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Something for Nothing
Melting Pot – Caroline Perks

Caroline Perks recently launched her new CD Melting Pot at SCALA. I was lucky enough to be the first paying customer on the night and was rewarded with a copy of the CD. Such a windfall deserves nothing less than a review for SCALA News, so here goes...

The CD was recorded at Horrastudios, home of Horrahedd (Glenn Wagland). I only discovered Horrahedd last year, and flogged the Terra Muzick CD whenever I was programming the SCALA on AIR radio show. After listening to this CD, I think the combination of Caroline's warmth and Glenn's inventiveness gives a quality to the music that is rare and also engaging. Not that I doubt that Glenn is warm and Caroline is inventive you understand...

The CD opens with Moonbeams, where an almost waltz-like acoustic guitar rhythm is accompanied by delightful keyboard playing. Caroline's voice has an instant familiarity and I found myself getting into the whole thing effortlessly. After two minutes or so, the strummed rhythm gives way to a new tempo, with keyboards and bass guitar coming to the fore as Caroline slows the mood and gives a more serious aspect to the song. A great opener for the CD, previously achieving Highly Commended status in the FOOM 2001 Demo Section.

Dancing dwarfs is next up, and within ten seconds of the intro I am sold. A tiny voice sings of dancing with rabbits and eagles in the forest, and I have a perfect picture forming in my mind of this scene. A growing number of people and animals joining hands/paws - whatever - frolicking in the early morning light. The "vocals" between verses three and four are perfect. So Horrahedd... images of a dwarf exhorting me to dance in the long grass.

Track three is Grasp a hand, the straightest song so far in terms of arrangement, and an extreme contrast to Dancing dwarfs. The double-tracked vocals add a different quality to Caroline's voice, as she invites us all to be a little more open and friendly towards one another. Something the world could do with a little more of...

Next comes Million miles, a song about leaving. The mood of the lyric matches the arrangement quite neatly. The heavily effected Where are you? refrains help to paint the picture of distance. The song changes into a less sombre shuffle after a couple of minutes, picks up pace and - perhaps it was just me - but I could align the rhythm with Caroline's "morning train" as it makes its way to a destination unknown, but a long way away.

You win, we win is a song about making the effort to change things for the better. Layered vocals interweave and Caroline makes the point that we need to "be brave to make a change; to change the world we live in". It's not a question of being right or wrong, more about taking steps to actually do something.

The CD closes with Something for nothing, the rockiest song, which features some nice funked up wah-guitar. I think we are talking about using our love to help the world here. The song ends, as it begins, with snippets of taped conversations.

After reading a recent interview with Caroline (SCALA News #92), I was concerned when getting the CD that it would be a disjointed affair, representing songs from different periods of her life. I found that although each song is quite different, there is still a fluency to the CD and I continue to enjoy it whenever I put it into the CD player.

Overall this disc offers the listener something different in every track, hence the title Melting Pot. The musicians involved (Caroline, Glenn, Kevin Perks and Adrienne Sheerin) have combined to make some great music. The Horrahedd influence is prevalent on some of the songs, and this only serves to augment the interesting lyrics and vocals. Caroline's songs are both accessible and interesting, a rare combination in my experience.

My only criticism is that it isn't enough! I am very keen to hear more of Caroline, and I look forward to seeing her at SCALA again sometime soon.

Buy this CD.

David Robinson

SCALA News #93

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The Producers

Having never seen the musical version of The Producers, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this production of one of my favourite films. I needn’t have worried.
Director Glenn Vallen and his cast & crew have done a great job in bringing the show to the Adelaide stage.
The Producers tells the story of declining Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Matt Byrne) and his accountant Leo Bloom (Michael Williams), who devise and execute a cynical and foolproof moneymaking plan. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned...
Byrne and Williams are well suited to their roles, and are very well supported by a talented cast. Swedish bombshell Ulla, played by Rebecca Payne, sings, dances and paints her way into the lives of the two principles. Crowd favourites on the night included Carmen Ghia (Dirk Strachan) and crazy German playwright Franz Liebkind (Angus Smith). Kim Clark was superb, especially in the production number Springtime For Hitler, which was a highlight of the evening.
There were very few signs of opening night troubles. Some of the vocals could/should be louder but I expect this will right itself. Similarly, the task of aligning recorded sound effects with on-stage action proved difficult to perfect. Some songs were stronger than others, but I suspect that lies in the writing rather than the execution.
The audience had a great night, and would have happily stayed for another rendition of ‘Springtime’. Bravo!

