Category Archives: Music Reviews

The Blue Room's Year in Music 2016

Despite the sadness associated with a major loss of musical talent, there was a veritable plethora of great albums produced this year, both from ageing stalwarts and a new breed of talent. It think too often pundits around my age are quick to lament that there’s nothing put out in the marketplace these days to match the quality of product that occurred when they were in their prime. I do beg to differ – and I would suggest that a listen to some of the CDs I’ve listed in my Top 10, as well as those among the honorable mentions, would cause a rethink =

1. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – this hipster-bearded wonder from Missouri first enchanted me on Graham Norton with a raucous single I could easily take as my motto – ‘I Need Never Get Old’, a raucous foot-stomper if there ever was one. Check it out on YouTube and you will see what I mean, with, as a bonus, a viewing of Nathaniel’s generous gut. I bought the CD as a result and found it to be a quality collection that I keep returning to.

2. Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘The Things that We Are Made Of ‘– this darling of nineties country music comes back with a collection reminiscent of her pomp.

3. Sonya Kitchell – We Come Apart – Sadly not available here – I imported it from the States but it was well worth the effort – apart from one discordant track. A multi-talented lady, Sonya K has produced an album Rolling Stone describes as ‘Extraordinary… a remarkably sophisticated collection of songs that belies the age of its creator ‘.

4. Emma Russack – ‘In a New State‘ – Made whilst finishing off her law degree, this unsung (sorry) Melbourne songstress has produced a moody gem. Will music be her eventual calling, or the legal profession?

5. Jack and Amanda Palmer – ‘You Got Me Singing‘ – A father and famous daughter project, this took me back to Lee Heazlewood and Nancy Sinatra.

6. Felix Riebl – ‘Paper Doors’ – Not a huge fan of The Cat Empire, but I am of this band member. Even better than his excellent debut a few years back.

7. Paul Kelly and Charlie Owen – ‘Death’s Dateless Night‘ – Another co-production, with Kelly in sublime voice re-inventing some of his back catalogue, along with some quality covers.

8. Eric Clapton – ‘I Still Do‘ – So what if he’s not cutting edge in his dotage. Let’s just appreciate Old Slowhand while we can and long may he walk his way through albums like this.

9. Lucinda Williams – ‘The Ghosts of Highway 20‘ – this warhorse of alt country isn’t getting any younger, but she can still belt it out in her ballsy style better than most half her age.

10. Archie Roach – ‘Let Love Rule’ – Living national treasure. Nothing more to be said.

HMs – Foy Vance – ‘The Wild Swan’; Angel Olsen – ‘My Woman’; Andrew Bird – ‘Are You Serious?’; Willie Nelson – ‘For the Good Times’; M Ward – ‘More Rain’; Melody Pool – ‘Deep, Dark, Savage Heart’; Case, Lang, Veirs; Joan Baez – ’75th Anniversary’; Leonard Cohen’ – You Want it Darker’; Tony Joe White – ‘Rain Crow’.

Songs I Liked in ’16 – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – ‘I Need Never Get Old’, Joan Baez/Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘Catch the Wind’, Steve Earle and Shaun Colvin – ‘Ruby Tuesday’, Case Lang Veirs – ‘Delirium’, Felix Riehl and Martha Wainwright – ‘In Your Arms’, Angel Olsen – ‘Sister’, Archie Roach – ‘Let Love Rule’, Sonya Kitchell – ‘We Come Apart’.

The Blue Room's Year in Music 2015

The Spin Doctor, Iain Shedden, is always worth a read in the Weekend Oz as in each issue he gives a run-down on the latest music goss that piques his interest. And as it’s almost a given, at this time of year, that he, along with many other print pundits, will produce a best of for the last twelve months. Iain, judging by the image that accompanies his column, looks as though he is not that far off my age – sorry Iain – and it seems from a long reading of him that our tastes are similar. So I give a great deal of credence to his lists. For 2015 they are three in number – best live performances, best local albums and the best from overseas.

Father John Misty recently gigged in Yarra City and Iain went along, was blown away so listed him No.1 in the first category. I liked him too back in the day when he was simply known as John Tillman and I possessed a CD of his under that moniker. So when ‘I Love You Honeybear’ came out to some critical acclaim earlier this year I purchased it. Shedden himself listed it as his second fav overseas album. But I was disappointed with it after I had a listen. Despite all of the positive fuss about it, its hardly rotated in my music machine since.

So its all rather subjective you see, these lists. But they’re fun to compile. And there was much in the product of 2015 I did adore so the below rankings took a deal of thought – especially as one arrived at the lower reaches and there was much excellence remaining. So, for what it’s worth:-


1. Charcoal Lane 25th Anniversary Edition – Archie Roach (and friends) . Those ‘friends’ are the reason I purchased this as I already had the original in my collection, now passed on to my Katie. I know she’ll treasure it. The package contains a second CD of other artists presenting their takes on the iconic tunes the album contained. These include some duets between the great man and his lovely partner, Ruby Hunter, now sadly deceased. Artists of the calibre of Paul Kelly, Courtney Barnett, Dan Sultan, Gurrumul and Marlon Williams are featured. And I even love what rappers, Radical Son and Urthboy, do with ‘No, No, No’. Fancy that!

2. Sermon on the Rocks/Home Recordings – Josh Ritter.  A signed copy of this came all the way from the US courtesy of my Josh-loving daughter and the whole shebang is a great vehicle for the diverse range of this singing troubadour. Belatedly his albums are now available in Oz.

3. Hollow Meadows – Richard Hawley . After an appealing aberration with his last collection, this former member of Pulp returns to what he does best. The Sheffielder is back in his croon groove and we’re all the better for that.

4. Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett. Partly raised under the benevolent gaze of kunanyi, this grungy Aussie songstress has taken the world by storm with her gritty, wittty vignettes of urban existence.

