Monday, September 21, 2009

Harmony James

I've been such a slacker, but I have good excuses ... No, really! And I just wish I had more time to write on this blog. I'm making a special effort today, though, because I'm so incredibly excited about Harmony James's album Tailwind, which has become an immediate favourite. It starts out sounding like a 'normal' country album - there are the usual guitars and fiddles. The songwriting is not complex - the themes aren't new - but there is just something there that makes this album superior. It's probably got something to do with Harmony's voice: mature, both sharp and warm, direct and honest. She expresses emotion and enunciates clearly, and they're both underrated traits in singers. It was her voice that first hooked me when I went to her Myspace page, and even though the album didn't grab me immediately, by the third rotation I was hooked.

Tailwind also offers a lot of value for money - 15 tracks plus a bonus, the wistful, lovely 'Call of the Currawong'. The title track is a standout - and the winner of the Country division in the 2008 International Songwriting Competition - although the album is lousy with standout tracks.

According to her website, Harmony doesn't yet have solo shows at Tamworth 2010. Hopefully that will change.

Monday, February 23, 2009

CD review: Landing Lights by Felicity Urquhart

Felicity Urquhart’s last record, My Life, was a very appealing collection of ‘pretty’ (not a pejorative) pop-country songs and some more rocking material. It was a very good record, but in light of her most recent release, Landing Lights, it’s clear that My Life was Felicity doing what was expected of a country music singer-songwriter at that point of her career in Australia (or the US) – because, while there was a lot to like on MyLife, Landing Lights is a superior album.

Landing Lights is a satisfyingly eclectic gathering of songs that Urquhart has co-written with one usual suspect (Randy Scruggs) and some new co-conspirators. Karl Broadie’s fingerprints are all over ‘So Go On’ – an up-tempo toe tapper that has me smiling every time I hear it – while Kim Richey brings her melancholy bent (and some vocals) to ‘All Good Fun’. The unexpected collaborators include Nick Barker and Michael Spiby; the tunes co-written with Barker, ‘Two Wheels’ and ‘Bed & Breakfast’, are undoubtedly the ‘tougher’ songs on the album. Urquhart’s two co-writes with Robert Lee Castleman, ‘Little Cricket’ and ‘Time for a Change’, are complex, delicate and dark songs. The title track is a masterpiece of wistfulness and yearning.

There are only two ‘radio songs’ – ‘Girl in the Mall’, written with Mark Seymour, and ‘Ernie’s Daughter’- but I only call them that because they fallen some melodic and lyric conventions that will appeal to the traditional country music listenership.

Through all the different styles of songs - the tales of life, love and loss – soars Urquhart’s beautiful voice. When I first saw her play live I couldn’t get over how amazing that voice is, and couldn’t understand why more people didn’t know about it.

Landing Lights is more than the sum of its very fine parts. While I find myself listening more to the sweet-melodied songs – coincidentally, the even-numbered tracks – there’s not a single song on this CD I don’t like. The album is the mark of a confident, talented performer and songwriter who should find a big, big audience.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The great silence

I've been such a bad blogger. But I've had reasons! I was writing other things, for one. And I didn't go to Tamworth this year, so I have nothing to say about it. But shortly I will have things to say about:

  • Felicity Urquhart's new album, Landing Lights
  • Shane Nicholson's newie
  • Caitlin Harnett's EP
  • Karl Broadie live

and possibly some other stuff. Now I just have to remember to write those posts ...