This review of one of my fave Kiwi artists will be a bit different. It will include thoughts of her own. I will add my own thoughts. Thanks to Therese McKee and Aly for allowing me to share this with you ahead of the release. Sometimes, I think that it is important that the artist speaks for themselves. There are many mixed emotions on this album. I think that extenuating circumstances speak for themselves.
There are three covers and the rest of them are originals. Nothing shabby about the covers: John Prine, Lucinda Williams and Kasey Chambers.
The late great Glen Hannah is all over this album, however, the only track that he doesn’t feature in is dedicated to him, Cold Wind. For those of us who knew Glen and know Felicity, it does bring tears to the table.
Aly Cook has probably spent more time travelling Australia than Aussies have. Red Dirt Road Trip is full of that. This Kiwi has spent just as much time in Australia recording, co-writing and performing as most Aussie artists. Iconic Aussie artist, Buzz features on many of the tracks and co-writes are there again.
Allan Caswell is a familiar co-writer with Aly, and he is there again on the beautiful track, Prize Ribbons.
One of my favourite tracks is Hold Me. There is a featured artist on here that will brighten the days of all 80’s music fans, Sharon O’Neill.
My absolute favourite on this album is The Garden Swing, probably appealing to my Irish Roots. I am Swirish, half Swiss and half Irish. This will make another point in a future song!
When you have a title like We Hold Up Half the Sky, you have to wonder about the meaning. I will turn it over to you, but the meaning to me is crystal clear.
Sunflowers is a bit Piafy, Aly had a Swiss/French father. I had a Swiss/German grandfather and a Swiss/French great grandfather, so I can relate.
Caught in the Middle, the title track is very bluesy. This album covers many of the 79 different types of country music.
To end it on Cold Wind, is just apt and very memorable. Just a beautiful song, dedicated to a beautiful guy.
This is a long awaited album. A treasure of songs that are all different and cover the many shades of country music. The ANZAC spirit lives on in this album. I hope that you enjoy Aly’s comments and note the fabulous artists who worked on the album and who helped put it together.
Pre-Release album track – Steal your Love – Friday 6th September, 2019. 1st single and Music Video – Track 1 – Red Dirt Road Trip – Friday 20th September, 2019. Album Launch – Friday Sept 27th
Aly Cook – Caught in the Middle takes you on a multi genre journey through country, blues, roots and acoustic. An eclectic collection of works that is all tied together through outstanding musicianship and Cook’s heartfelt delivery of the songs. The album contains 9 original works and 3 selected covers. The musicians include some of Australia’s top session musicians with a special guest performance by New Zealand multi award winning recording artist Sharon O’Neill. Recorded and Mixed by Buzz Bidstrup and David Nicholas at Asquith Studios Sydney and Produced by Graham ‘Buzz’ Bidstrup, Cook raised the funds to record this album as she did her previous 2 albums via a crowdfunding & extended pre-sale period. The album is released on SBD Music and distributed by MGM Distribution.(Southbound in NZ)
1. RED DIRT ROAD TRIP (1st Single 20/9/19) Written by Aly Cook, Graham Bidstrup & Kay Bidstrup
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Acoustic Guitar – Dean Ray Lead Guitar – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – Clive Harrison Piano – Rick Melick Pedal Steel – John Kaldor Guitarlele, Rhythm Guitar, Drums & Percussion – Buzz Bidstrup Backing Vocals – Jon Abo, Buzz Bidstrup, Kay Bidstrup & AlyCook
I first got the idea for this song travelling the road from Sydney to Mildura across the Hay Plain and remembering the many Red Dirt Roads I have travelled over the years Singing to the radio. Worked up the song in the lounge at Asquith studios with my co-writers Buzz and Kay and really it’s just a fun upbeat song. The couple of times I’ve road tested it to an audience it’s definitely appealed to the line dancers … as well as those that like to rock!
2. FIRST TO THROW A STONE Written by Kay Bidstrup, Aly Cook & Graham Bidstrup
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Acoustic Guitar – Dean Ray Lead Guitar – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – Clive Harrison Piano – Rick Melick Drums & Percussion – Buzz Bidstrup Backing Vocals – Aly Cook
This is like ‘the relationship breaking down song’ brought to the table by Kay. To me it’s really about the demons we all battle. The line ‘Little demon’s won’t let go just below the skin does it show’ really says it. We all battle the non perfect parts of ourselves, and in relationships we all have our differences, and in some ways this song to me brings the saying to mind ‘Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house’, none of us are perfect. It’s about holding it together with our differences .