5. Beneath the Skin – Of Monsters and Men. The second issue from this Icelandic band even eclipses its acclaimed first – in this humble scribe’s opinion.

6. Carrie and Lowell – Sufjan Stevens. I’d largely forgotten about Sufjan after a purchasing a couple of his oeuvre a decade or so back. The reviews for this caused me to revisit him and I was not disappointed.

7. Faded Gloryville – Lindi Ortega. Last year Myf introduced me to Ray Lamontagne on 2JJ during my extended Briddy stay and this year it has been Ms Ortega. An Emmylou in the making. Thanks Myf.
8. The Travellin’ Kind – Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell.  And speaking of the above, the first collaboration of these two won a Grammy. This follow up, I feel, has a much better song selection.

9. Terraplane – Steve Earl and the Dukes. The old Copperhead Road man shows he has lost none of his alt country chops in this rollicking collection.

10. Absent Fathers – Justin Townes Earle. Son of the above chides his old man for the obvious – but these songs also celebrate the emergence from a dark place.

HMs – Eternal Return – Sara Blasko, May Day – Mark Seymour and the Undertow, Nanna – Xavier Rudd, Sound and Colour – Alabama Shakes, Marlon Williams, Hank Jr Sings Hank Sr – Hank Williams Jr, Django and Jimmie – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Tracker – Mark Knopfler.
Discoveries – She and Him, Ryan Bingham

Iain Shedden’s lists =

She and Him

Is she giving him a peck on the cheek, or whispering of her love into his shell-like? It’s so difficult to tell. But one thing is quite evident. Back then they were so young, as we all were – so very young. And they were so much in love.

stills collins01

My beautiful, talented daughter and I were sitting in a favourite watering hole a few weeks back, shooting the breeze about music – as is our wont. I was telling her how pleased I was that she had recently purchased a box-set of the remarkable Go-Betweens, a favourite of days gone by. She was informing me of a newly formed fascination with the Smiths and Morrissey. Then she said something that quite surprised me – that she was also getting into her.

Once upon a time I was so very into her too – but in the decade it occurred I knew nothing of her relationship with him. It was much later that I connected the dots. It was all so long ago, their romance – back in 1967, just before the ‘Summer of Love’. Their time together lasted just two years – then she was swept off her feet by, of all people, Stacy Keach. He took her away from him and he was devastated. He had lost his ‘chestnut brown canary’, his ‘ruby-throated sparrow.’ It happened just as he had written his special song for her – had laboured over it for months. When he initially played his first demo of it to her, it was far from the finished product – the version of it that would appear on his group’s first album. It was important to him that she liked it. A decision had soon to be made as to whether he and his band-mates would perform it at what was to be only their second live performance. It was. The planned gig was an open-air affair on some farm field near a small upstate New York town called Woodstock. He knew, deep down when he penned the lyrics, that all was not well between she and him. He sensed there were rocky times on the way. At that stage he didn’t know of her other suitor. All that didn’t make it any easier, but at least the words poured out of him.

Much later on she would write, ‘Stephen came to where I was singing one night on the West Coast and bought his guitar to the hotel and he sang me…the whole song. And of course it had lines in it that referred to my therapy. And so he wove that altogether in this magnificent creation. So the legacy of our relationship is certainly in that song.’

That ‘much later’, approaching more recent times, also occasionally involves them appearing on stage together – not so difficult as they had being seeing a bit of each other. She had, as well, become good mates with his wife. One such time was a Q and A event where the obvious topic of that song would come up. He is now sixty-eight and quite hard of hearing, but together with his fellow musos from back in the day, Graham and David, they still perform a set or two together in public. Sometimes they even sing the song – and it still hasn’t lost any of its magic. The punters are always pretty appreciative of it. The tune has stood the test of time and the royalty cheques for it still roll in – handy, as well as a reminder of the glory years that, as a solo performer, although he does okay, it is impossible to recapture. Also one can never fully recapture youth, but up on stage that night, she was still radiant – despite her years. She had a twinkle in her eye and as always at such events, mischief on her lips.


She recalled that, after he sang the song for her again, the more polished version, in her hotel room, her heart melted and she made promises she knew she could never keep. The stately singer, now well into her seventies, surmised that she was too far gone into her relationship with Keach, by that time, to go back to the songsmith. As well, she knew, she had a love affair with the bottle to deal with – thus the therapy. It was a tough time for both of them all round. But out of the disintegrating partnership came a song, one of the great paeans to love and longing for which our musical heritage is all the richer.

With their renewed friendship he bears no ill-feelings. There’d be no point. He still thinks about how, out of such a personal mess, something wonderful emerged – so much so that up on stage that evening he turns to look at her. He notes she still possesses those all-enveloping blue eyes he so adored back in the sixties – still does, if truth be known.

As he watches, on that New York night, she is telling the audience that she hasn’t heard the song performed live for going on forty-five years. She was rhapsodising to them about how it was such a romantic tune and that she still loved it – so much so that her autobiography bears its title. She informs how chuffed the man sitting beside was when she communicated to him that decision. Now that they have reconnected, she reckons there is a good chance they may even get together to do an album – maybe, perhaps, we’ll see.

stills collins

When the spotlight turned back to him, it caused him to cease his reverie of her and concentrate on the people out in front. He philosophised to his audience that, when you are young and love comes calling, you fall so hard and so continually wear your heart on a sleeve. He likens it to Taylor Swift’s recent cathartic album of tunes about her break-up and he claims, ‘You know who she’s singing about and it really doesn’t matter.’ He looks again towards his old love and tells her how touched he was about about how tenderly she described their years together in her tome. Then Stephen Stills paused, turns away from the crowd and towards her. With a slight tremor in his voice, he states, ‘I don’t know how to thank you for that song.’

