Friday, 21 October 2016

Profile - Kinky Friedman

Published in The Music (Brisbane / Sydney), October 12th / 19th

Horse sex, David Hasselhoff and Canadian motherfuckers are just a few of the topics KINKY FRIEDMAN is likely to bring up, as SAMUEL J. FELL finds out

“I’m going deaf, but I enjoy going deaf,” says Kinky Friedman, seconds into this interview, “because you can make up more interesting things that people are saying, than what they’re really saying.”

He rounds that comment off with a laugh – it’s vintage Friedman, the long-time satirist and songwriter, political aspirant, general raconteur. As you’d expect, it doesn’t stop there. “Although I’m 71, I read at a 73-year-old level,” he deadpans at one point. A few minutes later, talking about his recent successful tour through Germany, “I’m kinda the new David Hasselhoff.”

I mention that still touring at 71-years-old is no mean feat. “I got that from Willie Nelson, Willie’s my shrink,” he responds. “Willie says that if you fail at something long enough, you become a legend. Of course, the other advice he gave me, when I was running for Governor (of Texas, in 2006), was if you’re gonna have sex with an animal, always make it a horse. Because that way, if things don’t work out, at least you know you’ve got a ride home.”

Friedman wasn’t elected Governor, although whether or not that was because of Nelson’s advice remains to be seen. Regardless, the man in the hat with the big cigar will grace our shores once more this month, promoting the release of his latest record, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met. Not unusual until you consider it’s his first record in some thirty-two years, thanks again in part, to Willie Nelson.

“Willie advised me to keep writing, because I’d stopped writing about forty years ago, at least songs,” he explains. “They just seemed to be going up in the ether and disappearing. I wanted to wait until the record companies were dinosaurs, which they just about are, and until the charts and the radio stations became meaningless… when the audience becomes the show. For better or worse, that’s kinda what we have today, so I’m writing songs that are different than what you’re hearing on the radio.”

The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is a gem, a clutch of songs delivered in Friedman’s trademark dry style, albeit a little more subdued than previous releases, a little more subtle perhaps. Nelson makes an appearance, as do Mickey Raphael and Little Jewford, from Friedman’s Texas Jewboys, the band he fronted through the 1970s. He covers a number of tracks from the likes of Tom Waits, Nelson again, Warren Zevon. He’s back in the saddle.

Talk, of course, turns away from the record and towards touring, where he’s now attracting a much younger audience, something he really enjoys. “They look at America in a different way than Americans do,” he muses on the younger crowds in places like Europe. “They seem to really relate to, say, Hunter Thompson maybe, Gram Parsons, Shel Silverstein, people like Tom Waits, Kinky, Iggy Pop – they go outside the mainstream, they’re not interested in that motherfucker from Canada… what’s his name? Justin Bieber. And it’s pretty cool, it’s a smart audience and very savvy. And that’s true pretty much all over Europe, and I think in Australia too.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Profile - Amarillo

Published in the EG section of The Age, October 7.

Amarillo find reward in new project of their own 

The term ‘side-project’ can be a dirty one in music. With connotations of said project not being as important as an artist’s main gig, it can often slip under the radar, nothing more than a blip, soon to be relegated to the oft-used dustbin of musical history.

Despite these implications though, there are projects that stem from others that do stand tall in their own right. Defined by strong writing and playing, they’re bands that truly become their own entity – Melbourne quartet Amarillo fit firmly into this camp.

The brainchild of Raised By Eagles co-founder and guitarist Nick O’Mara, along with singer-songwriter Jac Tonks, Amarillo are the real deal – a vehicle for this pair, along with bassist Trent McKenzie and drummer Alex Rogowski, to showcase songs written outside their respective main gigs, the band has blossomed over the past couple of years.

“When Jac and I met, she had a whole lot of demos, and I’m always writing songs,” explains O’Mara on the origins of the group. “It really came about from helping each other finish songs, sitting around playing songs together, then deciding we should play them for the public.”

“Some songs are suited to certain projects,” he goes on. “Jac likes a lot of bands that I really love that aren’t touchstones or influences for other bands I’m in, like Raised By Eagles, so Amarillo is a really fun outlet for those kind of bands, those English bands like XTC, The SUNDAYS, stuff like that.”

