Saturday, June 24, 2017

Album review: An Introduction to Failure by Daudi Matsiko

Technically An Introduction to Failure is a double EP but as it has eight tracks in total, I'm classifying it as an album review ... calling it an EP review wouldn't hint at the length of the work, and it would also suggest that, as the name suggests, it's merely an introduction to Matsiko, when really this is a complete work.

The first half - the first EP - is reflective, ruminative and minor-keyed, while the second half kicks off with a relatively more jaunty tune and turns back to make a musical circle by the close. From the first song, 'Home', Matsiko's voice has a hook in it that will either catch you or not. There's a sense of sadness there - perhaps it's just longing, but the fact that it's ambiguous (to this listener, at least) means that Matsiko knows to allow room for the listener to bring their own interpretations.

Matsiko was born in the United Kingdom to Ugandan parents and has been playing guitar from a young age. An Introduction to Failure is said to feature 'fractured folk techniques' that have been influenced by musical discoveries from Matsiko's heritage. That may well be the case, but what I hear is a collection of songs that, even when layered with instruments, sound stripped back to allow Matsiko's voice to connect immediately with the listener. There is confidence in that: Matsiko is not hiding behind anything, and he's not letting the listener hide either.

Categorising music - as folk, country, rock, pop, and so many others - while necessary, can sometimes make a potential listener turn away from work they may enjoy (this is never more true than in country music, where the mere application of the label can cause an adverse reaction in someone who declares they 'never listen to country music' but in the same breath will anoint Ryan Adams as their favourite artist). This is a roundabout way of saying that maybe Matsiko is folk, and maybe he's other things, but 'singer-songwriter' is the label that seems to fit best. So if you like singer-songwriters of any stripe, you may well like this fine example of the form.

An Introduction to Failure is available now. You can buy it on Bandcamp or ...


daudi.co.uk

Album review: The Wide Horizon by Darren Coggan

Some would say it takes a brave man to cover the beloved Australian Crawl song 'Reckless'. For one thing, James Reyne's vocals are inimitable, so that brave man would be wise to not even try. But that brave man would also realise that a song so iconic has lingered for a reason: it's a bloody good song. Such a song is worth taking a tilt at then, and on his new album, The Wide Horizon, Darren Coggan is that brave man taking that tilt, with wonderful results. The occasionally hopeless melancholy of the original is still there in Coggan's interpretation, but this version has a bit more grit and determination. The song sounds completely contemporary, which is down to Reyne's skill, but also to Coggan's. And it is Coggan who has written most of the other songs on this impressive album.

Coggan is partly known for his Cat Stevens show, Peace Train, and there is plenty of Cat in his voice, but not so much that he sounds like an imitator. It's the warmth and slight edginess that's the same, and Coggan uses that to very good effect on this album of songs that are rich in sentiment and setting.

'The 'Bidgee' takes us to the Riverina of New South Wales - Coggan grew up in Wagga Wagga - and 'Inasmuch' to Norfolk Island (with guest vocals from Felicity Urquhart). 'Until We Meet Again' is a stirring farewell to a friend, and 'Seventeen' is an act of devotion to his wife. Each song is a story worth listening to over and over, and Coggan brings just the right amount of feeling to each.

In a country music culture as rich as Australia's, the standard has become very high. We have so much extraordinary music to choose from that even great artists who ply their craft with dedication and professionalism can get missed. If you are someone who likes their music to have heart and authenticity, who likes a good story well told, who doesn't need their country music to always sound country but who appreciates that at the core of country music is storytelling and respect for the audience, don't miss The Wide Horizon.