Judy Collins, looks back at him and replies, ‘Nor I you.

CSN perform ‘Suite Judy Blue Eyes’ =

Lyrics =

The Songster and the Poet

You play your guitar on the MTV
That ain’t working, that’s the way you do it
Money for nothing and your chicks for free

That’s an example of the ‘poetry’ of the second half of the last century – or as close as the masses will get to the real thing, many would argue. Millions know these lines from ‘Money for Nothing’, know their composer (Mark Knopfler), his band (Dire Straits), and the gazillion selling album the song is taken from (‘Brothers in Arms’). But I remember another tune.

I remember hearing it on the radio. It stopped me in my tracks long ago in 1978. I actually went back to the little transistor on my bed-head and turned up the volume. It was so different – the singer’s voice so tunefully laconic, the jangly guitar sound so refreshing in comparison with the strident norm back then. I was instantly hooked on ‘Sultans of Swing’. Mark Knopfler had entered my world and I have been with him ever since. It was the Netherlands that caught on first, then, slowly gathering power like a tsunami, ‘SofS’ broke out all across Europe before arriving back in its native land, the UK, like a tidal wave. The song wasn’t universally adored but it got Dire Straits noticed. And when ‘Brothers in Arms’ (1985) arrived, they became, for a while, the biggest band in the world.


It didn’t take long after that for its singer/songwriter/lead guitarist MK to start stretching his wings. He embarked on solo projects, wrote film scores and became all countrified with the Notting Hillbillies. Solo, or touring with the likes of Dylan, Clapton and Sting – or with his band until 1995 – he continued/s to sell out arenas. And I still buy all his albums as a matter of course and he’s never let me down. His latest, ‘Tracker’, is no exception. It, too, is all class and quality. But one song from it has come to stand out for me after I read its provenance – ‘Basil’


Long before he became a rock god and international jet-setter, Mark Knopfler was working in a newspaper office as a copy boy – a sort of gofer. This was for his home city’s daily, ‘The Newcastle Evening News’. Labouring alongside him was a tired, distracted, grumpy old man. He was a sub-editor crabbily bossing young, callow Mark K around. He was Basil Bunting. And he had led a life, had Basil.

To be quiet honest, until I’d come across the ‘Tracker’ track I’d never heard of Bunting, regarded as one of Britain’s greatest poets of recent times. Parallel to him ordering the would-be musician around he was engrossed in writing his greatest gift to his nation – ‘Briggflatts’. It’s autobiographical, epic in scope. And there was plenty in his life to draw from.

Old BB was born in the first year of a new century, near Newcastle, into a Quaker household. His religious views caused him to be a conscientious objector during the Great War. This in turn led him to be sent to Wormwood Scrubs at his majesty’s pleasure. He was traumatised by his prison experiences and turned to poetry as a means of blurring out the realities of incarcerated life and its aftermath. On release, he became a fan of Ezra Pound, London bohemian life and social activism. His ‘Sultans of Swing’ moment was the ‘sonata’ ‘Villon’, published in 1925. With its success, like Dire Straits, he was on his way. The thirties saw him travelling around Europe, playing chess with Franco, meeting Pound and marrying American Marion Calver. He had little success, though, in adhering to his vows or the two daughters, Bourtari and Roudaba, his spouse duly produced. His wife commented that, ‘The idea of working for a living was so hateful to him that he screamed with rage if it was ever mentioned.’ Marion soon realised that his only interest in her was the regular stipend she received from her father. She left him in 1936, pregnant with a son he never got around to meeting. Whilst still with her she alleges he fell in love with a twelve year old lass in Tenerife and that was the last straw.

In the following war it seems Bunting put aside his scruples and joined the British Intelligence Service. He was posted to Persia. In that kingdom BB seemed to have found his place in the world, possibly assisted by the locals’ more liberal attitude to relationships between older men and very young girls. After peace came he stayed on, working at the embassy, while all the time publishing his verse back home.


In 1948 he married Sima. He was pushing fifty, she was fourteen. The marriage lasted, providing two more offspring. It did, however, cost him his job and eventually, in ’52, he was also expelled from Tehran.

Back in England, to make a crust, he took to journalism. Despite becoming increasingly popular with and inspiration to a new wave of poets in the sixties, there wasn’t much money to be had in the poetry game. He had a family to support. He reluctantly turned to a day job in print media. In 1965 ‘Briggflatts’ emerged and some critics started comparing him to the great Eliot. His marriage ended in ’79, and he breathed his last in the year of ‘Brothers in Arms’ – but not before he gave all versifiers the following advice:-
‘Compose aloud. Poetry is a sound.’
Perhaps Knopfler’s song will bring Basil Bunting to the attention of many more lovers of good wordsmithery as it did me. I hope so. Track down ‘Tracker’ on YouTube and have a listen to ‘Basil’ and see if your interest is piqued too about a poet to whom the lyricist had a connection once upon a time. Bunting reading his work is also available there. Below is a sample of it. Maybe his words will move you as did ‘Sultans of Swing’ me, once upon a time.
A strong song tows
us, long earsick.
Blind, we follow
rain slant, spray flick
to fields we do not know.

Night, float us.
Offshore wind, shout,
ask the sea
what’s lost, what’s left,
what horn sunk,
what crown adrift.

Where we are who knows
of kings who sup
while day fails? Who,
swinging his axe
to fell kings, guesses
where we go?
Mesh cast for mackerel
by guess and the sheen’s tremor —
imperceptible if you haven’t the knack —
a difficult job;
hazardous and seasonal:many shoals all of a sudden,
it would tax the Apostles to take the lot;
then drowse for months,
 nets on the shingle,
a pint in the tap.
Likewise the pilchards come unexpectedly,
startle the man on the cliff.
 “Remember us to the teashop girls.
Say we have seen no better legs than theirs,
we have the sea to stare at —
its treason, copiousness, and tedium.”