David Robinson

Rip It Up magazine, 2007

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Harmony of One
Andy Armstrong & Marta Bayly

I have spent many nights watching Andy Armstrong & Marta Bayly performing for appreciative open mic audiences over the last couple of years. The duo has also held down a regular spot at the Lady Daly Hotel, and has appeared at a range of other Adelaide venues. Their talents were recognised during this year’s Festival of Original Music competition, and it seems timely that we should now see the release of their first album, Harmony of One.
The CD contains 15 original songs and, with a running time of just under 50 minutes, the listener is presented with a hefty slice of Andy and Marta’s body of work.
The selection of songs included on the disc is close to what I expected to hear after seeing Andy & Marta perform, with the added bonus of all the compositions being original. Musically, the album covers a range of styles and tempos without ever straying too far from the predominant flavour of North American-influenced acoustic country/folk. Listeners will enjoy the jazzy feel of It Was You, the skilled finger-picking in Take Me To The River, and the rockabilly leanings of No One To Blame.
The songs are well crafted, making the most of the vocal harmonies for which Andy and Marta have become known around town. Simple yet evocative lyrics throughout the CD augment the accessibility of the music. This is not an album designed to change the world, but it will have you tapping your foot.
It is difficult for me to single out any particular songs as standouts, because the disc is a consistently good effort. I suspect that each one of the songs included on this album will become someone’s personal favourite. Highlights from this listener’s perspective include the award-winning Honey Bee, the heartfelt Love At First Sight and Whatever The Hell I’ve Got. The coupling of The Lion And The Lamb and Tomorrow is inspired; two great songs complementing each other.
The musicianship is top notch, and a number of familiar names crop up in the guest list. Stuart Day lends his talents on many of the tracks, as do Steve Fleming (bass) and Liv Bafile (drums/percussion). Darren Zaza, Tim Irrgang and Corey Stewart appear on Since I Met You, one of Marta’s two compositions that grace the CD. James Evan Jones pops up a couple of times. Phil Cuneen, who played on Andy’s album Before I Forget… plays keyboards on Tomorrow. On top of all this, we get Andy and Marta’s guitars, in addition to their rather wonderful vocals.
The album was recorded at Back Beat Studios by Dave Gully, who also assisted Andy and Marta with the production. The finished product is of excellent quality, with all the instruments being discernable while still blending to make a “complete” sound.
This album will be enjoyed by many, many people. Don’t be the one who misses out.

David Robinson

SCALA News #120

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Toy Symphony
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide, Sat January 30

Michael Gow’s Toy Symphony, directed by Geordie Brookman, is playing in Adelaide after enjoying a successful pre-Christmas season in Brisbane. This joint production between the State Theatre and Queensland Theatre Companies marks the beginning of the former’s 2010 season.
The play is ostensibly a story of a writer who, for reasons not immediately apparent, has lost his ability to write. Seeking professional help, without really being sure if he wants or needs it, Roland Henning slowly opens up to his therapist. Once the surface is scratched, the audience is taken on a journey through the conscious and subconscious moments that have shaped Roland’s life.
The simple but effective set serves as consulting room, office, classroom and more, all skilfully augmented by the subtle lighting and audio effects. There is the odd spectacular moment when the stage bursts into colourful, fantastic recollections of episodes from Roland’s life.
Adelaide actor Chris Pitman is Roland and, quite impressively, features on stage for the duration of the show. He is well supported by the small cast, some playing multiple roles. Lizzy Falkland is Nina, the psychologist who helps Roland explore the reasons behind his creative impasse. Daniel Mulvihill does a great job as both Nick, Roland’s Latvian school friend, and also as aspiring actor Daniel. Ed Wightman is memorable as the copyright lawyer and the (rather too) animated drug dealer, Tom. Mrs Walkham, played by Barbara Lowing, conjures up memories of matronly 1960s primary school teachers, resplendent in big yellow frock.
The action jumps back and forth through the various episodes that have delivered Roland into his current malaise. Most of the scenes are entertaining and powerful, although the amount of time spent describing Como and its history was perhaps disproportionate in terms of its importance to the story.
Ultimately, this is a sometimes oblique journey through the mind and life experiences of a troubled individual. It provides moments of levity, in fact there are plenty of laughs. However, it also hints that the heart of the creative process can sometimes be a cold, dark and lonely place. It is an unflinching look at the things that shape us; the things that never quite go away.

