2015 CD FEATURE REVIEW
BONESHAKER (LOST HIGHWAY)
CASH CROPS AND FAMILY FARMS
“Just looking for something to numb the pain/ left with my no kinfolk to bear the family name/ bought me a franchise with no previous misdeeds/ words were the course I should have seen/ well 5,000 acres of fertile soil/ formerly worn with blood, sweat and toil/ what had commenced as a minimum supply/ ended up being the apple of my eye.” - Good To Bad - Catherine Britt.
Writing songs about agrarians and senior citizens growing herb superb crops or transporting them from Mexico to save the family farm or fund retirement in Florida are creative challenges for singer-songwriters living in the unlucky radio country.
South Australian expat Liam Gerner solved his puzzle by having his geriatric drug mules crash their Winnebago into the fence of a country judge in Texas en route to Florida.
Gerner added to the intrigue by naming his characters Hank And Tammy and arranging their retirement behind bars in a Lone Star state prison.
Novocastrian Catherine Britt cast her rural refugee trying to save the family farm by investing in cash crops with a sideline in people smuggling in Good To Bad from her sixth album.
It's fertile fodder, so speak, to catapult a disc into the mainstream media and boomerang to the community radio chattering classes who adopted Britt at 14 when she was discovered by Bill Chambers.
Chambers and then wife Dianne fed their family by hunting foxes and rabbits on the Nullarbor in winter and Southend coastal fishing village west of Mt Gambier on the Limestone Coast in summer before music rescued the clan.
No need for the herb superb to keep those dingoes from the Chambers family door.
Ironically, legendary former Californian convict and revered writer Merle Haggard, 78, and little mate Shotgun Willie Nelson, 82, have a nice little earner with their latest swing laced hit It's All Going To Pot from their third joint album Django & Jimmie .
Merle's 1996 Australian tour promoter hired a smoking carriage to transport him and his famed Strangers band across the border to South Australia for his concert.
And, yes, it was Adelaide where Shotgun Willie and Slim Dusty were joined for a mainstream media photo op after The Redheaded Stranger adopted the Dead Livers Duncan parody I'd Love To Have A Joint With Willie as his tour theme song.
Unlike some Willie border crossings in Texas and Louisiana there were no Honeysuckle Rose tour bus busts.
But I digress.
CARROTS AND PEAS LESS LETHAL CROP
“Can you hear the Sunday bells/ the older children running over the hills/ the sun's shining and the birds in the sky/ the trees are green and the rivers are high/ they say the season is good for the carrot and peas/ might be time to pull out the weeds.” - Happier Day - Catherine Britt-Felicity Urquhart.
The protégé of Alabama outlaw singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson enhanced her research when she visited famed Big Pink studio in Woodstock where Bob Dylan and The Band cut their classic Basement Tapes disc in the sixties.
‘‘I wrote Good To Bad first and I guess that sort of set the tone and then I just wrote a fair bit back at home in my house in Australia in Newcastle and then I flew over to upstate New York, just outside of Woodstock and rented a little unit and yeah, just dug deep and spent my whole time writing the rest of the record,'' Britt explained.
‘‘It felt good to not have any distractions and not worry about doing the washing while I'm at my home studio or silly things like that that take you away and make you feel guilty. It was great and so vibey and it was great to go and visit the site of Woodstock and Big Pink , all those things are very inspiring to me and such a part of the music world that I totally just dig and that I really get a lot of inspiration from. It was really good to go there for the first time and really pull from that.''
Britt credits her Nashville era that also produced the vitriolic Call You Back Town with her longevity.
“A lot of it has to do with the early going over to Nashville and seeing the world on how bloody big it is and how many people out there do love music," she says.
"I think resting on your laurels and saying 'OK, this is the artist I am and this is the amount of CDs I sell every time and that's OK, I get by and make a living, great', I've never been like that. Maybe because I was always the youngest and always trying to prove something but I want to achieve more.
"That's the goal in my life and whatever it takes to do that I will do, even if it means playing to a brand new audience and starting again from scratch in another city or country."
FROM NEWCASTLE TO SEATTLE
“Make a list don't check it twice, it's no use waiting/ come my love to my side/ hear what I'm saying/ are you listening, are you watching?” - Boneshaker - Catherine Britt-Tony Buchen.
