Catherine Britt is one of the most compelling, and interesting, artists at work in Australian music, let alone within country music. Her 2012 album Always Never Enough was an extraordinary collection of songs that were both musically and lyrically satisfying as well as being memorable enough to still demand listening three years on (and when you listen to as many albums as I do, that's a big recommendation). Britt then released a 'best of' collection - The Hillbilly Pickin' Ramblin' Girl So Far - which could have seemed premature, given her youth, but she's released enough albums for it to make sense. It also seems now to have been a way of demonstrating her progress as preparation for the release of Boneshaker.
Boneshaker does not at all resemble Always Never Enough in terms of the subject matter of the songs or, really, the composition of the songs, although it's unmistakably a country music album: the bedrock of country music tradition is there, and Britt's storytelling nature also marks it as country. But the fact that it's such a different album, and also that it is, actually, a progression is exciting. Always Never Enough contained stories about others yet it also felt quite personal; Boneshaker tells stories but seems to explore themes more than focus on individual stories. It is a contemplative album that also has its upbeat moments in a major key. The dichotomies of the album appear within the first two songs: the rollicking title track and then the solemn tale 'Good to Bad'.
Mostly - for me, at least - Boneshaker demonstrates that Britt is prepared to take risks with her music, and that means she's reached a level of confidence in her musical, singing and songwriting abilities that enables her to explore. When an artist finds herself at a point where talent and courage match, anything may happen - and it's usually great when it does. If she can hold her nerve - and regardless of the level of confidence, nerve-holding can be required - then the future looks amazing. In the meantime, this album full of individually great and collectively wonderful songs is the evidence we have that she's an artist who deserves a very prominent position on the national stage.
Boneshaker is out now through Lost Highway Australia/Universal.