Basil Bunting reading from Briggflatts =



The history of the event that spawned the legend is as hazy as the newspaper reports of it back in the day. Yet it shaped the life of a young Oklahoma lass and indelibly imprinted her name into the lore of the West. The question is, though, did she go on to shop her man? We’ll perhaps never get to the bottom of that – but thanks to Rusty Young her notoriety lives on with his musical tribute.

Here’s what we think we know. At some date in 1879 she was was born in the town of Ingalls in her home state, initially a member of a dirt poor family. Her mother later remarried a prominent town citizen and that changed her circumstances, if not her wild ways. The stepfather was probably the reason her name was erased from the official and press reports of the incident at the time – that and her youth.

rose of cimarron

Rose Dunn had several elder brothers – sources are vague on the exact number – but by the time their sister attained teenagerhood the boys had strayed to the wrong side of the law. They were hanging out with a gang of ne’er-do-wells at a secret hideaway by a river on the outskirts of town. Rose spent time with them there too, learning how to rope, ride and shoot – and by all accounts becoming more than proficient at all three, thus adding to the legend. Some of these skills were surely required in order to survive the ordeal that lay not too far ahead of our Rose. Soon her brothers decided that the other side of the tracks just wasn’t advancing them very much at all financially. They left their crim pals to join the side of justice, becoming bounty hunters. Rose stayed on. The gang by now numbered a half dozen or so and was being led by the Doolin Brothers. This motley crew later became known, in the endless list of banditry existing in the Old West, as the ‘Wild Bunch’. The reason Rose did not stray from them too is that, at fifteen, she was now very intimate with one of the rogues, George Newcomb, better known as Bitter Creek. She supplied him and his cronies with all the victuals they needed from the stores in her burb as, by now being wanted men, it was in their best interests not to be seen there in broad daylight.

We know not what bought them out and about on the streets of that Oklahoma town one September day back in 1893. But ride in they did, only to be corralled by a posse of thirteen US marshals waiting for them. The resulting gunfight became known as the Battle of Ingalls. Bitter Creek was wounded very early in the shoot-out and from her vantage point Rose could see he was out of ammo, making him vulnerable in the extreme. She was able to get a rifle to her man enabling him to continue the fight. Exactly how is a moot point. All evidence comes from eye-witnesses recalling the ‘battle’, long after the event, so verifying it all is difficult. One source stated she simply dashed to his side, relying on the fact that true gentlemen would never shoot at a woman, let alone a young girl. Another, there on the occasion, stated she was trapped in an upstairs room of the OK Hotel, lowering the rifle down by a bed sheet, following herself by the same method. There seems to be some evidence she may have defended her lover by returning fire herself. All recollect she was vital in allowing BC to escape the scene, despite his wounds. Two deputies were killed, but most of the Wild Bunch escaped, albeit with several carrying lead. They headed to their riverside refuge where Rose nursed them back to health. Soon after Rose became disenchanted with life on the run – either that or her ardour for her man cooled – so she returned to the family home in Ingalls. Was Bitter Creek pining for her so much that, despite the $5000 dollar reward on his head, he decided to pay her a visit – or did he have revenge on his mind? We don’t know the reason, but her brothers were waiting to ambush and as he dismounted his stead, they shot him dead. From this has emerged the notion that Rose knew he was coming and betrayed him. The bounty was duly collected. Did she share in the reward? Again, it’s not recorded.

For the rest of her days Rose kept her role in the affray to herself. She’d had enough excitement for one lifespan and desired a less frenetic existence. She went on marry a local politician, became a respectable law-abiding citizen, dying far away in Washington state, aged seventy-six.

She, however, lives on in the ethos of the Wild West, carrying attached to her name that of the river on the outskirts of her town- the hiding place for the Wild Bunch. For all time she’ll remain the Rose of Cimarron. But how did her legend spread?

In 1915 a Bill Tilghman gave the story to a newspaperman and it was he who gave the tale its first airing in print, based on Bill’s recollections as a former lawman. His tale was included in a slight compilation of such yarns entitled ‘Oklahoma Outlaws’. Over subsequent decades the saga was rehashed in many publications, but it took until 1952 for the real life Ms Dunn to become linked with the legendary Rose. This was down to some skilful detective work by author James D Horan in preparing for his tome ‘Desperate Women’. Hollywood came calling and tried to track her down, but she couldn’t be found. No Facebook, etc, back then! The movie version of the ‘Rose Of Cimarron’, tale that eventually emerged, had no parallel to the events centred on Rose and Bitter Creek. But, of course, we have the song.

The members of Poco, along with the likes of Gram Parsons and the Byrds, were prominent in the early days of West Coast country rock genre that reached its peak with the Eagles. A constant in their ever-changing line-up, right till 2013, has been Rusty Young. Back in 1973, on tour in Oklahoma, Rusty picked up a publication that featured the story of Rose and her deeds in days of yore. On that basis he crafted the tune in her memory – a tune that became his band’s signature song.


Those of you who know this scribbler well also know my adoration of Emmylou Harris. In 1981 she covered the song on her ‘Cimarron’ album. When she left Warner Brothers, in the nineties, the honchos there released a cobbled together collection of some of her country classics, including the Young penned tune. This album, despite it being a mishmash, still stands up well, including, as it does, such chestnuts as ‘I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose’, ‘Queen of the Silver Dollar’ and ‘The Sweetheart of the Rodeo’. But to me ‘Rose of Cimarron’ is the stand-out.

The song takes us back to the day when ‘…the misspent lead was hitting in the streets like a hard rain on dusty ground’ and Rose Dunn, at only fifteen, staked her claim as a true legend of the Old West. Think of her as you click over to YouTube to check out Poco’s original version, or when having a listen to Emmylou’s take on it. Both are classics!