3. STEAL YOUR LOVE (Pre-Release 6th September, 2019.) Written by Lucinda Williams
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Guitars – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – James Gillard Keyboards – Rick Melick Pedal Steel – John Kaldor Drums – Buzz Bidstrup
I have loved Lucinda Williams long time, above all else her sincerity and pure honesty, and that is something I reach for in my music. This is one of her lesser known tracks and one of Buzz’s favourites from her album ‘Essence’ . I really just enveloped myself in the moment delivering this song. Something very special on this album was being in separate rooms, but all very together, recording live and in the moment inside our head phones. I love the journey the musicians take on this after I finish the singing and they just meander and feel their way through. Just a lot of love in the room at Asquith Studio.
4. PRIZE RIBBONS Written by Allan Caswell & Aly Cook
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Acoustic Guitar – Dean Ray Backing Vocals – Aly Cook, Buzz Bidstrup & Kay Bidstrup
To me this is a very personal story . After years of riding horses my back gave out and to keep walkingI made the decision to give up riding horses. However, I know the life of a family in horses, I took the song to Allan Caswell and we worked on it one lovely afternoon in the Blue Mountains . He introduced Henry into the picture who passed away in the song. To me Henry is like my back it died too .. and yes I do use my prize ribbons to tie my curtains at home. This is a beautiful but simple country story song … with lovely acoustic guitar accompaniment by Dean Ray.
5. HOLD ME Written by Aly Cook & Kay Bidstrup
Lead Vocal & Acoustic Guitar – Aly Cook Special Guest Vocal – Sharon O’Neill 12 String & Slide Guitar – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – Clive Harrison Keyboards – Rick Melick Percussion – Buzz Bidstrup Violin – George Washingmachine
This is like the one night stand song, written on a sunny morning at the kitchen table with Kay while Buzz was working on another song in the studio. She meets the super star but she’s only with him for that night, then he’s gone .. It’s a pretty but airy song. One with my beautiful gal pal Sharon O’Neill singing along side me. Can just listen and drift away to this one.
6. NOT PRETTY ENOUGH Written by Kasey Chambers
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Special Guest Vocal – Sharon O’Neill Guitars – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – James Gillard, Keyboards – Rick Melick, Drums – Buzz Bidstrup, Backing Vocals – Aly Cook, Kay Bidstup, Buzz Bidstrup & Therese McKee
We were only going to put 2 cover songs on the CD but the decision to make it 3 was unanimous when we recorded this song for the Asquith Sessions. We all know how hard it is for artists to get their music played on commercial radio, let alone having to live up to some stereotype image of ‘the pretty pop star’. I’ve spoken to a select committee at Parliament in NZ on NZ Music quotas, and I’m particularly supportive of female artists, so the meaning within the song resonated for me just as Kasey Chambers does as an artist . The Chambers family ‘Dead Ringer Band’ in Australia have always reminded me of the Coalrangers in NZ who I’m very close too. It is the rootsy honesty in Kasey’s music that appeals and we wanted to honour that while putting our own stamp on the song. The band had recorded an inspired live rhythm track for the Asquith Sessions and later Sharon and I spent a beautiful afternoon recording the main vocals together and putting some different accents on the song. We like to think we made it our own x
7. ANGEL FROM MONTGOMERY Written by John Prine
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook, Male Guest Vocal – John Abo Guitars – Glen Hannah, Bass Guitar – James Gillard Keyboards – Rick Melick, Pedal Steel – John Kaldor Drums – Buzz Bidstrup Backing Vocals – Aly Cook
John Prine is just a most brilliant writer and Bonnie Raitt one of my idols. So this was an obvious choice. My audience are mature and anyone who has been in a long term relationship can relate. What I find so amazing about this song, as a songwriter, is that John Prine wrote it from a woman’s perspective, just brilliant! It sits where I do between country and blues. It was great to sing the choruses with Jon Abo and the band cut it in one take !
8. THE GARDEN SWING Written by Aly Cook, Graham Bidstrup & Kay Bidstrup
Lead Vocal, Vocal Whistle & Acoustic Guitar – Aly Cook Acoustic Guitar – Dean Ray Violin – George Washingmachine Percussion & Guitarlele – Buzz Bidstrup Backing Vocal – Aly Cook, Kay Bidstrup & Buzz Bidstrup
This song is one that was inspired by a story told to me by a friend . From that story I created a version in my mind visually of a young couple in Ireland , in love and in poverty, who had a secret place by the sea. Together we wrote this traditional sounding song. Her boyfriend built a garden swing out of old branches lashed together and that swing was on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. They would take food and water there and cuddle together as they gazed out across the ocean. One day she stole a loaf of bread, as they were poor and hungry. Her intent was to take it to the Garden Swing, however, she was caught in the act and shipped to Australia as a convict. A few months later her boyfriend, broken hearted, broke the law purposefully so that he too would be shipped to Australia. They take a lifetime to find each other and finally marry in their later years. He then gathers branches from Gum Trees and builds her a Garden Swing in the Blue Mountains in Australia on a peak overlooking the bush. This is my version of a traditional bush ballad, but very Irish. The one thing I love about Australian Country music is the uniqueness of the Irish heritage that infiltrates the sound of the bush ballad…The sound of the early pioneers to the great southern land.