David Robinson

Toy Symphony continues at the Dunstan Playhouse until February 14

Rip It Up magazine #1071, 4-10 Feb 2010

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Cosmic Storm
Cosmic Room, Festival Centre, Adelaide, South Australia.
Saturday Apr 10, 2010.

Surrounded by a few hundred of their friends, fans and family members, Cosmic Storm presented a showcase of their new album, Nobody’s Fool, in the suitably monikered Cosmic Room on Saturday night. Street magician James James and singer/guitarist Steve Lennox provided some early entertainment which was appreciated, but it was clear as to what the audience really wanted to see. The band received a warm welcome upon taking the stage and immediately set to work giving the expectant crowd what it wanted. The songs had an immediately familiar feel; heads were bobbing and feet were tapping from the outset. The band roared through their set playing well-crafted originals, most securely set within their rocky, bluesy influences. The six-piece ensemble combined so that no one musician dominated, yet each was given the opportunity to shine. High points for this listener were the show opener (and CD title track) Nobody’s Fool, the pace-changing delight of Nothing to Say and the straight up rock of Bring It To Me. The band left the stage after a rapid fire set comprising 15 songs, returning for a crowd-pleasing encore that doffed its cap to its Iron Horse origins, and threw in a drum solo for good measure.
Cosmic Storm’s live credentials are myriad. If they are good enough to play with Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Paul Stanley, then I suspect that they are good enough for you. Keep your eyes peeled for more gigs…

David Robinson

SCALA News #122

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Cosmic Storm
Nobody’s Fool

Nobody’s Fool is the debut offering from local outfit Cosmic Storm. It serves as a fine example of what happens when talented musicians get together, and work to deliver a set of well written songs.
You know what you are getting with Cosmic Storm; mature rock-pop that has its foundations in electric blues and boogie. This album announces itself with the bluesy title track, a powerful foot-tapper that provides a new spin on a familiar riff, and sets the scene for the remainder of the disc.
Although this album treads fairly familiar ground in a musical sense, there is a thoughtfulness and craft in the lyrics that is worth paying attention to. Vocalist Judy Higgins has a hand in most of the lyrics, and her turn of phrase is generally well suited to the musical mood of the song.
The songs of bassist Kevin Perks provide some deviation from the musical norm of the album. His Nothing To Say provides a contrast in both musical and lyrical mood, and My Way offers a similar, albeit heavier, variation.
Other high points on the CD include the aforementioned Nobody’s Fool, the upbeat Shining Down On Me, the multi-faceted Bring It To Me, and the slow-burning Trust Me Baby.
This is a well recorded and well executed album. The band are tight; there’s some lovely touches from Matt Williams on guitar, and John Yacka’s drums give the songs plenty of drive. Nobody’s Fool will please fans of North American-oriented AOR and anyone else who enjoys sitting back and listening to well-crafted music.

David Robinson

SCALA News #122

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Satan’s Cheerleaders
Shimmering West. Light Square, Adelaide, South Australia.
Thursday Feb 25, 2010.

