Totally Biased Fan Review: The Hurt Party – Dom Italiano

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As a kid growing up in Tamworth, I would have never thought that I would be reviewing artists called Dom Italiano and Kelly Brouhaha….those were the days of Williams, Williamson, Dusty and various other Slims, Newton, Lindsay and Morton. Times have changed and the quality of the music and the lyrics has upped a bit as well, not that those days didn’t have some classics that we will treasure forever.

‘Pseudo Folky-Country-Poppy-Rock for those who were never cool in school.’ That’s what you get from Dom Italiano’ so it says on triple j unearthed website.

When you get The Weeping Willows, Gretta Ziller and Mitch Power contributing to your cause and Gretta, Lucky Oceans, Luke Moller and John Bedggood playing on your album as well as Damian Cafarella producing the album and a heavy influence of Damian’s colleague at The Wildes, Lachlan Bryan, himself on there, you know that you have a quality product.

I read the lyrics to the songs before I played them….and I knew. Chiefly, I am a slave to words. They hit me before a melody does.

Some of these songs will just mellow you out, most of them will make you think. others will get into your head…A Step Behind is one of those songs that I can’t switch off in my head.

There are some beauties on here, the duet with Gretta Ziller, The Arsonist, the first track, I Never Think About You; the last song: I Try, Ashes of Desire, well all of them really. I knew that I was going to like Who’m I Gonna Dance With Now? from the title. It is a typical Kaz song.

This is a surprise packet. It hit me from out of the blue and it is just spot on. It is beautifully produced by the master, D Caf, (Kazzie Award Winner – multiple, really) and fabulously delivered by Dom. He has a wonderful, haunting voice, and every song is different. Lyrically, this is one of the finest albums that I have reviewed this year. The words are just amazing.

Admirably, they have chosen an ideal first and last track, one that sets up the album and one that rounds it all off.

If you are not afraid of trying something that isn’t a big name release, you will be well rewarded by choosing this album. It is beautifully executed, delivered and you will want to play it again and again.

Bravo.

 

 

Tracks:

I never think about you

Secret (Feet of Clay)

A Step Behind

Walking in the Night

The Arsonist

A Year From Now

The Ashes of Desire

Who’m I gonna dance with now?

Get out of the way

I try

 

Produced by Damian Cafarella

Recorded and Mixed by Damian Cafarella at End of the Road Studios

Mastered by Adam Dempsey at Deluxe Mastering

Musos:

Dom Italiano – Music, Lyrics, Vocals and guitars

Damian Cafarella – Guitars, bass, Mandolin, Banjo, Lap Steel, Keys, Drums, Vocals, Percussion and Programming

Gretta Ziller – Vocals on The Arsonist

Rosie ConPorto – Vocals on Get Out of The Way

Matt Bradshwaw – Vocals on I Never Think About You, Secret (Feet of Clay), Walking in the Night and Ashes of desire.

Lucky Oceans – Pedal Steel on The Arsonist and Who’m I Gonna Dance With Now?

John Bedggood – Fiddle on Get Out of the Way and A Year From Now

Luke Moller – Fiddle on A Step Behind and Octave Fiddle on A Year From Now

Andy Pobjoy – Accordion on A year from now.

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Kelly Brouhaha – Kelly Brouhaha

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My friend, Bruber, has been a long time fan. He has brainwashed me in the nicest way. After hearing her on the Beccy Cole tour, I get it. After hearing this album, I get it more. He has even said to me that touring extensively with Beccy and Libby and co, she has really come of age.

I really don’t know if we have anyone similar in Australia, I am pretty sure that we don’t. She has similar elements of other artists from overseas, and maybe a touch of Renee Geyer, but basically, she is a one off.

If you like your blues and your country blues, then this is the album for you. She has stepped into the spotlight from the back stage and Kelly is firing up.

The songs have meaning, they have depth. There are familiar undertones but mainly, they are songs from a woman who knows who she is, struts her stuff comfortably and belts out the songs.

In a close tunnel genre in Australia, Kelly is Queen. She is a no-nonsense, firebrand.

Listen and learn.

 

Tracks:

40,000 Star Hotel (E) – Female Bryan Ferry crossed with John Williamson. So many stars in the sky, one very big one here.

Benjamin:  You will go around going woo hoo, woo hoo….this has that sound of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. It is deeper than that though.

Don’t Have to write it down – This song is so very close to my heart. When you listen to it and if you know me and my life, you will understand. I am sure that others will feel the same. Beautiful.

