I feel like I’m walking down a long, brown country road, dust on my boots, the sun beating down upon my head. But I’m not, I’m sitting at my desk in Brunswick Heads. I feel like I’m in an old hall in some small country town, old couples dancing slowly to the band up on the stage, plates of sandwiches and lamingtons just over the way. But I’m not, I’m sitting in the chair out the front, smoking a cigarette in the sun. I feel like I’m walking through the woods, twigs snapping under foot, big ol’ trees towering overhead. But again, I’m not, I’m driving up the Pacific Highway towards Brisbane, far removed from the life I’m feeling, the life I’m living almost the polar opposite.
So why am I feeling these things? Why am I being drawn into someone else’s world so effortlessly? What is this world and where is it even coming from, picking me up and embracing me so endearingly and acting like it’s my own, but really it isn’t real. Not for me anyway. The reason is the power of a song, of a collection of songs, the lyrics lapping at my subconscious like waves upon a shore – they’re there, but they’re not mine. The power of a song indeed, taking you places you never thought possible, whilst never really taking you anywhere at all.
The songs are part of a record, a new record, from an artist and a band who I’ve been listening to a lot recently – at my desk, out the front in the old chair, in the car on the road. And these are songs that mean something to the person who wrote them, who is singing them, and that is what makes them so powerful, that is how they’re pulling me in, making me feel like I’m somewhere else. They’re songs about a life lived, sometimes vicariously, but mainly from the point of view of the author, one Sal Kimber, a musician with a lot to say, and the skill to say it in a way that resonates with you. Whether you’ve been there or not.
I first saw Kimber, with her band The Rollin’ Wheel, at the Port Fairy folky a few years ago and was instantly drawn in; the lyrics, yes, but also the low-down desperation of the grinding, churning alt.country sound the band produced, the banjo intertwined with accordion and both electric and acoustic guitars. “These guys blew my mind, and I left, each time, wanting more and more”, I wrote in my review of their set, and really, those words don’t do justice to how I remember the band moving me. Since that weekend, I’ve been waiting for them to release another album, and they finally have, and as I’ve said, it’s been taking me places, places I’ve never been.
“Probably my Dad,” Kimber laughs, a little self-consciously, when I ask her to list for me, the five main influences upon her music. “He’s been writing songs forever, and when I was growing up, he wanted someone in the family to write songs with him, to be like a sounding board… that’s what made me fall in love with writing. He was very passionate about telling stories about things that were around, because I think he feels that without these songs, some of our history will get lost. He’s very passionate about it, when I show him a song, he’ll be like, ‘What is that about? Can you relate to that?’ He’s very honest with me.
“And probably James Taylor, I really like his stage presence, especially when he was really young, he was really humble, and his voice is flawless, I love it,” she goes on. “When I was young, probably The Waifs, although the past few years, I haven’t bought their recent albums… but when was 14 and 15, I was pretty obsessed. And Lucinda Williams, I’m a massive Lucinda fan, I love her, I love how kooky she is, she’s probably my favourite artist. And then probably Bonnie Raitt, yeah. Tasty, tasty guitar. Sometimes her songwriting is a bit cheesy, but I like it… I sing along to her all the time.”
Kimber grew up in regional Victoria before relocating to Melbourne around five years ago. She released a self-titled EP in 2005, and her debut LP, Sounds Like Thunder, in 2008. Shortly after that, she assembled her current band, The Rollin’ Wheel (which comprises of sister Buffy on keys and accordion, Cat Leahy on drums, guitarist Jacob Cole and bassist Trent McKenzie), and it’s been on the up and up ever since. Kimber has won The Young Artist’s Award at the Port Fairy folky, the Acoustic Jazz Award at the Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival and the APRA Darebin Songwriting Award. Sal Kimber is a serious, underground songwriting talent in the vein of Mia Dyson and Clare Bowditch, and this new eponymous LP, proves that beyond a doubt.
Samuel J. Fell
Sal Kimber & The Rollin' Wheel is available October 14 through Vitamin Records.