The Wide Horizon is available now.
www.darrencoggan.com

Gympie Music Muster announces new artists


The Gympie Music Muster will take place from Thursday 24 August to Sunday 27 August, and an announcement of additional artists for the line-up proves that the Muster attracts the very best Australian music talent. Joining headliners Jessica Mauboy, Adam Brand and Busby Marou are Lyn Bowtell, Jody Direen and Kaylens Rain. Already announced artist Amber Lawrence has added her children's show 'The Kid's Gone Country'. Joining them are:

Chelsea Basham – Melanie Dyer – Joe Robinson
Hussy Hicks – Georgia Fall – Judah Kelly – Hurricane Fall
The Killer Queen Experience – Viper Creek Band – Fred Smith
Kaylee Bell – Pete Denahy – Christie Lamb – Matt Cornell – Karin Page
Kyle Lionhart – Blues Arcadia – Linc Phelps – Liam Brew
Tim Wheatley – Darren Middleton – 8 Ball Aitken – Shelley & Lawrie Minson
The Electric 80's – Simon Kinney Lewis Band
Bob Abbot & The Fabulous Green Machine – PC & The Biffs – Rachael Fahim
The Mercurys – The Faceless Men – Casey Barnes – Mitch King – Luella Widt
Freya Hollick – Route 33 – Emma Beau – Seleen McAlister – Mason Hope

Held in the Amamoor Creek State Forest in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland, the 2017 Muster will feature more than 100 artists in more than 300 performances across multiple stages. The artists cover a range of genres including country, bluegrass, folk, blues and rockabilly.

Run by the community, for the community, the Muster is a not-for-profit charity event which has raised in excess of $15 million for charities all over Australia since its inception. Proceeds from this year’s Muster will again go to charity partner Mates4Mates to help Australian Defence Force personnel with mental and physical injuries as a result of their service.

The Muster runs from Thursday August 24 to Sunday August 27, 2017.

To book tickets visit www.muster.com.au or phone 1300 GET TIX (1300 438 849).



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Single release: 'The Trouble with You' by O'Shea

Australian duo O'Shea now reside in the USA but regularly return to their homeland. Their next trip will be in July, in support of their new album, 61-615, which will be released on 28 July. Given that Jay O'Shea's voice is incredible live, I heartily recommend you catch one of the shows.

They have released a music video for the new song ‘The Trouble With You’, which is available as an instant download for digital pre-orders of 61-615, along with the album’s first official single, ‘Start Over.’

 You can watch the music video for ‘The Trouble With You’ at: https://www.facebook.com/therealoshea/videos/10159252154175354/

Fans can per-order the album now at:  http://smarturl.it/Oshea61615

The tour dates are:

Friday 28 July – Leadbelly, Sydney NSW
Saturday 29 July – Centro CBD, Wollongong NSW
Sunday 30 July – Lizottes, Newcastle NSW
Thursday 3 August – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 12 August – Mt Isa Rodeo, Mt Isa QLD

For ticket information, visit www.therealoshea.com.

Interview: Thomas Wynn

Thomas Wynn and the Believers are a Florida band who have been named number one country/folk as well as number one rock band by the Orlando Weekly for seven consecutive years. Their latest album, Wade Waist Deep, is all the proof you'll need as to why. Central to the band's sound are the vocals of Wynn and his sister Olivia, and when I spoke to Wynn recently I asked about their joint musical history as well as his songwriting, amongst other things.


Are you in Florida at the moment?
I’m not, I’m in New Orleans. We’re on the road.

How extensive is your tour?
This one’s a month long. We just started two days ago and we’ll be back home July 2nd.

Do you like being on the road?
Yeah. I certainly love playing, and that’s the way that you need to play. There are aspects that aren’t so great – I’m away from my family – but we all make sacrifices.

From someone in Australia, where we have a large land mass but not so many towns and cities, the logistics of organising a tour in the US seem to be enormous. It must take a lot of preparation.
Thankfully it does. There are a lot of cities and routing is generally pretty good. We try to do around four hours of drive time between cities, maybe less than that. We’re in New Orleans and then we’re in Baton Rouge, and Baton Rouge is only 80 miles so that’s not far at all. We have a wonderful agent, Jesse Rosoff over at the United Talent Agency, and he’s pretty great at working things out. We do have two seven-hour drives on this run but most of it’s pretty close.