Lyrics to Rose of Cimarron =

YouTube – Poco =

YouTube – Emmylou Harris =

Dance x2

Steve can’t dance. Steve has all the clichés – two left feet, is a Peter Garrett wannabe – all that shit. My father could glide across and dance floor like Astaire, my lovely lady is a svelte mover and my music-adoring daughter has all the cool moves. I have none of that – but it doesn’t mean that, when the occasion arises and I’m in a comfort zone, I will not shake my booty. In front of a class was such a place. To Spiderbait’s ‘Black Betty’, the Masters ‘Turn Up the Radio’ or ‘Daydream Believer’ (Smashmouth version), for instance, I was known to put on a show – and encourage my cherubs to do the same, despite their teenage inhibitions. My swansong in this regard, back in ’11, was a solo performance, via video-link, for the leaving students of that year. I am told it was a hit. And this scribbling features what Steve can’t do – dance.

In May 1988 Leonard Cohen had a new set of lyrics, with music, he felt worthy enough to open his show – a song he put together on an obsolete Casio synthesiser he found in a shop on Times Square. It’s that sound that introduces ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ to his audiences to this very day. It never fails – on hearing the opening refrain chills run down my spine – and then that’s repeated when that instantly recognisable voice kicks in. It’s much the same feeling many of his fans get when he launches into ‘Hallelujah’, Cohen’s eternal gift to the world. But to me, Leonard’s lullaby about ‘Dancing to your beauty with a burning violin’ sits number one on my attempted rating of his best songs – see below. Many, on line, have tried a similar exercise. This exquisite aural masterpiece of Leonard’s always makes me think of my Leigh and her incredible gifts to me – even if her Steve can’t dance.


The grand old Canadian songsmith is pushing eighty-one and still touring. I wonder how long he can go on – enchanting us. And he is still such a lady’s man – just listen to Clare Bowditch, who toured Oz with him recently, on the subject of his marriage proposal to her.

There’s also another of my favourites who can’t go on forever either. John Prine is battling cancer. In 1998 he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer. Like LC, his voice is also an acquired taste – a guy you either, like me, love – or have to turn off the moment you hear him. Prine’s cancer has added even more gravel to his instrument, with part of the right side of his neck being removed by the surgeon’s scalpel. In 2013 Prine posted, on his website, that he was now suffering from unrelated lung cancer and proceded to cancel all forthcoming gigs. This month he is bravely attempting to take to the road again. Unlike Mr Cohen, Prine is not well known on these shores, although he has visited. In the US he’s a legend of the alt country scene, regarded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation.


His 1973 collection ‘Sweet Revenge’ was passed on to me by my brother Kim who had far cooler musical tastes than I back in the day. Your scribe was immediately hooked and rushed out to buy his back catalogue – and I’ve purchased each new product ever since. As is my wont, I also had a go at conjuring a top ten for him– every bit as difficult as doing the one above for the world treasure.

Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois in 1946. And just as the Man in Black discovered Kristofferson, so the latter found JP singing in the folk dens and bars of Chicago and kick stated his career. Prine has won numerous awards for his music, including Grammys. Cash considered him one of the ‘big four’ of writers to whom he’d turn when he needed a little inspiration – along with Rodney Crowell, Steve Goodman and Guy Clark. So this fan well and truly reckons Australia has, in the main, missed out on a good thing.


So why am I grouping him with Cohen for this piece? Well, coincidentally, for me it’s a no-brainer what this guy’s best tune is. It comes from one of his most attractive recordings, ‘German Afternoons’, which entered the world in 1987. As well as my top song, it contains such gems as my number six;’Out of Love’; ‘Linda Goes To Mars’ and ‘Sailin’ Around’. The ditty in question was a massive hit for George Strait and a UK one for Daniel O’Donnell. So peruse my list, check the items out on YouTube – but pay particular to the top dog and you’ll answer the query that opened this paragraph. And of course it all brings me back again to my Leigh and the fact that Steve can’t dance.

10. I’m Your Man
09. Anthem
08. First We Take Manhatten
07. Hey, That’s no Way To Say Goodbye
06. Everybody Knows
05. A Thousand Kisses Deep
04. Hallelujah
03. Bird On A Wire
02. Suzanne
01. Dance Me To The End Of Love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

10. The Sins Of Memphisto
09. Angel From Montgomery
08. Just Wanna Be With You
07. Blow Up Your TV
06. Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
05. Aimless Love
04. Hello In There
03. Illegal Smile
02. Sam Stone
01. I Just Wanna Dance With You

I don’t want to be the kind to hesitate,
Be too shy, wait too late
I don’t care what they say other lovers do,
I just want to dance with you.

I gotta feeling that you have a heart like mine,
So let it show, let it shine.
If we have a chance to make one heart of two,
I just want to dance with you.

I want to dance with you, twirl you all around the floor
That’s what they intended dancin’ for,
I just want to dance with you.
I want to dance with you, hold you in my arms once more,
That’s what they invented dancin’ for,
I just want to dance with you.

I caught you lookin’ at me when I looked at you,
Yes I did, ain’t that true?
You won’t get embarrassed by the things I do,
I just want to dance with you.

Oh the boys are playin’ softly and the girls are too,
So am I and so are you.
If this was a movie, we’d be right on cue,
I just want to dance with you.

I just want to dance with you,
I just want to dance with you,
I just want to dance with you.