These influences, along with a healthy does of Americana, define the band’s debut long-player, Eyes Still Fixed, which follows on from their 2014 eponymous EP. The album, a lot of which was written on the road in the Northern Territory, is warm and lush, the songs, as you would expect, the true focus.

“We wanted to try and capture the distance and broadness of the environment in [the Territory], we wanted that atmosphere,” O’Mara explains of the album’s nine tracks. “We didn’t do it so consciously, but we wanted the feeling of where we’d written the song, to still be in it when we recorded it.”

Produced by O’Mara’s cousin, Shane O’Mara, Eyes Still Fixed carries a lot of weight. Yes, the band’s members are known for work elsewhere, but it’s in this incarnation that they’re shining just as brightly – with this album, Amarillo have proven they’re something all their own.

Samuel J. Fell

Monday, 10 October 2016

Record Review - Beth Hart

Published in the November issue of Rolling Stone (Aust.), October 2016

Beth Hart
Fire On The Floor
Provogue / Mascot

Beth Hart finds her musical space with eighth solo release

Beth Hart’s new release, her eighth solo album, is on a new level. There seems to be an assuredness to her delivery here, to her lyrics, she seems to have found a spot in which to reside, and it’s a spot she inhabits well.

Beginning with the sultry, jazz-stained ‘Jazzman’, Fire On The Floor covers a lot of rootsy ground – soul (‘Let’s Get Together’, the title track, ‘Good Day To Cry’), blues and blues/rock (‘Coca Cola’, ‘Fat Man’), jazz and touches of gospel. With a crack band behind her, it’s Hart’s voice which takes centre stage, as one would expect. Solid, soaring, assured. This is a new Beth Hart, the conviction with which she now sings heralding the start of something special.

Samuel J. Fell

Key Tracks: Jazzman, Let’s Get Together, Fire On The Floor

Record Review - Jordie Lane

Published in the November issue of Rolling Stone (Aust.), October 2016

Jordie Lane & The Sleepers
Blood Thinner Records / MGM

Jordie Lane picks up where he left off with first studio album in five years

It’s been a while between drinks for Jordie Lane, but as his new studio effort attests, he’s not lost anything in the interim. GLASSELLLAND is Lane in vintage form, his strong and warm voice framing a set of songs astounding in their intricate telling of everyday tales in such a way as to make them relatable to most anyone.

Teaming up with now long-time collaborator Clare Reynolds, the pair play all instruments on this one, Lane’s trademark Americana/folk still very much the focus but now with a pop nous (think Beatles, circa Rubber Soul) that adds a new dimension to a sound already brimming with diversity and sonic flavour. This album is strong and assured, yet another stellar release.

Samuel J. Fell

Key Tracks: ‘Black Diamond’, ‘America Won’t You Make My Dreams Come True’, ‘Dreamin’ The Life’

Preview - Jordie Lane

Published in the November issue of Rolling Stone (Aust.), October 2016

Jordie Lane, New Album

Jordie Lane gets nervous when it comes to making albums. His 2008 debut, Sleeping Patterns, was a long time coming, and once he’d briefly toured it, he literally fled the country. Three hard years then passed before the follow-up, 2011’s sublime Blood Thinner, and now, five years has passed, a gap in which Lane released an EP (Not Built To Last) and a live set (Live At The Wheaty), but a gap conspicuous for its lack of an actual album. Until now, as he prepares to release his third long-player, Glassellland. True to form though, it didn’t come easily.

“It took a long time to get in the head space and actively start writing,” he concurs. “But it did finally feel like we had something new to say, something we were passionate about.” Glassellland is the result of Lane coming together with collaborator Clare Reynolds, with whom he’s worked before, and stands as a sort of amalgamation of the DIY of Blood Thinner, and the slickness of Not Built To Last.

“I didn’t want it to be either of those, I really wanted to get the best of both worlds,” he confirms, “the na├»ve makeshift rawness, then the audio quality of the modern digital recordings.” The results are something Lane needn’t be afraid of – Glassellland marries the two approaches with aplomb, retaining his Americana foundation, but not being afraid to embrace a range of aesthetics.

“It’s burst open the bug for creating new stuff,” he says, a sure-fire sign it won’t be five years before the next record.

Samuel J. Fell