reviewed Beccy Cole’s and Troy Cassar-Daley’s books and now it is Allan’s turn. Allan is a straight shooter. We are probably as close to friends as a Legend and a fan can be, and I am deeply honoured and flattered that is the case.  Allan knows that what you see is what you get with me too, and I think that is why it works.

That’s what makes Allan work. He calls a spade a spade, or rather a guitar a guitar and he tells you his version of the truth always.  He told me recently and he mentions it in the book that Beccy’s approach inspired him. I think that it is only way to do it. I recently told the kids at the place that I work that the difference between an autobiography and a biography is that an autobiography is something that the subject writes about themselves and a biography is something that someone writes about someone else. I also told them that a good way to remember it is that an autobiography comes Automatically to the writer because it is their story.  I prefer autobiographies. I would rather hear it from the horse’s mouth. When someone else writes about someone they may not tell the truth…and maybe just rely on gossip. True, some autobiographies may not be honest either, as you are probably more inclined to write about the good bits rather than other things……and as part of a line in one of my fave Caswell songs….or not.  

Folks like Beccy, Troy and Allan are not backwards in coming forwards when it comes to the things that are important. Whether it is in their songs, their acceptance speeches or in their books. There is really no point in writing your story if it isn’t really your story. We will leave Allan’s amazing brother Brian to write the fiction.

So, when you consider that Allan Caswell has had a career that spans about 50 years, and he has lived a full and well acclaimed life, what do you write about in 261 pages including appendix and what do you leave out?

Jane Fonda, who is turning 82 this year, has divided her life into acts, like an actress would, and it has worked for her when she is writing. She can always add some more acts if she lives til 100.

Allan has a lot more to do.

Let us consider what he has done already, though. Pre-Australia, the lad from the North of England, had a pretty full life, travelling Europe with his family, following a rule that I love and can relate to,  basically to try and do everything, even before you can afford to do it.

His Mum, Jean, whom I have had the good fortune to meet and we have been Facebook friends for a while, seems to be the steady influence in the Caswell family. His Dad was in showbusiness and selected grandparents were too, so there was probably not much choice. Allan and his brother, Brian, joined his Dad from a young age. Of course it was a great time to be in London, in the 60’s.  The Liverpool influence is still obviously there though, to this day. Allan loves most sports, and we have a love/hate relationship in that area!

I don’t like to divulge too much in book reviews. It is like telling folks Who done it. I like to leave some surprises. Considering that Allan has spent most of his life in Australia and as he says, he is therefore “An Australian by choice”, most of this book focusses on his time in Australia with some mentions of England, Europe and Nashville.

When you consider the diverse range of artists that Allan has written with over the years: young, old and in between and representatives of all 79 types of country music, and then some outside that circle, you will realise how broad a paddock Allan covers.

His fans vary in age too, from the very young (his fans who love his children’s songs) to young songwriters and legends who are long gone, to some of the best songwriters in Australia and New Zealand who just want to write a song with this bearded genius.

I can hear Allan talking as I read the words of a book which took me about an hour and a half to read. Being a Caswell fan since about 1979, (the year that a certain song that he wrote was launched that has paid for a few Jacks), I know a fair bit about this man.  There were things that I didn’t know about his early life that are in the book, though. He has been very diplomatic about some of the heavier times, and I can respect that. That stuff is done and dusted and sorted now and you move on.

I think that like the red wine that Allan and I like to have a sip or two of, he is getting better with age and wiser. His best work has been released in the last dozen years or so. I remember when he won best new talent at the Golden Guitars in 1980 – my pa and I had our ears glued to the radio, 2TM and listened to the broadcast, from just down the road. My pa said “Thank God for something different” and I nodded.

The Caswells seem to be a close knit family. Despite the fact that Allan has been married 4 times, and divorced 3 times, everyone seems to get along and the kids all do too. Marian has been a rock and a great “change-up” in his life and that fact with the addition of the beard and a lot of amazing songwriters who keep making things fresh and hopeful with him have made this chapter of his life much more comfortable and productive.

Allan keeps saying….last album, but I don’t think that he will ever retire. There is so much more to write about and so many more people to teach and inspire. I review albums every week of my life, mainly Aussies and a few Kiwis. Just about all of them have a Caswell co-write on them…..which of course was one of the most common lines at Tamworth this year and most years: “This is a song that I wrote with Allan Caswell”. Every artist says that with pride.

It surprises me how little songwriters in this country are celebrated, especially in country music. We have some of the very best. Mike Carr, Lachlan Bryan, Michael Carpenter, Michael Waugh (yes, Allan, I agree, the most humble songwriter that I have ever met and probably one of the best), Shane Nicholson, Fanny Lumsden, Amber Lawrence, Aleyce Simmonds, The Weeping Willows, Andrew Swift, Cathy Dobson, Darren Colston, Luke O’Shea, Matt Scullion, Jen Mize and many, many, more. If you look at the list in the Appendix that Allan has provided, you will note some of these in there and many more.

I had the pleasure recently of going to one of Allan’s songwriting sessions and the age and the styles of the artists were varied and enthusiastic. Everyone wants to learn from someone who knows how to do it right.

Allan says in the book that his talent is a gift. I agree with that, to a point, and it definitely is a gift to us. He’s honest about what he thinks of the business of country music, voices his disappointments and gives his careful opinions in this book. He focuses on those who he have supported him, those whom he loves and those who he admires He does not rubbish people, or name names when it comes to difficult moments, there is a lot more love in this book than there is pointing the finger or venting at things and folks that may have wronged him.

At the same time, there are issues that he does not tippy toe around. He is straight and honest about his thoughts. Allan Caswell is a man who knows who is, accepts responsibility and appreciates those who have travelled with him on the ride.