YouTube of Leonard, with Casio, singing ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ =

YouTube of Prine singing ‘I Just Wanna Dance With You’ =

Joe and Douglas

He’s gone now – but he has been captured for all eternity a thousand times over – in voice, the moving image and in photographs. It is Douglas Kent Hall’s take of him with the latter I love. It’s of Cocker in his prime, his mouth open in guttural growl, his hands poised in the spasms that came to be the idiosyncrasy most associated with him – his stage paroxysms. Of course we cannot see his jerking in all its glory – in Hall’s image they’re inferred, just as the monochrome infers all about the man in his pomp – the Woodstock Cocker, the ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ Cocker, Cocker in the period he used to confess he could never remember, so strung out was he in his golden age. So legend goes, during this time his mother, in sorting his laundry, found a cheque in his pocket for a cool million or so. When she asked the obvious, he had no recollection of the person it was from nor what service he had rendered to earn it. Sadly Cocker and that voice was lost to the world last year.

hall cocker

And what of the man responsible for this image, as well as so many other memorable ones of the gods and goddesses during rock’s wild years– what of him? Well he preceded Joe to beyond the silver lining by six years, but he too has left us with an indelible legacy.

Of course, for me, it is all about those rock photographs. They include multiple takes of the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, some of which are legendary. But none the less atmospheric are his stills of Hendrix, Tina Turner, Daltry, Jagger and so on – you name them – he snapped them.


To Americans Hall is also revered for his shootings of ‘real cowboys’ – those that, ‘…as opposed to urban cowboys, drug-store cowboys, rodeo cowboys, or movie cowboys, stay on horseback all day long working cattle.’ (Mark Strand). But Hall himself didn’t knock the rodeo cowboy. – in fact he lauded them, both in word and image in publications such as ‘Let Er Buck’ and ‘Rodeo’. He had a love of this form of ‘entertainment’ since his childhood days growing up in Mormon territory, Utah – although he didn’t abide by that latter persuasion. In the eighties he finally settled down in one place – that place being a small hamlet in northern New Mexico. Prior to that he had roamed the world on assignment once he’d established his credentials. These took him on photographic journeys that were outside the realm of music and cowpokes. He travelled the West pointing his camera at the US’s indigenous tribes. Then there were the body builders such as Lou Ferrigno, Lisa Lyon and Arnold Schwarzenegger when they were in peak condition. After his constant wanderings were over and he was finally semi-stationary with his second wife, he took to photographing the churches of his local region, before travelling to South America for two iconic portfolios – the miners of Minas Geras in Brazil and Peru’s Zen ghost horses. He also had a spell in St Petersburg, capturing Russian life.


As if all this wasn’t enough, Douglas KH was an exponent of various martial arts and a well read novelist – his first employment on leaving college being a teacher of creative writer.

But it’s his early photographs, his rock oeuvre that I am fascinated by. He commenced these way back in 1968 with a move to London, continuing his own fascination in NYC in the early seventies. These images he published in collections such as ‘Rock: a World Bold as Love’.

As with Hall and his photography, Cocker took his music into the new millennium. He’d had sporadic hits later in his career such as ‘Up Where We Belong’ and ‘You Are So Beautiful’, but nothing to match his earlier Beatles covers, ‘Delta Lady’ and ‘The Letter’. He had some great later albums too, such as the gloriously evocative ‘Sheffield Steel’, but could they match ‘Mad Dogs…’ or ‘Cocker Happy’? Joe, though, for this punter will forever be that belter of songs that Hall perfectly captured, sweat and spit flying, face and body contorted – gravelling it out from some repository deep inside with every ounce of effort his mistreated body could muster.


A portfolio of Hall’s images =

Charlie Goodnight, West Texas Heaven and a Stripper

The Jigglewatts are here. They’ve arrived – all the way from Austin Texas for their tour Downunder, starting in Perth – and sadly, from what I can discern, ending in Perth. But on show at that city’s Fringe World ’15 Festival they will bump and grind their way around several stages. They’ll strip, tease and set male – and female – hearts a pumping with their displays of sumptuous flesh – all very tasteful, mind you.


Charlie Goodnight – ever heard of him? No, nor had I. But he’s famous enough for the US Postal Service to issue a stamp in his honour. What a man he, as a result of my investigation, turned out to be. But my research of the ether didn’t commence with him as a starting point – in fact it was a present day chartreuse I was interested, but it’s with Charlie I ended up – with a comely stripper in between.

charlie goodnight stamp

But let’s start with Charlie. They don’t breed ’em like him these days. Imagine this – he was renowned for his swearing and cussin’ – think ‘Deadwood’s’ glorious Al Swearengen. He smoked fifty cigars a day, realised it was doing him no good, so switched to chuggin’ on a pipe in his later years. Those mature years lasted till the grand old age of ninety-three. And he was, let us say, very vigorous. He remarried at ninety-one, going on to produce a child. His wife was sixty-five years his junior. As I said – what a man!

If you think our Kidmans and Duracks, Charlie Goodnight was a Yankee equivalent. He was a cattle baron of the Wild West, blazing a trail across West Texas to get his beef to market as quickly as was conceivable back then. In doing so he won and lost fortunes several times. He wasn’t going to die wondering, was Charlie Goodnight. When he was done with redefining the map of the harsh lands of Texas territory, he found time to invent an effective side-saddle for women, established places of worship around his local areas for churchgoers of denominations other than his own, became part-owner of an opera house and built schools for the education of drovers’ sons and daughters. But it remains his first passion that built his lasting fame – cutting new trails where white men hadn’t ventured before. If you think our own Canning Stock Route or the Birdsville Track you get a notion of what he was about. For the Lone Star State it was the iconic Goodnight-Loving Trail that enabled Texan cowboys to eschew the Kansas railheads in favour of opening up new routes and markets to the west instead.

charles goodnight

The story of how this was achieved won a Pulitzer Prize. Larry McMurtry based his character Woodrow F Call on the West Texan drover for the novel ‘Lonesome Dove’, which garnered the prestigious award. When Call’s partner McCrae is ambushed and killed by the Indians during a cattle drive in the book, it is exactly what happened with Goodnight and his mate Oliver Loving. Charlie pulled a poisoned arrow from the chest of the dying Loving and rode the dead man back up the trail for a burial in his home town.

