WE’RE living in prosperous times if you’re a devotee of alt-country, or it’s modern sexier moniker, Americana. The scenes have never been more buoyant, particularly in Melbourne and Newcastle.
A quick scan of the mainstream country landscape make alt-country’s appeal easy to understand. Much of the tripe that gets pumped out of Nashville’s songwriting factories for easy radio consumption leaves discerning music fans searching for something genuine, with a real story to tell.
In our climate of technological change, there’s also something comforting about music based on traditional songwriting.
Stanley Records’ three-CD compilation Take Me To Town is all about telling Australian stories through alt-country. Mayfield’s Stag and Hunter Hotel, a proud supporter of the genre, was chosen to launch the album last Friday night.
What the showcase illustrated was the sheer breadth and variety of alt-country in Australia. The stacked line-up Nick Barker’s The Heartache State, Dan Brodie, James Thomson, Ben Leece & Left Of The Dial, Jen Mize and Dave Favours & The Roadside Ashes moved swiftly so there was never any lull between sets to spoil the momentum.
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Leece used the launch as an opportunity to unveil tracks from his solo debut album No Wonder The World Is Exhausted, while fellow Novocastrian James Thomson debuted songs from his forthcoming album.
Thomson trades in the sound of Bob Dylan circa Nashville Skyline and does so with aplomb. His warm honeyed vocals and acoustic guitar were enough to captivate most of the Stag and Hunter front bar. Local guitarist Marty Burke joined Thomson for several songs and he stayed on stage to provide lead for Melbourne’s Dan Brodie.
Brodie’s set concentrated on his latest covers album, Lost Not Found. It’s an impressive feat to be able to reconstruct Iggy Pop’s Passenger into a whimsical tale of heartbreak and to infuse Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al with a sense of dread.
It then fell to Barker and his Heartache State to bring the shindig home with a bruising set of Americana that fell decidedly on the side of rock.
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