As a fan, I admire his story, his words and music and the way that he “fights the good fight”, and the fact that he does not just do that for himself, but for those who will carry on long after us.

The fans and the fellow songwriters and most importantly, his family, are very lucky to have him in our lives.  Here’s to many more chapters, Sir Allan.

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: The Devil Found Work – Kevin Johnson

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The guy that my family has always called “Uncle Kev” (yes, I am a Johnson and a K Johnson at that) – is still one of my favourite songwriters of all time. His song Oleanders is probably one of my favourite songs of all time.

He wrote songs about his sons, Shane and Scott and he now writes songs about his grandchildren.

I have been to a few Kevin Johnson gigs over the years, most recently at Marrickville in Sydney a few years ago.

He has a wonderful legacy of songs, and now he steps into a new era. Kevin Johnson, above all , is a great storyteller. My late uncle, Dennis and my aunty, Margaret, joined him once for dinner with friends and had great discussions on his music and the stories behind them, I was always a bit jealous about that.

Some of these songs are classic Kevin songs and stories but others are a change-up and and more up tempo than what most KJ fans are used to.

Kevin has a distinctive voice. He has this honest approach in what he sings and writes about and his sound does not waiver. In Another Time, in another Place, The Gentle Heart,  Time, Fairy Tales are standouts.

It is so wonderful to hear Kevin back on the airwaves. He is a national treasure and an Australian singer/songwriting legend. Thank you, “Uncle Kev” for all that you have contributed to Australian music and to my life. I remember every concert and every song. If there were more like you and less like others, the world would be a better place.

 

Track Listing:

The Devil Found Work

In Another Time, In Another Place

Political Shuffle

The Gentle Heart

There Comes A Time

Lola (Life just carries us on)

Time

Saskia

Fairytales

Emmylou Those Funny things you do)

Home

Gypsy (Life hurries by so quickly)

Further Down the Line

All songs by Kevin Johnson

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Borderline – Matt Manning

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Listening to this album brings about two things, a cool, deep, voice and a trip down memory lane to a more simple time. These songs, from the legendary song with Mike to some lovely old bush songs and then some more modern approaches like It Takes People Like Me….ah, does this old Tamworth gal proud.

Matt Manning is only a relatively young fella, but he has this deep, honest voice singing songs beyond his years and his own life history.

Produced by one of my favourite sons, Stuie French and backed by some of the finest singers and players in the country, Matt can’t really go wrong. This is country, pure Aussie country. It is Slim Dusty Jnr mixed with a tinge of Graeme Connors and John Williamson. Matt is his own man really, and he adds a refreshing thread to the traditional style of country music.

I love all the 79 types of country music, but this traditional stuff when it is done well, is my favourite style.

The Saddle is a fave, written by one of the best, John O’Dea. Song and Dance Man is a childhood fave. When I was a youngster, it was often played on 2MO and my sister, my mother (who loved Mike severely) and I would sing the song on the way to my Aunty’s in Bingara from Somerton.

The songs in general bring back childhood memories, not because they are songs from that time, (apart from Mike’s) but because that was the style that was delivered in those halcyon days of Australian Country Music and the Tamworth Country Music Festival which was just down the road.

It is the type of music that my Dad listened to on the verandah at our old farmhouse, usually on Mr Hoedown, John Minson’s show.

This album is basically all new songs with a few classics but the new ones fit in to the fabulous old style of songs that is still there if you look hard enough.

It is good to see young fellas like Matt keep the old country alive, with a modern twist.

If you love old country, you will eat this up. If you don’t know it give it a spin, you may be surprised at how much you will love it.

 

Track Listing:

What is Wrong with that (Chris Pritchard)

My Bulldog loves Bitumen (Ian Quinn/ Matt Manning)

The Saddle ( John O’Dea)

Someday, I’ll sober up ( William Russell)

grew Up hard and grew up Quick ( Chris Pritchard)

Song and Dance man ( Mike McClellan)

Prissy (Pricilla Hubbard)

Highway One (Slim Dusty/ D Kirkpatrick)

Old Bushmates of mine ( Slim Dusty/ D Kirkpatrick)

Mudcarter Blues ( Keith Jamieson/ Matt Manning)

Bush Girl (Chris Pritchard)

It takes people like you  ( Buck Owens)

The Players:

Stuie French – Guitars, Dobro, BVs

Bradley Bergen – Drums

Chris Haigh – Bass Guitar

Michel Rose – Steel Guitar

Mick Albeck – Fiddle

Camille Te Nahu – Backing Vocals

Matt Manning – Guitars

The Single Life – Episode 4

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The hits keep on coming! Wonderful Tamworth gal, Ashleigh Dallas’s new album is out soon, but in the meantime, we have her new single, Vacation to trip on…when in Tamworth in January, I heard Matt Scullion, who won the Kazzie award last year for Male Songwriter of the Year, debut his upcoming and now released single, Aussie As. This Karen known as Kaz (you’ll get it when you hear the song), just loves it. The long awaited single from Liam Brew has finally been released, A Few More Roads. The last time that the then curly haired Liam released an album, he won a Kazzie.  One of my favourites, Brad Butcher has just released a new song, Nature’s Course. Can’t wait for the album. This song has more guitars than usual but a song in the tradition of all good Brad songs. Newlywed, Amber Lawrence has released Hey, to be featured on her upcoming album, Spark. Amber is showing her positive vibes and it is obvious that she is enjoying life at the moment. The song that sounds so familiar from the beginning (it is featured on Saturday Night Country)  New Harmony from another wonderful Tamworth girl, Felicity Urquhart, is a great song from the Frozen Rabbit album. If you have a new single, let me know, and I will do my country flashdance on this blog post.

I am an album girl, but this is kind of fun. Hit me with them.