Goodnight was born in 1836, never learnt to read or write, fought in the Civil War and was known to one and all as the Colonel. All his employees were prohibited from drinking, gambling or fighting – but he inflicted the strongest punishment on anyone who mistreated a horse. He was no doubt a man of his age with many of his attitudes, but by any measure was a force to be reckoned with. He was also the forebear of Kimmie Rhodes, the subject of my initial foray into the web – the name Goodnight being passed on down through the generations to Kimmie and beyond. And it is through this singer I discovered the amazing, superlative Townes Van Zandt.

I picked up Rhodes’ ‘West Texas Heaven’ way back in the mid-nineties, probably attracted to it by the words beckoning on the CD’s cover – ‘Featuring Willie Nelson (and) Waylon Jennings’. Like TVZ, Ms Rhodes is songwriter’s songwriter, with her tunes having been recorded by a disparate selection of greats – everyone from Emmylou, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton, Trisha Yearwood right through to Oz’s own John Farnham – as well as, of course, Willie and Waylon.

Kimmie grew up in Buddy Holly territory. She was a Lubbock lass. Singing on stage since the age of six, she moved to Austin in ’79, becoming a vital part of that city’s outlaw country scene. There she met long term partner Joe Gracey, a music producer who passed in 2011. In ’81 she recorded her first album in Willie’s Austin studio. She has issued a plethora down through the years since, both in solo and collaboration form, but for some reason WTH is the only one I own. Must do something about that.

Although a legend in her own state and popular in parts of Europe, Kimmie has never caught on in this market. Her product only seems available on import. Like her ancestor Charlie, Kimmie is also a bit of a jack-of-all-trades being, as well, an author, playwright and producer. Rodney Crowell describes her as having,’The soul of a poet and the voice of an angel.’ Sweet Emmylou states, ‘Kimmie has the voice of a beautiful child coming from an old soul. She touches us where the better angels of our nature dwell,…’ Country music folk are really into their angels.


Her duet on the album with Townes VZ, ‘I’m Gonna Fly’, opened up his own oeuvre to me – his tunesmithery and his sad, sad life. She tells the story of how that collaboration all came about on YouTube – look it up. Like many of our musical heroes, Townes did not live long enough to enjoy any measure of the fame he now holds – had he done so he’d probably have drunk it all away in any case. Kimmie is made of more resilient stuff, although she too continues to fly under the radar in many parts. Her time will come. I still play ‘West Texas Heaven’ and ‘I’m Gonna Fly’ still gives me goosebumps, bringing a tear to this old fella’s eye.

Kimmie and her hubby of twenty-eight years produced one daughter, although she has a couple of sons from her first marriage. The daughter is also pretty special. She is Jolie Goodnight and she takes her clothes off for a living.

‘If you want to see strippers in Austin,’ trills the Austin Post, ‘you can head on over to the Yellow Rose and buy yourself a lapdance, but if you want to see burlesque in Texas, you’ll have to look a little harder. If you’re lucky you might find Jolie Goodnight, a dish-water-blonde-turned-flame- haired-beauty who dazzles audiences as she sings jazz standards and does a striptease at the same time.’ What Jolie does to entertain is part strip but mainly tease – its an art form currently enjoying a world wide revival under the broad banner of burlesque.


Jolie became hooked on it as a youngster during her mother’s tours of Europe, where it has always been held in high regard. What she does is not for the raincoat brigade as it’s classy, albeit undeniably sensual – with a soupçon of bawdiness as well. Ms Goodnight is set apart by the fact that it’s her own voice that is singing as she dispenses with her garments. Check her out too on YouTube. You’ll only need to be moderately of broadish mind.

This burlesque queen loves what she does and claims there is absolutely nothing salacious about it. She reckons for five or six minutes she gets to be a goddess up there on a pedestal. Sure she’s ogled at, but by a far more appreciative and discerning audience than would inhabit the Yellow Rose. For her, it’s all about the tease, aided by black stockings, pasties, and feather boas. Together with her fellow troupe of ladies of similar ilk, the Jigglewatts, she may one day come tour our eastern states as well.

I wonder what the Colonel would have made of her?

Kimmie Tells the story of how ‘I’m Gonna Fly’ came to be on ‘West Texas Heaven’ =

Jolie Goodnight puts a spell on us all (NSFW) =

The Jigglewatts in action (NSFW) =

The Blue Room Music Gongs – Top Ten Albums and Singles 2014


10. The Breeze – Eric Clapton – Old Slowhand’s tribute to JJ Cale, with added friends.

09. Tarpaper Sky – Rodney Crowell – The ageing troubadour is back on song.

08. Single Mothers – Justin Townes Earl –The son of an ageing troubadour remains on song.

07. Illywild –Mia Dyson – Australia’s answer to Lucinda Williams – stunning.

06. Supernova – Ray Lamontagne – I have Myf and 2JJ to thank for this gem.

05. Wanted on Voyage – George Ezra – Unfair, She up there granting such a voice to one so young.

04. A Sea of Split Peas – Courtney Barnett – The world is now this Aussie lass’ oyster.

03. Singles – Future Islands – A charismatic lead vocalist with the moves makes all the difference.

02. Goin’ Your Way – Neil Finn & Paul Kelly – Covering each other with rapturous results.

01. If You Want – London Grammar – Who says they don’t make music these days as good as in the past?


HMS – Angus and Julia Stone, 30:30 Hindsight – Jimmy Barnes, The River and the Thread – Rosanne Cash, Oz – Missy Higgins, Bittersweet -Kasey Chambers, Stronger Feelings -Doug Paisley, There,There – Megan Washington, Alias – The Magic Numbers