The actual first question I was going to ask you was: do you recommend being in a band with a sibling?
If you like that sibling, sure. I certainly do like being in a band with Olivia. She’s wonderful and we get along great, and as far as musicianship goes, siblings can be tighter and more aware of where one person is going. Like an inner feeling – we just kind of go there. It’s ingrained in us somehow.

And from a singing point of view – there aren’t actually that many sibling singers. In Australia we have a group called The McClymonts, three sisters whose harmonies are out of this world, and there’s certainly a sense with you and Olivia that your voices are symbiotic in so many ways. It’s no doubt a result of singing together for a long period of time but also that understanding, as you said, about where you’re going. There’s something almost mystical about it as well.
It’s pretty cool that we have the same genetics and so our voices kind of do the same thing and have the same characteristics, so we can kind of get on a wavelength where it sounds like one big person. There’s another Australian group called the Vaudeville Smash – we met them in Austin a few years ago. It’s three brothers and they have two other members as well; they’re a disco revival band and their harmonies and their musicianship together – it’s very, very apparent that they’re been doing it together for potentially a lifetime.

Do you and Olivia have to work on how you sing together or is it something that does now flow so effortlessly that you don’t even really need to rehearse how you work those harmonies with each other?
I’d like to say that of course not, we just innately know, but practice makes everything better. I think it’s easier for us to get to the place where we want but it certainly takes practice and it certainly takes a level of awareness and trusting the other person to go where we’ve established. I can go off the cuff a little more than Olivia likes to but I really appreciate the fact that she doesn’t necessarily like to do that because with being rehearsed, it kind of ensures that we’re going to give you something good. And that’s the point.

The whole band’s sound on the album – it’s immediately apparent that we’re dealing with professionals. The sound is really tight and it does sound like it’s coming from people who take their music seriously, and that does involve rehearsing. It shows when that doesn’t happen – I was in a band that rehearsed a lot but one member did not like to rehearse, and that showed.
It does show. Live is a different animal than the studio. The studio, we certainly rehearsed a good bit before we went in so that we weren’t wasting time and we were able to do what we went in there to do, but live we’re a little more free, we’re certainly wanting to hit the parts together but we can stretch our legs when we’re live. But at the same time, you’re not able to do that unless you’re practised. You’re not able to do that unless you know, ‘Okay, they’re going to stretch this out a little bit.

You and Olivia seem to have almost been trained since childhood to be musicians, because you’ve been doing it for so long – does it feel like you’ve always been a musician?
Thinking about it, music’s always been in my life. I’d say we’ve always been artistic, always been creative in that our parents really gave us that ability and that freedom to express ourselves, and we chose for the forefront of that expression to be music. But all of our siblings are artistic in ways. All of us are musicians but then all of us express our art in different ways as well.

You grew up playing music in church, and your songs certainly don’t shy away from what might be called big questions and theme. It’s often not deemed cool, I think, particularly in contemporary music, to address those sorts of subjects – to be visibly looking for meaning, I think is what I’m trying to say. Have you ever doubted your lyrical direction, particularly on this latest album? You really are getting into some very meaningful, fundamental questions.
I appreciate that. I never doubted where the lyrics were heading. I might have doubted how they would be received. But I knew the direction I wanted to take the lyrics in the record – the songs that I was writing, and have been writing, go along with that vein of, like you said, the big questions in life. At this point in my life that’s a very important part of it, trying to find deeper meaning and then, if it’s found, trying to understand why it’s found in that way.