I went down to Light Square last Thursday for the opening night of the Shimmering West series of outdoor gigs. I wanted to get a taste of a different sort of Fringe offering, and get my first look at Satan’s Cheerleaders.
Despite the name, these guys are not a blood-spewing death metal band. Rather, they a quartet of very capable musicians who have conspired to play irreverent, intelligent and, importantly, very enjoyable music. Not a drop of blood in sight.
The band announced itself with Kingpin – a rocking aural assault which left me wondering what I was in for. The second song immediately changed the vibe. A Tip of the Hat is slower, and gentler, than Kingpin. It is a worthy song, both musically and lyrically, and proved a perfect counterpoint to the opener. I immediately realised that it would be a brave journalist indeed who dared assign any particular genre to this group’s musical style.
100% Sold on Jesus kicked of with big drums and some mad riffing from the guitar and sax, sounding a little like a 1920s dance band on crack. Eventually the song settled into a fifties rockabilly groove; yet another musical dimension...
And so it went. Kricfalusi and SS are epic instrumentals that, I think, come from the heart and soul of the band. This is the music of insane circus clowns with attitude. Venturing into comedy polka while retaining just a hint of menace, this just could be the signature sound of Satan’s Cheerleaders.
These guys don’t seem to take things particularly seriously, and seem very comfortable with that approach. They skip from rock to vaudeville to ska to lounge without ever looking like it is anything less than a perfectly natural way to make music. Simon Ridley (vocals, keys and guitar), Jarrad Payne (drums), Derek Pascoe (sax) and Jamie Mensforth (bass) have combined to bring to life a band, and a sound, that will please those who like to listen to music that deliberately contains a bit of everything. Whatever that means.
It was all over far too soon. Great fun, with hefty portions of smarts thrown in for good measure. People around me were making comparisons with Mr Bungle but I thought that, somewhere amongst the calculated chaos, I could hear the ghost of Frank Zappa and the Mothers.
I hear that these boys are off to Europe soon so my advice is to go and see them while you still can.

David Robinson

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The golden north
Six Bags to the Acre – Stirling North & the Serious Lack of Rainfall

I very much like it when a CD comes my way, unannounced, and manages to capture my attention. Something that’s a bit different; something that stands out from the dross. Six Bags to the Acre, by Stirling North & the Serious Lack of Rainfall, might just be one of those albums. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I first listened, but this collection of six songs has crept into my head and stayed there.

This ensemble began life as a side project of Adelaide folk-punker outfit OneDogOneBone. It is, as yet, of undetermined longevity. The four-piece core of the band comprises Peter Wilson (vocals), Paul Mead (bass, drums, harmonica, vocals), Steve O’Donoghue (guitar) and Robert Williams (guitars, vocals). On this recording, Machael Bahlij (keyboards, banjo, steel, vocals), Rachael Maxwell (mandolin,vocals) and Marie DeLint (flute, harmonica) lend their considerable talents, augmenting the guitar and drum sound without diluting the joyous roughhousing that is present throughout.

Many of the small towns dotted around South Australia’s rural north (and beyond) are referenced throughout this disc. Paeans to the joys of Laura’s ice cream, evening barbecues in Saddleworth, and sprawling night skies are all featured. The apparent folly of attempting to farm and grow crops beyond Goyder’s Line is also highlighted. Stirling North (get it now?) and his mates seem to have a liking for our northern climes.

Because of these lyrical themes, the CD might be construed as some form of country and/or western. But that would be drawing a long bow. It’s got more in common with The Pogues than it has with anything twangy.

Laura in the Golden North is a great opener, and will hook the listener with its wonderfully ramshackle singalong chorus and range of instrumentation. A lurching waltz, chock full of evocative lyrics, this track sets the scene for the rest of the disc.

Outback Stars and the bovine-oriented Sit Around the Pail are less conventional numbers musically; the former celebrates the wonder that is the unspoiled country night sky. It features some sublime piano from Bahlij. The latter is built around a relentless, almost clockwork rhythm and contains some inspired flute playing.

Saturday Night in Saddleworth sticks in the memory; it is one of the more commercial songs on the disc. The song paints a vivid picture of beer garden barbecues, evoking rose-coloured images of mates, drinks and the joys of electric light cricket.