10. I’m Not Going To Miss You – Glen Campbell – The dying troubadour says goodbye.


09. Ritual Union – Ms Murphy – The goddess from last year’s ‘The Voice’ returns.

08. Dirty Ground – Dan Sultan – Australia’s next big thing for so long now comes of age.

07. The Flyboy and the Kid – Rodney Crowell – His ‘Forever Young’ tribute to mentor Guy Clark

06. Stone Cold – Jimmy Barnes/Tina Arena – A classic re-imagined.

05. God Only Knows – Brian Wilson and the BBC Impossible Orchestra – A classic re-imagined.

04. Oh Grace – Kasey Chambers – The latest album’s opener one of her best.

03. Certified Blue – The Black Sorrows – Jo Jo Zep still has what it takes to belt out a rocker.

02 Supernova – Ray Lamontagne – catchy, catchy chorus.

01. Geronimo – Sheppard – I know, I know – where is my sophistication? This tune’s clap happy sensibility always put me in a happy place in 2014.

The Age’s Shortlist presents its top albums of the year =

Gaining Control

‘It’s not a bad version of it, this one by Van,’ I thought as I drove into the Hobart city that blustery autumn day. Driving is not my favourite occupation as my mind tends to wander. At least having music on keeps me focused – to a degree. I was soon to leave the woman I loved for six weeks – enjoyable weeks, but nonetheless I knew I’d miss her very much. So with Van’s assistance there was a tinge of melancholy in my automobile that day. The car I treated myself to on retirement was in fact the first I’d owned that came with a CD player – all previous one’s had had redundant cassette affairs. Van Morrison’s oeuvre always features prominently on them, as well as on their up-market replacement.

Check out his version by all means on YouTube – but for my money nothing beats the original by its singer/songwriter author.

I first encountered this songsmith when I found his CD in a remainder bin years and years ago, at around the beginning of the nineties methinks. I examined it closely and purchased. When I had it home and slotted into my music machine, it certainly was a revelation – and I’ve been hooked on him ever since. I have now a dozen or so of his albums, including his latest, ‘Tarpaper Sky’. He also won an Emmy last year for his team-up with Emmylou Harris on ‘Old Yellow Moon’. This original album, though, was simply called ‘Collection’ – it was mainly stuff written by him for other people as he was yet to make a name for himself as a singer in his own right – that was to come later. It had such great tunes on it as ‘Ashes by Now’, ‘Stars on the Water’, ‘Shame on the Moon’, ‘Victim or a Fool’ and ‘Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight’. Hits they all were – but for others. It wasn’t until 1988 that he captured pay-dirt for himself with his ‘Diamonds and Dirt’ offering.


For me the stand-out track on ‘Collection’ was the one Van the Man was wrapping his tonsils around as I hit the Brooker during that morning drive – ‘Till I Gain Control Again’. This plaintive classic first saw the light of day on sweet Emmlou’s album, ‘Elite Hotel’, in 1975. It was soon after this that the songstress invited its writer, Rodney Crowell, to join her touring band as a guitarist – his start as a performer. He soon displayed proficiency as her back-up crooner as well. He then diversified into production – and this bought him into close proximity with country music royalty. He was hired to do the honours for Rosanne Cash’s debut (‘Right or Wrong’, 1974) – and we all know who her old man was. Producer and singer fell in love and were soon living together – much to the Man in Black’s disgust. They’d upset his Christian sensibilities. Young Rodney knew Cash senior’s views on pre-marital sex, but when he (after gaining an ample amount of Dutch courage on the flight down) joined Rosanne’s family on a Caribbean holiday and decided to take umbrage on John’s pronouncement that they were to have separate sleeping arrangement, he was soon cut down. ‘Son, I don’t know you well enough to miss you when you’re gone.’ was the great one’s pity response and the young buck pulled his horns in. Cash soon saw his qualities, musical and otherwise, so they became great mates – a relationship that lasted even after he and Rosanne split in 1991. The subsequent divorce is examined in his ‘Life is Messy’ release. Three daughters were the result of the marriage, but these days Crowell is hitched to another songbird in Claudia Church. As an addendum, one of his best tracts this century is an upbeat duet with the great Johnny Cash, ‘I Walk the Line (Revisited)’. Take to YouTube once more – it’s wonderful.

crowell and cash

But back to the song that is the point of this exercise. It is now regarded as a country classic, with a veritable who’s who having placed their own take on the record for our ears since its gestation. I adore it. It contains some lovely couplets. There’s this –

‘You know I love to spend the morning time
Like sunlight dancing on your skin’


‘There is nothing I can hide from you
You see me better than I can’

or, because I’m male after all –

‘Out on the road that lies before me now
There are some turns where I will spin’

culminating with –

I only hope that you can hold me now
Till I gain control again’

It’s marvellous stuff – a true heartfelt country lament. In its words one can perceive the influence of Crowell’s tunesmith heroes – the incomparable Guy Clark and Townes van Zandt. He is quoted as saying that from the former he attained ‘…a real cold splash of what songwriting is about.’ With that knowledge he has produced songs for the ages, nonetheless of which is Keith Urban’s chart topper ‘Making Memories of Us’, originally composed as a Valentine’s Day gift for wife Claudia


It took me years till I personally felt I was in control again. It wasn’t until beautiful Leigh came into my world that I truly felt that. I have her to thank – but during that journey Rodney Crowell’s music was with me through the troughs and highs of getting to this contented point. May he keep on producing songs to live a life by.

Van Morrison singing ‘Till I Gain Control Again’ =

Rodney Crowell singing ‘Till I Gain Control Again’ =

Rodney Crowell and Johnny Cash singing ‘I Walk the Line (Revisited)’ =

Keith Urban singing ‘Making memories of Us’ =

Rodney Crowell’s website =