I think we’re also at a time in history where meaning is required, for many people, in day-to-day life. And in art, quite often, meaning is seen as being cheesy but to be entertaining and meaningful at the same time is what audiences respond to best, and you’ve certainly accomplished that.
Thank you. I was wary of how it might be achieved but in the end I trusted that our audience – and, hopefully, a large audience – would be capable of following that and asking even more questions. I think a lot of art these days is just about YOLO or whatever. It’s about bottles in the club or some stupid thing, and that doesn’t touch me. I wanted to give something to everyone and to myself, to my family, in the form of art that they would know I was thinking something deeper.

And that does require you, of course, to be vulnerable, as the lyricist and the lead singer and the band leader. In order to be vulnerable – particularly on a stage – that requires a certain courage, and I do hear that in your music, as well: you are not resiling from this, you want to connect to the audience, you want to take these questions to them. Where does that courage come from?
I don’t know. I think we all go through things in our lives and then at some point we have to reflect upon them. At some point the best of us reflects upon them. Thankfully I’m at that point in my life. I’m reflecting on in it, and if I’m choosing to be an artist and put myself out there, I have no other way to do it. I have on other real way to do it. One of my favourite artists of all time, Levon Helm, said, ‘You’ve got to give them something real.’ At the time that he said that it was late ’60s, mid ’70s, and I think people were on a different wavelength altogether. Nowadays it’s a little different but I still try and subscribe to that effort: give them something real. I’ll give you something real because you’ll know if I don’t. We all may like the cheesy songs, and they’re catchy – of course they’re catchy – but it doesn’t mean that we can’t also realise that it’s faith.

And to deliver the music you have to have this voice – and yours is a real instrument in and of itself. Has that voice always been there or has it taken time for you to develop that instrument to the point it is now.
Of course in some respects it’s been there, but I think … my son always asks for ‘Dadda’ on Youtube, so we’re listening to the old videos and then the new videos and I can definitely hear a difference in the maturity of it. I’m not stretching for things that I don’t think I can do and I’m confident in what I can do, so that’s what you’re hearing now.

You’ve said that fundamentally you want audiences to feel something, and I think the tracks are really layered and complex in such a way that we can feel that when you’re performing them. What was the studio experience like for all of you, creating those songs?
It was the best experience in the studio that we’ve ever had, and I think in large part it was due to Vance Powell, the producer. Another large part is that we were all together for a month just concentrating on the creation of this project that we’ve yearned for and worked for, for so long. And to hear it after every few days, listening back to what we got and hearing it really come into being and the fruition of that dream of this new record, it was just amazing. It was an amazing time – and we certainly hope to do it again in about a year.


Wade Waist Deep is out now through Mascot Records.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Single release: 'It's Good to Know' by Jeff Gibson

Shearer/musician Jeff Gibson released his third album, Tin Dog Road, last year. This collection of memories and stories from his life in western Victoria won Best Album at the 2016 Australian Roots Music Awards (ARMA). He has released the single 'It's Good to Know', which won the ARMA Best Song.

'It's Good to Know' features Suzannah Espie - who produced the album - and Jeff Lang on backing vocals, and Pete Baylor on guitar. But it's Gibson's voice that really captivates on this song of manipulation and regret.

Listen to 'It's Good to Know' on Soundcloud.

You can buy Tin Dog Road at jeffgibson.bandcamp.com.



Single release: 'Saturn's Rings' by The Demon Drink

Over the past few decades Brisbane has, as the saying goes, punched above its weight when it comes to contributions to Australian musical culture. The Go-Betweens now have their own bridge; Powderfinger had the charts almost to themselves for a while there, and Regurgitator redefined rock and had fun doing it. There's now a small but steady country music scene which includes Brad Butcher - and the quintet The Demon Drink, who have a debut album, Highway Robbery, due for release on 14 July. From it they've released a single, 'Saturn's Rings'. Vocalist and lyricist Kieran Waters says the song is 'really a variation on the idea that time heals all wounds. Sometimes it doesn't ... sometimes time runs out.'

You can watch the video below and find The Demon Drink on Facebook.