JAMES Bennett has flown halfway across the world to Hollywood to work with US producer Scott Campbell (Alanis Morissette) and travelled across the ditch to New Zealand to record with ex-John Butler Trio drummer Michael Barker on previous records.
However, the whole time the spark the Newcastle folk singer-songwriter needed was five minutes drive away at Gareth Hudson's Hazy Cosmic Jive Studio in Adamstown Heights.
It was there that Bennett recorded his forthcoming fourth album Live and Life Only with help from friend and fellow Newcastle musician Nick Saxon. The title is taken from the final line of the Bob Dylan song It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) off 1965's Bringing It All Back Home.
"This is my fourth album, so not to say that nothing has worked before, but I'm still cruising along at that same stage I've been at for a while," Bennett said.
"So I thought why not try a few different methods."
Part of those different methods was having Saxon play on the tracks, break them apart and alter the arrangements. The results thus far have been promising.
Bennett's first two singles Beg Lie Steal Borrow and Broken Wicker Chair, released last Friday, are among the strongest of his five-year recording career.
They incorporate Bennett's classic Dylan-esque mix of folk and Americana, but with a fresh melodic warmth.
"I feel like I sound more like I've wanted to sound the whole time, without knowing how to get there," he said.
Broken Wicker Chair was inspired by Bennett's frequent trips to country towns where he'd often see rundown farmhouses and wonder about their history.
"[It's about] the imagery in your head, thinking what it might have been like to live there or to have been around while it was thriving," he said.
Bennett will release third single So Have My Smiles before the album in June or July, followed by a launch show at Lizotte's on September 17.
MID-North Coast eight-piece Then Jolene have regularly taken their raucous brand of bluegrass and alt-country down the Pacific Highway for their Newcastle fan base.
On Friday they'll release their second album and first in five years, The Putdown. To celebrate, Then Jolene will be performing the fresh tracks at the Wickham Park Hotel, which includes the singles Three Rivers and American Whiskey.
SLIM FIRST PICKING
COUNTRY legend Slim Dusty might have played his final show in 2002 and died a year later, but his music will live on at Dashville Skyline.
Slim Dusty's Travelling Country Band are the first act announced for the return of Skyline on October 1 to 3. The five-piece of Rod Coe (bass), Robbie Souter (drums), Jeff Mercer (lead guitar), Mike Kerin (fiddle) and Pete Denahy (guitar and accordion) were Dusty's final backing band and have been keeping his celebrated Australian country music alive since they reformed in 2017 at Tamworth.
Meanwhile, Dashville announced The Gum Ball will return on April 22-24, 2022.
THE Sea Gypsies released their first new music in two years on Wednesday in the catchy indie-pop single Daydream.
The track, produced by Jack Nigro (DZ Deathrays, The Delta Riggs) at Somersby's The Grove Studios, sees the Central Coast five-piece adopt a more pop-focused arrangement compared to their 2018 album Movements.
ELECTRONIC act Slumberjack are dropping their beats at the Cambridge Hotel on June 2 in a club sessions show. The Perth duo of Fletcher Ehlers and Morgan Then have worked with the likes of Alison Wonderland, What So Not, Vera Blue and Daniel Johns.