The affectionate remembrance of pubs as they were, before the twin blights of oversized plasma screens and pokies imposed themselves, is perfectly presented in the beautifully-entitled lament Where Will the Derros Drink, another foot-tapper.

Goyder’s Ghost is a memorable closer; this tale of the ruined towns north of Goyder’s Line features layers of vocals and instrumentation that are delightful – it gets better with every listen.

It’s hard to tell if the band is taking the mick, or are genuinely affectionate for the things they are singing and playing about. Either way, it seems that a good time was had by all when making this record. It makes for very enjoyable listening.

At just under 25 minutes long, the CD should leave the listener keen to hear more. The songs are consistently interesting, both lyrically and musically. It is a great melding of the simple and the complex, the rough and the smooth. This disc came to me out of nowhere, and has stayed in my player for weeks. It’s not coming out anytime soon, either.

David Robinson

SCALA News #124

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A book for us all
This Could Be Big: Thirty Years at the Dag End of the Australian Music Industry – Don Morrison

One-time Bodgie, present-day Prawnhead, and seemingly perennial staple of the Adelaide music scene, Don Morrison has forgotten more about the harsh realities of the music business than most of us will ever dare experience. Or maybe he hasn’t quite forgotten them. This book, a memoir of his “thirty years at the dag end of the Australian music industry”, provides a host of tales from Morrison’s colourful career; looking at the highs and lows of embracing the life of the troubadour. More importantly though, This Could Be Big will make you smile, sometimes knowingly. You will enjoy the ride as you eagerly turn the pages, without ever dismissing the realistic slice-of-life that this book offers the reader.

The dubious joys of touring far and wide, the dealings with managers, agents and other sharks, the drab reality of the day job and the succour & solace of crafting guitars are all recanted with a disarming honesty and good-natured humour that will resonate with readers.

Morrison documents his travels through the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of his struggle to make ends meet as a jobbing musician. Sharing stage space with Midnight Oil, attempting to translate the humour behind the name “Thunderbox Carbunckle” to a Japanese backpacker, and the joys of intra-band relationships are just some of the tales he shares. There are plenty more besides…

One of the prevailing themes of the book is that, more often than not, the differences between being big and remaining a struggler aren’t that huge, and that luck and circumstance are major players in a game that has slaughtered so many wide-eyed aspirants. Morrison also clearly articulates the differences between the joyful process of making music, and the pain and hassles that go with attempting to turn that same music into a profitable venture.

This book is the perfect Christmas gift for anyone even vaguely involved in the world of music. No matter what stage of your career you think you are at, or with which particular genre you have chosen to align yourselves, you should all read this. Morrison writes earnestly and sometimes critically, but he has a wit and a way with words that show that, despite all the crap, it’s still a great ride.

Here’s to you Don, I reckon you’re doing just fine.

Copies of the book are available around the traps. See www.donmo.com for details.

David Robinson

SCALA News #124

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"Nice Music..."

I’ve known Harald Shulten for a good few years now. Harry, as he is better known, has been a regular performer on the open mic circuit and this is where we have gotten to know one another. His preference is to perform fairly early in the evenings, and he has consistently helped to get proceedings off on the right foot with his agreeable style of guitar playing. He writes and sings his own songs, performs them alongside the odd cover, and also finds time to teach guitar to a few lucky students. Harry is no stranger to SCALA performance evenings and songwriters’ workshops; many of us would know him from our regular weeknight ventures into Higher Ground.

Recently he gave me a copy of a CD he released in 2007, a nine-track effort curiously entitled Nice Music (but it’s only average). This phrase was once used rather bluntly by a film producer to describe some of Harry’s music, and has never been forgotten. Rather than take offence at the remark, Harry chose to use it as the title of his album.

The songs contained on the disc also have intriguing names, such as Why Do You Think You’re a Can of Spaghetti and Meatballs? and I Can Only Remember 4 Latin Words, and the themes behind the selections (and titles) are explained by Harry in the accompanying liner notes.

Nice Music (but it’s only average) is, in Harry’s words, “an unfinished and under-produced” effort but, when listened to in this context, provides an interesting aural excursion.