Cassidy’s Blues – The blues at it’s most honest.

River – Mix Carole King and Janis Joplin together and you get this. How dreamy.

Open Road – What’s a country album without a road song? When all is said and done, just get out there and get rid of all the shite.

I’m Gonna Miss Ya – On first run, this was one of my favourite songs on the album, before my Ma passed away, now that she has, it means more. A beautiful, very close to home song.

Keep it to myself – Renee Geyer brushed wings with Joan Armatrading. How special. Great song.

If I’m Not Here in the morning – My favourite song on the album. If I could sing, this would be the song that I would sing.

All I want – A bluesy, then a change-up song. Oh Oh Oh song that will keep you grooving

 

 

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Charcoal and Ash – Aaron D’Arcy

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Not long after I arrived to live in Victoria, I went to a gig…..well, I went to a lot of gigs, where you see as many artists in the crowd as you do on the stage.  My mate introduced me to a bloke called Aaron D’Arcy.  The name sounded vaguely familiar…..then I slowly connected the dots….he was a member of Jeanie and had a song out with one of my favourite artists, Aleyce Simmonds……Bingo! Then, I bumped into Aaron at some more gigs and eventually got to hear him sing.

Long before I was a country music fan, I was a flower child folk music lover, a 60’s Rock and Roller and a blues music gal. If you combine all four genres, you get the earthy, gutsy little performer, Aaron D’Arcy. What I admire about Aaron, more than anything else,  is the way that he thinks. He is an ideas man. We were both at one of Allan Caswell’s songwriting workshops in Melbourne, recently and it was really amazing listening to his ideas and suggestions. I think that he will make a good decision maker in the years to come when they need administrators on a board or two for country music.

A lot of those thoughts, were, of course, creative ones. This album was well in the works at that workshop but I think that he was interested in hearing other people’s ideas and suggestions.

When you look into Aaron’s history and his technical work history, you can understand why the album is so polished and his outlook is so professional.

Before the release of the album, several singles have already been out there. The current one, Drink it Up, is doing great guns, and so it should.  Postcards with Dani Young has been a big smash and just about every Community Radio Station in Australia is flogging it. It has been a big hit. Summer Song and I give my heart to you (a personal favourite) have also been released previously as singles.

Running On Empty is not the Jackson Browne classic, but hopefully, it will be an Aaron D’Arcy classic.  It is a little bit different to the other songs on the album, a bit different in tempo and the guitars are much more twangy.  It is definitely up there with my favourites.

Aaron D’Arcy’s music has a certain groove to it. It is bluesy and gutsy, like the man himself but it varies with some interesting backbeat on songs like My Story Cries No More which is as interesting as its title. It has a really catchy tune and the words and phrasing are unique. It will be a song that gets into your head on two levels.

Where I Hide is probably the most “country” song on the album and I have heard him sing this before and I was hoping that it would be on here. This will be a singalong song at gigs and the arms will be swaying in the crowd for sure. Many beers will be drunk with this song…..and cheap wine, of course!

Aaron is a multi instrumentalist, and is qualified in sound engineering, which would explain all of the technical effects and production value.

He is not afraid to change things up. He warned me a little about some of the tracks – I think the words that he used were “there are a couple of songs that are way to the left” which could have meant a few things! The last track is one of these, I think, but there is a good spooky feeling about it….it his quite haunting. I have a feeling that the more times I play it, the more I will like it.

Aaron is an original. It is hard to compare him with others (and I am not a fan of doing that anyway, save to say that it does help the fans relate to an artist more in a review), however, he has a certain energy that is very rare and a sound that it different. He has elements of a lot of genres in his music, but chiefly, if you love the blues, this is your man.

You can pre-order Aaron’s album now, via iTunes or from Aaron’s website or send him a line or two on his facebook page.

If you get the opportunity to see Aaron LIVE, then don’t pass it up. He can mix his styles and he has a lot of energy. I think that he has a very big future ahead of him.

 

Tracks:

Drink It Up

I Give My heart to You

Postcards (Featuring Dani Young)

Summer Song

Running On Empty

My Story Cries No More

Where I Hide

God’s Gonna Cut You Down

Totally Biased Fan Review: Believing In Me – Gary Ellis

 

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As most people know, I generally review original material and singer/songwriters. However, there are some folks in our industry who have been around for so long that without them, we would have never had a country music scene and who tend to sound as good as they did when started out more than a couple of years ago. They sing because they love doing it, because they believe in the words and the music that they are delivering and because they were there when it was all just a bit of a dream and not the big and flourishing and evolving situation that it is today.

