BEN Leece describes his latest single Magpie as "one of the more important things I'll ever do."
In fact, the song has such emotional meaning for the Newcastle alt-country singer-songwriter that for the past two years he's been hesitant to release the track to the world.
Magpie tells the story of 17-year-old Aboriginal boy Stephen "Whiff" Smith who was mysteriously killed on railway tracks in 1995 near Leece's hometown of Quirindi in north-west NSW. Stephen was a talented rugby league player with the Werris Creek Magpies and a student at Leece's high school.
At the time police quickly dismissed Stephen's death as a mishap. However, his family have long believed the teenager was murdered given the distance of the railway tracks from the last known sighting of Stephen as he attempted to hitch hike home to Werris Creek from Quirindi.
In 2018 a parliamentary address from Greens MP David Shoebridge led to NSW Police reopening the case and Stephen's disappearance was covered by SBS investigative news program Cold Justice.
Leece, who was trained by Stephen's father while playing for the Magpies, spent 18 months consulting the Smith family about the song and lyrics before he felt comfortable recording and releasing the track.
"It's not for me to speak on behalf of anyone," Leece said. "It was not only important for me personally to have their blessing, it was the right thing to do."
Leece said he was driven to write and release the song by a sense of injustice felt over the failure of police to properly investigate Stephen's death.
"The bigger issue here is if that was my body there, I know no stone would be left unturned until my family had answers," he said. "I don't think that same courtesy has been extended to that family because of the colour of their skin."
Ben Leece's Magpie will be released on October 5.
MIDNIGHT Oil meets John Williamson is how you could describe William Crighton's raucous new single Your Country.
Dripping with the passion and intensity the Bellbird troubadour has become renown for, Your Country rages against "elected leaders who become bottom-feeders to the corporate man" and the abuse of the environment, while supported by a blues-rock backbone and a cacophony of didgeridoos.
Your Country, out on Friday, is the first cut from Crighton's forthcoming third album. It follows his acclaimed self-titled debut in 2016 and Empire in 2018. Fans can hear Your Country live at Dashville when Crighton headlines night two of the Sky Ball concert series on October 3.
THE RIGHT MELODY
MELODY Moko's honest reflection of life as a working musician and mother has seemingly struck a chord with her audience.
Moko's second album Two Kids & A Radio was Australian Country Album of the week, and debuted at No.3 on the ARIA Country Chart, No.9 on the All Genre Australian Chart and No.40 on the All Genre Albums Chart.
Two Kids & A Radio follows Moko's impressive 2017 debut The Wreckage. The album features the single Last Cigarette, which she co-wrote with fellow Novocastrian Catherine Britt.
COVID-19 arrived at the worst possible time for Newcastle's indie heavyweights Vacations given the vast majority of their sizable fan base reside overseas.
In order to reach their international audience the quartet have announced a livestream show filmed in Newcastle at 3pm on Saturday, October 31 where they will perform their second album Forever In Bloom.
The time slot was chosen to maximise the viewership in their largest foreign markets of Los Angeles and Chicago. The concert will be livestreamed from 9pm on October 30 in LA and from 11pm in the Windy City.
SURF TRASH VIDEO
THE latest single from Lake Macquarie's Surf Trash, Wrong or Right, has been receiving plenty of love on Spotify since its release on September 3. The poppy slice of surf-punk has been streamed 35,000 times and the track is tipped to reach an even larger audience.
On Wednesday night the three-piece of Lachlan Jackson and brothers Andy and Nick Scott released their video clip for Wrong or Right, which was filmed at Sawtooth Studios.
NEWCASTLE rock royalty The Screaming Jets haven't let state border closures due to COVID-19 prevent the band from getting together to record new material.
Across six months of Zoom video meetings and virtual beers the band recorded reworkings of some of their most famous tracks - Helping Hand, Shivers, Friend of Mine, Sad Song and October Grey.
The five members recorded their individual parts in isolation and long-time producer and collaborator Steve James then stitched the tracks together. The result was the five-track EP Bitter Pill, out on October 9.