The CD features Harry playing guitar with his usual gentleness and skill, and he provides vocal accompaniment on the first and last numbers. There are no other musical augmentations - what you get is pure Harry, just voice and guitar. The tracks are concise pieces, with the longest coming in at 3:13, and are usually based on fairly simple progressions. The music is, on the whole, very pleasant and stands up well. The guitar is his strength and, if I was to offer any constructive comment about the disc, it would be that it would be a stronger effort if it were limited to the instrumental tracks.

My two favourite tracks are Sometimes I’m Happy, which I have heard Harry play live on numerous occasions, and Sad Songs. He says “I tried to write a sad song without any minor chords in it but couldn’t manage it”. Minor or not, there’s some lovely chord changes in this one.

There’s just over 20 minutes of music on the CD and, within the limits of the style and arrangement, some nice variations are to be heard. Given the final mix and the packaging - “no glossy sleeve, only 10c photocopies” - it would appear that this effort is something of a first draft, a product to be built upon, yet it still marks a moment in time.

“I’ve sold about 100 copies, and given a similar number away in more recent times” he says. It’s fair to say that Harry isn’t overly enamoured with the music industry and its trappings, and isn’t bothered about fame, fortune and the attendant excesses. He would be happy to be remembered for writing a single classic song. Well, wouldn’t we all…

I asked Harry if he has any material aspiration for his future musical endeavours. “I’d like to make enough money to be able to leave something for my nieces, and for any sponsors I may get.” he replies, with his usual engaging honesty.

If you’d like to hear Harry’s music then ask him about Nice Music (but it’s only average) next time you see him. You might get lucky.

David Robinson

SCALA News #126

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The Timbers
Greet the Sun

The Timbers greet the world with their debut release, an attractively packaged six-track EP entitled Greet the Sun. Launched back in March, this CD is sure to please both ardent Timbers’ fans and first-time listeners.

The disc offers a very listenable collection that showcases the songwriting talents held within the band. Simon Basey writes interesting, thoughtful and intelligent songs, and Benjamin Roberts’ lone effort, The Traveller, holds its own in terms of craft and style.

The musicianship is top-notch, hardly surprising given the range of talent on show. Each member of the quartet is given space to shine at various points, which creates a dynamism that is palpable throughout. Basey’s vocals are well suited to the style, self-assured and expressive. Craig Atkins percussion work is nothing short of inspired, a kind of carefully managed chaos. Sarah O’Brien’s violin lifts the songs, and she also adds important, yet understated, harmonies here and there. Basey’s and Roberts’ guitars are at the centre of most of the music, whether driving the songs percussively or providing the memorable riffs dotted throughout. Although the overall vibe is reminiscent of familiar Celtic/Irish folk bands and sounds, there’s enough on show here to suggest that The Timbers are willing, and able, to stand on their own eight feet. The recording, engineered and mixed by Matt Hills at Hillside Studios, is also excellent.

Of the songs included on the disc, Creeping Shade is probably my favourite. It makes for a great opener, and is the most original sounding of the six offerings. The lively Let Your Hair Down is a lot of fun, and includes a great singalong chorus. All Your Say initially provides a (slightly) gentler insight into the band, before returning to more familiar Timbers’ territory. Greet the Sun is an almost perfect closer, rising from humble beginnings to deliver a mighty pay-off, courtesy “The Treetop Tenors”.

It strikes me that significant attention to detail has been paid to all aspects of this recording. Whether this is down to finely honing nuances over the course of months of live performance, or is the result of inspiration in the studio, or perhaps because these are simply intelligent musicians, I don’t know. Maybe it’s all elements of all three. In any event, the songs are filled with strong choruses, rousing tempo changes, musical flourishes and appealing lyrics.

The disc comes in at a shade over 20 minutes, so this is something of a fleeting pleasure. I look forward to hearing more.

David Robinson

SCALA News #127

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Thirsty work
Rehab and Camel – Mick Kidd

Mick Kidd’s latest CD, Rehab & Camel, offers up a dozen songs that are best defined as ‘blues’, but demonstrate that this particular genre is indeed a broad (blue) church.

