Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Record Review - Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies

Published in the Shortlist section of both The Sydney Morning Herald (Syd) and The Age (Melb), Friday October 16.

Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies
Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies

For a while now, Melbourne has been somewhat of an alt.country hotbed, the cramped and sticky-carpeted venues of the inner-north a breeding ground for a new take on this earthy, gritty style of the genre. Jemma Rowlands, her Clifton Hillbillies in tow, is a fine example of the talent emerging, as the band’s debut illustrates to a tee.

Beginning with the mournfully catchy April’s Fool, this eponymous release bleeds the realism, the truth, the honesty inherent to this style of music, enhanced by some of the finest instrumentation this side of Nashville courtesy of Sean McMahon (guitar), Ben Mastwyk (banjo), Cal Walker (bass) and Ben Franz (pedal steel), amongst a host of others, McMahon and Mastwyk also contributing to the songwriting. Town For Two and Song Itself keep things jaunty, while Fightin’ Mad and Killing Time are pure, slow old country (the latter with subtle accordion from Flora Smith). Meanwhile, Rowlands’ voice should be bottled and sold to thirsty travelers – all up, a masterful record.

Samuel J. Fell

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