9. WE HOLD UP HALF THE SKY Written by Kay Bidstrup, Aly Cook & Graham Bidstrup
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Acoustic Guitar – Dean Ray Lead Guitar – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – Clive Harrison Keyboards – Rick Melick Guitarlele, Drums & Percussion – Buzz Bidstrup Violin – George Washingmachine Backing Vocal – Aly Cook, Kay Bidstrup & Buzz Bidstrup
The ultimate woman empowerment song! We women hold up half the sky . Whether we be a woman standing on a dirt floor or a woman in a cafe in New York, we are all different ,we are incredible, and we are strong! This is a personal favourite of mine on the album.
10. SUNFLOWERS Written by Aly Cook, Kay Bidstrup & Graham Bidstrup
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Acoustic Guitar – Dean Ray Lead Guitar – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – Clive Harrison Keyboards – Rick Melick Drums & Percussion – Buzz Bidstrup Backing Vocals – Aly Cook
The inspiration for this song came from my trip to Europe in 2011. We took the family with us. I am from Swiss heritage and my mother was Swiss French. My daughter Melody was in the car and our French friend was pointing things out and referring to them in French and asking Melody to repeat the phrases. We were driving through narrow roads lined with fields of Sunflowers and she was saying “Je Vois le Vash” (I see the cow) , “Je Vois Le Maison” ( I see the house) . I’ve always loved sunflowers and grow some in my garden every year. So one of the phrases was “Je Vois Le Tournesol” I see the Sunflowers .. and actually Tournesol means ‘turn to the sun’ and as anyone knows who’s grown sunflowers they turn to face the sun. I’ve always thought of them as having bright shiny yellow faces. This song is quite like cafe music .. cruisy and pretty.
11. CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE Written by Kay Bidstrup & Aly Cook
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Acoustic Guitar – Dean Ray Lead Guitar – Glen Hannah Bass Guitar – Clive Harrison Keyboards – Rick Melick Drums & Percussion – Graham Bidstrup Backing Vocals – Aly Cook
Kay started writing this song after one of her friends had escaped a terrorist attack. They were tourists sitting around on a sunny day, enjoying lunch and just having a great time, then a bomb goes off and their lives change forever. Luckily they had turned left instead of right when they left the hotel! During the pre-production of the album, the Christchurch terror attacks happened, so this was fresh in everyone’s mind at the time of recording. This is also one of the reasons I chose to make it the title track of the album. The title also has meaning for me because I am ‘Caught in the Middle’ between Blues and Country .
12 . COLD WIND Written by Kay Bidstrup
Lead Vocal – Aly Cook Piano – Rick Melick Backing Vocals Aly Cook, Kay Bidstrup, Buzz Bidstrup, L’Freaq, & Rick Melick
This album has been a bit of a journey as all albums are. The excitement of the recording process and the joy of listening to the final mixes was tempered by the passing of Glen Hannah, the guitarist playing on the majority of the album. He tragically died shortly after the recording sessions so this album is dedicated to his memory. Although I didn’t know Glen well, his death really devastated me as it did the whole music industry. I am a mother and wife and felt for his wife and children. When word came through, it was a cold windy day in Sydney and Kay sat broken hearted at her piano and wrote this song. When she played it to me I knew this would be the song I wanted to close the album. I couldn’t go to Glen’s funeral ,as I was back in New Zealand, so I had no chance to grieve with all his friends. I felt I had no closure. When I got back to Australia, we went over to Rick Melick’s house and recorded the song with just piano and all of us singing around one microphone. The delivery of the song was my closure and a totally cathartic experience. How lucky we are as musicians to let the pain of our heart out through our music. Thank you for your musicality Glen and the special sounds you left over my album RIP .
Recorded and Mixed by Buzz Bidstrup and David Nicholas Produced by Graham ‘Buzz’ Bidstrup
Track listing and ISRC codes for Radio
1. Red Dirt Road Trip AUMGB1900346 2. First to Throw a Stone AUMGB1900347 3. Steal Your Love AUMGB1900348 4. Prize Ribbons AUMGB1900349 5. Hold Me AUMGB1900350 6. Am I Not Pretty Enough AUMGB1900351 7. Angel From Montgomery AUMGB1900352 8. The Garden Swing AUMGB1900353 9. We Hold Up Half the Sky AUMGB1900354 10. Sunflowers AUMGB1900355 11. Caught in the Middle AUMGB1900356 12. Cold Wind AUMGB1900357