There’s no shortage of open string, slide guitar foot-stompers, but Kidd is not afraid to dip into more traditional blues forms in the shape of the title track and Cut You Loose, and also with the inclusion of two notable live covers – John Brim’s Ice Cream Man and Robert Johnson’s legendary Cross-Roads. Three live tracks are offered in total, interspersed with the studio songs, and there’s no appreciable change in sound quality or energy.

The album opens with a surprise. Short Fuse Blues sounds to me like Kidd is channelling a singer from one of my old Mississippi Delta blues records, before transforming into the vocal style to which we are used. These “two” vocalists trade blows throughout the song, supported by wailing harp, courtesy the fabulous Tim Sheehan. The track certainly sets the scene for the album, but the versatile Kidd has many dimensions to his bluesman persona.

It is the guitar that underpins this album. Kidd’s work is distinctive; live or on record, you know when you are listening to Mick Kidd. This is not a guitar album though; the songs are fully-worked arrangements that feature stompbox, harmonica and the odd backing vocal, all of which support the primary vocal and guitar sound.

Given the appreciable skill of the guitar, it would be easy to overlook the quality of Kidd’s vocals. This is a genuine blues voice; Kidd’s voice isn’t affected, nor is it a caricature – it’s legitimate and deserves recognition as an equal player.

There is a skill and wit in much of the lyrical content, notably the female name-checking in So Many Women, and in the world-weary sentiment of Complete Unknown. The paean to the idyllic lifestyle of Semaphore is also creditable.

There are plenty of things to like about the album. It combines the worldliness of the blues with the earnest observations of a local boy. It blends new and old, and is in equal parts serious and cheery. I think my favourite songs are Rehab & Camel and Crash and Burn, a couple of the more traditionally structured numbers. The guitar on Cut You Loose, especially the opening section, is first-class.

This is a solid record that will please blues’ fans, and will help to bring Mick Kidd to the attention of a wider audience. And why not?

David Robinson

SCALA News #131

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Seeing is believing...
Unknown Believer CD launch – The Informers

I arrive, late, at The Promethean, and the first thing I notice is the crowd. The place is heaving with punters. This is obviously the place to be. After checking my name off the list, the girl at the door asks me where I am from. “I’m not really from anywhere” I reply. Truer than you might imagine…

I’d seen The Informers a couple of times in the middle of the year. It’s fair to say that I was impressed by this four-piece outfit, so I was delighted when I heard that a CD launch was planned for September.

The band members take the stage for a quick soundcheck before launching into their set in earnest just after 11.00. It’s a five-piece tonight; the inclusion of irregular member Nathan Carger on keyboards will no doubt boost the sound. Frontmen Josh Greeneklee and John ‘JB’ Broadbent dabble with keys and percussion as part of the usual performance so it will be interesting to see how things mesh.

The Road comes first; a song that grows in magnitude as it moves along from its understated beginning. The spiritually-themed lyric has me wondering if I have missed something previously.

The standout song in the live set, and on Unknown Believer, is Any Who Any How. This song, the CD’s opener, is a well-crafted, busy-yet-tidy pop song that contains more than a faint echo of late-sixties swirl. Underpinned by Dan Deblasio‘s big bassline, the band soars. This one is a winner from start to finish.

The pacy and punchy Desert Creatures is destined for crowd favouritism; it ebbs and flows as it moves between hippy-like ponderings and the more familiar territory traversed by recent Australian guitar-based indie bands. It is held together by Israel Amoy’s prominent drumming, which sets the scene from the get go. There’s some decent lead guitar too.

First Is Worst follows, and slows the pace a little. The crowd catches its collective breath. What begins as a seemingly unassuming effort turns on its head with the delivery of the sublime melody of the two lines of the chorus. Sometimes, that’s all a great song needs…

I Got Mine - a Black Keys single from 2008 - is included in the live set. Cited as an influence by the band, I’m not surprised that they’ve thrown this one in. It seems to fit.