Gary Ellis has been honoured in Tamworth in one of the biggest ways and he carries on singing and playing and mixing it with young and old and in between. He is traditional country, he is an old cowboy who sings it like it is without bells and whistles and all the trimmings. He is straight up and out there.

He does mainly covers, but they are not always ones that you would expect. Apart from Storms Never Last ( a classic that has been sung by many and was written by Jessie Colter) and Fly Like A Bird (interesting choice but a well known song) most of the tracks are not in the obvious cover category.

One of my favourite songs is the current single and it was going to have to be a good version to impress me, because I hold the Travis Sinclair/Sara Storer song written by legendary Garth Porter as a very sacred song. It is a good version. He is well helped by Tessa Libreri of Destiny Oz fame.

There are some interesting choices apart from Boz Scaggs’ Fly Like A Bird, like Lyle Lovett’s Farther Down The Line and Norma O’Hara Murphy’s Warwick Gold Cup.  As with most country music albums with covers, there has to be a Johnny Cash song, but it is usually Folsom Prison Blues or Ring of Fire, here it is Tennessee Flat Top Box. It has that old Johnny Cash rhythm.

This is the kind of album that goes down well on a Sunday, or at an outback pub or hall. There will be those who will get up and do a turn or two on the dance floor, or tap their feet to old classics.

The songs not only have that good old country sound but they cover all of the old familiar ground of love, horses, old cowboys, family, rodeos, battlers and the road.

Gary keeps the old things alive. In a music genre which has many types, legends like Mr Ellis remind us all where it began.

 

 

Tracks:

I’ll be home soon with Tessa Libreri

Do it all over again

Farther Down the Line

Happy Birthday my darlin’

Saddle up and ride

Tennessee Flat top box

Storms Never Last with Janaka

Country Balladeer

Believing in Me

You’ve got her eyes

Warwick Gold Cup

Smell the rose and read the card

Fly like a bird

Guitar Boogie

Totally Biased Fan Review – Reflection – Ashleigh Dallas

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The Dallas Family are Australian Country Music Royalty, particularly where I come from – Tamworth. Ashleigh is the third generation of the family to win Golden Guitars and to produce fine albums.  Even at her young age, she has already notched up a number of huge achievements and gained much respect and praise from critics, fans and her peers.

As a person, she is much loved also, and that makes reviewing her work so much more pleasurable. She has a stunning gift, which is part inherited and mostly naturally developed. She has worked hard and nothing has been handed to her. As they say, she has paid her dues.

Her life has gone through a fair amount of changes in the last few years and a maturity is present on this album at full throttle. Every album she releases is even better than the last one, and they are all super albums.

There is no mistaking Ashleigh’s roots or her style. She gives a modern twist to traditional country music and bluegrass.

Ashleigh Dallas is always true to her style and her presentation. Her music is always heartfelt, personal and quite frankly, beautiful. A lot of the titles of her songs over the years have reflected a feeling of floating, sailing, drifting, guiding gently or just a laid back feeling, like she is quite content to stop and watch the world turn and relax.

I find it very easy to mellow out to Ashleigh Dallas’ songs, but that doesn’t mean that they are frivolous or bubblegum tunes. Quite the contrary, they are easy fits, like a comfortable old slipper on your feet.

There are some subjects that are sad and deep and others which are just sweet and uplifting. Ashleigh reaches a lot of generations, showing that country music has a broader audience than most folks think. She can make you twist and shout or slow dance or just relax in an easy chair.

The addition to her family of young Harriet, perhaps the fourth generation of the Dallas family to win a Golden Guitar, has obviously had some effect on some of her songs, as it should.

Ashleigh Dallas’s albums are always a joy. There’s never a bum note or a bad song. The musicianship and production is always top notch and they always make you feel something. There are always tears and always laughter and there are always songs that get in your head and stay there.

I am proud to be a Tamworthian when I hear this young one sing and play. She’s a wonderful representative of the new generation of country musos and she always puts 100 percent into everything that she does.

She could quite possibly make it big in America, but I am selfish. I don’t want to lose her and her spirit to a land far away.

Bravo. Ashleigh just keeps getting better. Spread the word and the love.

