Totally Biased Fan Review – Number 26 – Gary Leonard Hammond


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.




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



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.


Back to Broken Hill

Don’t Feel Down


From This Mother To My Mother

Preacher Man

No one tells my darling what to do


All that I wanted

8 Years and Counting

Songs Remember Me

Not Gonna Miss Me

Totally Biased Fan Review – Gradual – Open up your heart EP



A little while ago, I did a review of Cathy Dobson’s album launch. These guys were featured in that review, because Gradual were the support act and they also backed Cathy in her set. They also had just a wee bit to do with Cathy’s album.

They are the tightest band that I have heard in a long time. They played musical chairs that day with them all jumping around playing different instruments.

Now, they are not really a country act, which is what I review on here, hence me putting it in the Off the Cuff stuff. I really like them though, in fact, at times they sound more country than a lot of bands these days claiming to be country do. It doesn’t really matter, good music is good music.

This E.P. features two tracks written by Brian Baker (the front man) and one co-written by Brian and a name that most rock music followers in the Southern Hemisphere will know, Eddie Rayner. Eddie was of course, a member of Split Enz.

If you have 13 minutes and 1 second spare, toss this on the stereo, turn it up loud so that you can hear the great drumming, awesome bass and full on guitars. Open Up your heart is really catchy. You will be humming it around the house. We fall slowly has that easy, coastal feel. For Love was previously released in a different version but I like this acoustic sound. Like most good E.Ps and E.E.Ps, this offering leaves you wanting more.

Gradual is Carolyn Oates, Brian Baker, David Carr and Darren Trott

They are all wonderful musicians in their own right. Together, they are extra special.

If you like Crowded House, Hunters and Collectors and the like, you will like Gradual. They will instantly appeal to you…nothing gradual about this lot!




Open up your heart (Brian Baker)

We fall slowly (Brian Baker)

For Love (acoustic) (Brian Baker and Eddie Rayner)


Totally Biased Fan Review – Luke O’Shea – Pinball

Luke O'Shea Pinball

What Luke had to say about the album and what was posted on his Facebook page:

Many moons ago there was a band…

Medicine Wheel was its name and it was fronted by a young, singer-songwriter, called Luke O’Shea.

After living and touring abroad for eight years, throughout Canada, the United States, Japan, Ireland and Great Britain, Luke returned home to Terra Australis to pursue his music career within the evaporating live music scene. It was the late 1990’s where angst driven grunge was being replaced by more melodic alt-rock – and the competitive and corporate ‘Battle of the Bands’ – were all the rage.

After claiming a few titles – Medicine Wheel – with varying musicians, slowly built up a solid reputation as an explosive live band– but once again after returning home busted arse broke from another run up and down the East Coast, a disgruntled O’Shea stumbles across the Tamworth Country Music Festival. Greatly inspired by what he sees, hears and feels, Luke’s writing and recording takes a notable turn and soon afterwards Luke O’Shea & Medicine Wheel are signed to ABC/Universal Music Australia, giving Luke a loving step up into the Country Music fraternity. Twenty years, seven albums and nine Golden Guitars later, Luke O’Shea is now firmly established within the Australian Country Music family – and is widely regarded as one of its finest writers.

However… before completely surrendering over to the stories, instrumentation and production of Australian country music – Luke teamed up with long time collaborators, David Sleishman on drums – Kiwi guitarist, Phil Doublet – and bass player, producer Matt Fell, – with the pure, muse-driven focus of capturing the songs and the very special wikka – that was Medicine Wheel.

Now due to the politics of varying labels, managers, distributors, agents, branding and all the other bullshit that goes hand in hand with a career in music – this Luke O’Shea / Medicine Wheel project – was never released. Bizarrely – for 15 long, crazy years, this incredible collection of songs have simply been patiently waiting – just bouncing around – like a rogue Pinball.

As Luke finally decrees, “It is my sincere pleasure to finally share this project with you. It will certainly give you – the listener – an insight as to where I came from musically – and what fuelled me around planet for so long. The songs and stories are still identifiably Luke O’Shea but perhaps the lyrics are a little more cryptic with more universal themes. I sincerely love the distinct energy, power and passion behind each track – where the combined focus, musicianship and production skills of Phil, Matt and myself have made many of these songs far bigger than the sum of its parts. I hope you enjoy – and if so – please share Pinball with friends and music lovers, far and wide!”


I went to a Luke O’Shea and Damian Howard gig a few weeks ago in Melbourne, which I reviewed on CountryAs (before I couldn’t post on there) – you can still read it by following the link on this blog. I asked Luke if he had any new music coming out soon. He said that he was working with Damian and Lachlan from The Wildes and that got me excited. What a special combination. He said that something would come out later in the year. Then bing bam boom, this gets released. A day’s warning from guitarist and equally talented Phil Doublet, hit facebook and we all attacked ITunes. The genre is Pop. Perhaps that was why Luke didn’t mention it, he probably thinks that I only like country music. Good music is good music and I have everything from Classical to Blues to Jazz to Musicals to 60’s rock and folk to heavy metal in my collection – not just country. I even have some Opera!

The key word in my question was also “new music”. Essentially, this stuff is 15 years old or more.  To be honest, a lot of it doesn’t drift far from what Luke does normally anyway. Some tracks are a bit rockier, bluesier, but it is still essentially Luke. That distinctive voice and those little tell tale wo oh ohs and elongated words and yeahs.

Melissa Robertson, who is a fellow Luke devotee and she even wrote a song about Luke, “He’s A Writer of Songs”, said that she thought that it sounded like an album with Paul and The Wings feel. I can hear that a bit on some tracks, but it is undeniably Luke. Being compared to Paul is kind of a cool thing, though.

Snow on the Brindabellas is not a new song to Luke fans (not Show on the Brindabellas – as it is listed on ITunes!) It has always been a favourite of mine, so I am glad that it was included for some familiarity and as it is the last track, it is fitting….showing where Luke and the boys went afterwards.

All the songs are good, quality songs and they should have been included on a recording years ago. Such is the command of the powers that be. Maybe it was because they head down a slightly different track to the genre specifics that record companies wanted. I am not sure.

I think that Luke has reached a point now where he can call the shots more. It is a long way from the days when I was one of the few in the crowd….now they are hanging off the rafters and getting turned away at gigs because there aren’t any seats available. Golden Guitars, tributes, other awards and recognition from varied audiences and critics have helped all of that.

The album is polished, surprising, not surprising and full of new favourites. Luke could sing the phone book to me and I would love it. If you love Luke’s regular stuff, you will love this.

If you are afraid of the brand, country, you can pick this up and enjoy it for what it is, an interesting mix of styles that anyone can enjoy without thinking that they have slipped into that “uncool” genre that many of us love.


Track Listing

Wait a minute

Lost in All the Things that don’t matter


Because of Love (High Horses)

Come on Get out


These are the days


Come and Gone

Tell it to the World

Call for Me

Greatest show in town

Snow on the Brindabellas