The last song of the show, Finding You, evidences the benefits of displaying a measure of restraint. This adds light and shade, and therefore depth, to both the song and the set. Finding You is also the closing number on the disc.

The band rattles through the set, playing all of the songs from the disc, a cover, and also some interesting musical links, codas and segues. Whether these minor musical excursions are a calculated part of the performance, or are simply there to pad out the set a little, it doesn’t matter. It works.

In any event, the show is over in a tick over 35 minutes. When these guys develop their repertoire to the point where they are regularly playing hour-plus sets, they will be a very attractive option for punters. I’ll see you there.

Unknown Believer matches the live shows for energy, with each of the five songs offering something slightly different while still remaining part of a vibe that spans the disc. Recorded locally, and mastered at Studios 301 in Sydney, it’s a worthy debut. It just about captures the energy that the band exudes when playing live, and offers five tight, catchy songs written by the band.

Buy this disc, see The Informers live. I doubt you’ll regret it.

David Robinson

SCALA News #132

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Memories of The Grace Emily – Kirk Watt

Regular patrons of Adelaide’s vibrant singer-songwriter venues will have probably seen and heard Kirk Watt do his thing over the course of the last few years. Kirk is an interesting performer; his compositions have an idiosyncratic style and he presents them in a distinctive manner. After watching him hone his songs in recent live performances, it was with some interest that I listened to his debut CD, Memories of the Grace Emily.

The album has a fresh, homespun, sunny Sunday morning feel throughout. The passion is certainly there; the layers and layers of overdubs are not. All of the instruments can be heard clearly – probably because of the somewhat simple arrangements - and it is a refreshing change to listen to something so uncomplicated. To these ears, the recording possesses elements of Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley and George Harrison in terms of the music, the vocals, and the songwriting.

It feels wrong to single out particular tracks as favourites, as the album has a continuity about it, but Doing Fine, Sit and Wonder and Use Someone Like Me are strong points of Memories of the Grace Emily. They come one after the other in the middle of the disc, and demonstrate the strength of the songwriting that is present throughout. Lyrically and musically, there is a maturity about this record. The last song, All Things Possible, makes for a beautifully understated closer.

Watt sings and plays all of the instruments on the CD, and produced the disc in collaboration with Chris Foster.

All up, this is an enjoyable collection that ought to be heard.

David Robinson

SCALA News #133

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Stars in his eyes...
Seeing Stars – Corey Stewart

Corey Stewart’s debut CD has been a long time in the making. Some would say that for an artist of his considerable talents and indefatigable work ethic, Seeing Stars is overdue. No matter, it’s here now. Surrounded by some of his most trusted musical cohorts, Stewart has released an album chock-full of assured, mature and enjoyable compositions.

The musicianship on the disc is, as one would expect, top-notch. Stewart is a brilliant singer, and no slouch with his instruments either. Darren Zaza (electric guitars), Tim Irrgang (drums and percussion), Stig Lindell (keyboards) and Alex Frost (backing vocals) all make vital contributions to the consummate nature of the final product. The sound of the ensemble is whole, and listeners are also occasionally treated to some fantastic flourishes eg Zaza’s lead work on Just One Kiss.

Given the strength, passion and volume of Stewart’s writing, it comes as no surprise that the final songs selected for the CD display the full range of his work. Elements of so many genres are melded with great skill and thought in order to provide a outstanding showcase of songwriting talent.

Personal favourites include Back Of My Mind - a song that provides the perfect entrée into the album - Leave It All Behind and the straight-from-the-heart Missing You Already. Having said that, the album is a consistently impressive effort from start to finish. Most of the songs deal with affairs of the heart, and there is a prevailing air of adult-oriented rock throughout the recording. Within these precincts, however, there is a variety of pace and mood; obviously a good deal of thought has gone into ordering the dozen tracks, so as to provide the most appealing dynamic.

Recorded and co-produced (with Stewart and Zaza) by Anthony Stewart at Red Brick Music and mastered by Neville Clark, the CD is an aural delight.

Seeing Stars – definitely worth the wait.

David Robinson

SCALA News #132