 

 

Tracks:

01 – In the Water
02 – Slow Motion
03 – Settling Down
04 – Catherine Hill
05 – Floating on the Breeze
06 – Vacation
07 – Candles Burning
08 – Life on Repeat
09 – Childhood Diary
10 – Two Sides
11 – Harriet’s Lullaby

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Everything I Feel – Blake O’Connor

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Blake O’Connor won the Toyota Starmaker Award this year and he was a well deserving winner. The fresh faced young man can belt out a song with the gusto of a much more seasoned and mature performer.

His songs offer up a variety of styles from funky, to soulful to blues to acoustic country. This guy is 18. Yes, not 40 or 50 or even 30. His songs are lived in and real. There’s nothing plastic or fake about this young fella, he’s the real deal. He has been in the good hands of Adam Eckersley and that McClymont Sister, wife, Brooke, which would be a good thang.

This album is very polished and offers up something for just about everyone who likes good music. He has been on the road a bit, which would help his delivery, you can hear the performance quality on here, it is not just a singer singing songs.

Worth a little more, Nobody Else, Keep Rollin’ and If that’s what you need are my favourites, but they are all good quality songs.

It is a big ask to produce an album of this standard at such a young age, especially when it is your first. Having the variety, the voice and the musicianship of Adam and his band and some fine tuning from Nick DiDia, a Grammy award winner, no less, who mixed the album was a smart move as well.

Blake, of course, produced an EEP last year which was high quality, too and made my ears prick up and ready for more. It will be interesting to see what direction he takes in country music over the next few years, as he could go a few ways.

We are blessed in Australia, right now, with lots of young performers and producers who are making the future in country music very exciting to think about and look forward to.

Blake is one to watch.

His album will be launched at the Hats Off Festival in Tamworth this weekend.  Enjoy.

 

Tracks:

Let Me Be

Beautiful As You

If You Wanna Get To Heaven

Worth A Little More

One Way Street

Learn How To Love

Keep Rollin’

Nobody Else Can

Ain’t So High

If That’s What You Need

Totally Biased Fan Review – Wild Heart – Emma Beau

 

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Most of these tracks were penned by Emma. This album was produced by the amazing Michael Carpenter.

I have known Emma’s music for a long time, so long that her name was not even Emma Beau when I first knew her. She has supported so many amazing artists from various genres over the years. And she is still very young. As a back up fiddle player, support artist and multi faceted muso and singer, she has learned her craft with some of the greatest Aussie artists of all time.

It is finally time for her to shine. She has travelled many roads to come to this point. It is hard to believe that she has been around for so long and yet she is still so young and on the precipice of her own new adventure.

Her music is such a fusion of styles. She covers a lot of the 79 types of country music here. I guess that it is mainly a mix of alt. country, folk and country rock. Her voice is so melodious and complexed. Think a mixture of Tori Forsyth, Imogen Clark, Katie Brianna and just a touch of Kate Miller-Heidke to confuse us and delight us all. Mainly though, Emma is Emma. She has always followed her own path, an original who is not afraid to learn from others and stay true to herself at the same time.

The beauty of country music today in Australia is that most artists are not afraid to push boundaries, to test the waters and to mix genres. They can do all of this without going to the totally pop circuit that some Americans are doing. Good music is good music and this album exudes that. I only go down this path if I think that it is worth it. I have been a fan of Emma’s for a long time and I am willing to flex my country music muscles to include her into my country music world, because she is quality. She has the ability to embrace even the most hardened country music fan, because she can draw in the most sceptical of country music fans with quality music.

She can also draw some young folks and music lovers outside the country music genre by breaking down boundaries and  making her music not totally twang.

I am a sixties Aquarian child, so of course I am attracted to the folk side, the addition of one of the only unoriginal tracks here with House of The Rising Sun which is actually older than the 60’s, we just relate to it there because of Bob. I actually think that this is Emma’s forte. I would be directing her in this style if I was in charge, it is her strength.

Her vocal gymnastics are a trip. The musicianship of this album is polished and worth the price of admission.

She would fit in very well to the Alt. Country Music scene in Melbourne, should she ever decide to head south.

Emma is in good hands, she is not afraid to try new things, different things. You should feel the same way.

This is a long awaited album. Bravo to all who contributed to getting this album up and running.

I am sure that Jon English is looking down on earth and cheering. Go Emma.

 

Track Listing

Wild Heart
Leading Me Astray
Poison
Bridesmaid
Guilty Gun
Dark Eyes
Stars
Lost in You
Down to the River
House of the Rising Sun
Waitin’ on the Time