Monday, September 30, 2013

Album review: The Hypnotiser by Cash Savage and The Last Drinks

If Australia had a Wild West, this album from Cash Savage and The Last Drinks would certainly qualify as its soundtrack. The Hypnotiser is the dark heart, the broken soul, the cry in the night and the stumbling down the road of Australian country blues. Australia is an untamed land in so many ways - there is the desert and the coastline that no one person can ever hope to know in their entirety; there are the droughts and flooding rains. Australia is wild and its people have their wildness, even if we tend to coagulate on the coast and conduct ourselves in a generally orderly manner. But that wildness is part of our story, stretching back tens of thousands of years. It is the role of art and artists - not government or educational institutions - to explore it, and that is exactly what Cash Savage and The Last Drinks do on The Hypnotiser.

The rumbling, thrumming bass, often ethereal, wailing guitars and primal drum beats form the perfect accompaniment to Savage's voice, which is in itself hypnotic. Savage is a circus ringmaster and Janis Joplin; she is a preacher and a pugilist. She is the voice of temptation and also of redemption. The closest reference point I can think of in the canon of this country's music is Hat Fitz and Cara's Wiley Ways.

Some of the songs on this album sound shambolic, but on closer inspection this seems to be an effect calculated to convey the ruin or chaos (or both) of the song's narrator. For there is nothing messy about the way these songs grab hold of the listener and shake you until you are paying very close attention. As Savage commands in the title track, 'I am the water's edge/Come swimmin' with me, baby/I am the gospel choir/sing it with me, baby'. It is hard to resist this invocation whether you're listening for the first time or the twentieth.

The Hypnotiser by Cash Savage and The Last Drinks is out now.

Interview: Candice Russell

Candice Russell is a singer-songwriter from Oregon in Pacific Northwest of the USA. She's young - 21 - but the maturity of her voice and assuredness of her singing belies her years. Candice has recently released her debut album, So Much More, and I had the opportunity to ask her some questions by email. 

A lot of people have lovely singing voices - and a lot of those people will dream and talk about having a career in music but it won't ever happen. What has been the difference for you: at what point in your life did you decide that this was the path you would take? 
I’ve always been the kind of person that if I want something, I’m going to work hard to get it. I wanted to be singer and musician ever since I was a little girl, so I have worked hard to achieve that dream!

Do you believe you would have written songs even if you hadn't had the voice to sing them, or do the songs flow from your voice? 
That’s a hard question to answer. I think it’s probably a little more difficult to write songs if you can’t sing, but if I wasn’t a singer, I’m sure I would have found another way, if not songwriting, to express my emotions and creativity.

As this if your first album, you possibly had lots of expectations about what the process would be like - but also no expectations, because you'd never made an album before. How did you even go about planning for something so new, and so huge?
It’s one of those things that sort of came together as it went. I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. My producer, Dave Lubben, was such a huge part in the album becoming what it is and he tried to help prepare me for what to expect the best that he could, but in the end it’s just something that I had to experience for myself. It took a lot of hard work. There were fun days and there were emotional days, but I’m so happy with the way the album came out in the end.

What was the recording process like - is it hard to always access the heart and emotion you need for a song if you have to do a few takes? 
The recording process was a great experience for me. I found that I actually enjoy recording. You have to sing the same line over and over again to get the best take, so sometimes it can be hard to keep the emotion and energy in what you are singing, but my producer kept reminding me to have passion in my voice. If you don’t mean what you are singing, no one will believe it! So even though it got repetitive at times, I didn’t mind doing a lot of takes because in the end I wanted the best possible product for my album.

Do you practise much - guitar or voice or both?
I sing ALL of the time, I sing even when I don’t mean to! So yes, I practice voice quite a bit. I probably don’t practice guitar as much as I should to be honest, guitar is something I’d really like to get better at, so right now I am taking guitar lessons and working that. No matter how good you are at something, you can always get better.

Do you enjoy live performance? Not everyone does ...
I love performing! I’ve loved performing ever since I can remember. It can be stressful leading up to a performance because of all the preparation and emotions that come along with it, but once I hit the stage all the nerves go away and I know I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. 

You play your grandfather's guitar in concerts - do you come from a musical family? 
My dad’s side of the family is very musical (although my mom is musical as well). I grew up around music, that’s probably one of the reasons I love it so much. My dad would always play guitar and sing to me. My grandpa won a singing contest when he was in the army and I’ve been told that I am related to Jane Russell, who was a singer and dancer in the movie “Gentlemen prefer Blondes,” alongside Marilyn Monroe. So I guess you could say music runs in my blood.

Your bio mentions that what's important to you are 'faith, family and friends'. As a person of faith, have you ever felt that the music industry might prove challenging ground?
I don’t categorize myself as a Christian singer. I want to be a singer in a secular industry who is a Christian. My faith is important to me and I will always live that out. You can hear it in my songs if you really listen, but I’m not the kind of person to shove it down other people’s throats. I want to be a pop singer. I feel like that is my calling. I will just have to take everything step by step and make decisions as I come to them along the way.

Is there much of a country music scene on the West Coast - specifically, in Oregon?
There is a country music scene in Oregon for sure, obviously not as big as in some other places in America, like in the south, but there are some big country music fans here.

What are you plans for the next few months?
My plans for the next few months are to perform where I can. I am traveling to Canada soon to sing at a charity event for an organization called “You Can Free Us,” which I’m excited about. I will also be posting videos on my youtube channel, so be watching my channel for new videos!

So Much More is out now.