Britt, now 30, recorded her new 11 track album in Seattle at Hadlock's Bear Creek Studio with producer Ryan Hadlock.
She credits Chambers, once picked up hitch hiking south of Austin in Texas by Todd Snider whose debut hit was Seattle Grunge Rock Blues , with her choice of producer.
"Even though it was Bill Chambers' idea to go with someone different on this record I don't know that I would have gone so far before the mind-broadening job," Britt revealed.
"It's opened up my eyes to what you can do musically, as far as pushing the boundaries and not making the same record twice."
‘‘This is probably the biggest record I've ever made as far as production. The reason I chose Ryan as producer is because I listened to all of the stuff that he has done, which is very much folk-pop, even full-blown rock with the Foo Fighters , and the one thing I noticed the whole way through streaming his sounds is it was all about the singer and the lyrics, they were all at the front. Even though there were a million things going on behind them, you could totally hear the singer and you could totally hear every lyric and that was what sold it for me.
‘‘There's so much more going on than ever before, but it really is still about me, my guitar and my songs and what I'm trying to say in my lyrics. That was the most important element of this record for me, and then being brave and trying something a little different.''
“Take me back to a happier place/ before the heartbreak, before the lies/ before my mind was hypnotised/ before the mistakes, before the drink/ before I met him and him and him/ back in time when innocence was my only tool of half sense.” - Nice Girl - Catherine Britt.
‘‘I feel very old on the inside even though I'm only 30. And I think it's because from the moment I was born I was go-go-go and I was always doing things, almost like touching hotplates when I shouldn't to learn that I shouldn't. That was totally me, and up until this day I'm still doing that.
‘‘I feel like that song is a little bit of a lesson learned. I just realised you just really have to take it all with a grain of salt. People are always going to say what they're going to say, and they're always going to think negative thoughts because that's the tall poppy thing and that's the way it goes. You've just got to get on with it and be yourself and be cool with that.
‘‘I was really glad with that one too when I had finished writing it, because I really wanted to say that in a way that hadn't been said before like my own realisation of it. It's a little reflection of my life in that one.''
WORKING CLASS MAN
“I'm a writer, strum the guitar and the singer of songs/ long gone rambler from steel city/ I play all night long/ he does something I don't get/ he works all day long/ always running from place to place/ listening to rock & roll songs/ we don't make much sense on paper/from his love I will never quaver/I love my working class man.” - Working Class Man - Catherine Britt.
Britt also revels in her collaboration with Melanie Horsnell on the rollicking positive love song When You're Ready - sibling of her Working Class Man.
Britt's Working Class Man , no relation to Journey pianist Jonathan Cain's hit cut by Californian country singer Lacy J Dalton and Jimmy Barnes, was inspired by her fiancé James.
‘‘He's definitely inspired a few songs on this record, that one in particular,'' Britt said.
‘‘It's so funny. We've always said it doesn't make any sense on paper but it works and that it's me and him against the world and these were two things that I totally stole and used on the record, because they are so true.
‘‘When you get in a relationship that is for life and you plan a wedding and a future with somebody - and this is the first time I've ever done that - things change. It's completely different to dating or being in a relationship that feels committed but really isn't. There's no future planning, no goals that you're working towards together.
‘‘I feel like I have that for the first time ever and I just really wanted to express that on the record, that he is perfect for me. He's so not in the music business at all. He's like me, but a guy, but he's had nowhere near the life that I have. It's really bizarre. We met and it was almost like we met our match, two very strong, bull-headed, determined and driven, centre-of-attention people finally met their match. It's just calmed us both and we've both found love for the first time and we're both stoked.''
Britt plans to wed in spring.
‘‘We plan to tour right up until the wedding and then we are going on a honeymoon and then we're planning to go on tour straight after that up until Tamworth again,'' she said.
“It's just me and you against the world/ trying to find our way/ leaving time was left behind in a happier place.” - You And Me Against The World - Catherine Britt.
Britt is bemused by observers who feel her music has deviated from her roots.
‘‘I guess it has a lot to do with who I work with and sounds and stuff, but everyone always goes on about, ‘oh you're always doing something different', but I really feel like I'm not,” she explained.
“I really feel like I'm making albums that are very much on the same path and from the same realm. I'm just writing different songs, because I'm influenced by different things over the last two years.''
Britt's recording locale is a vast contrast to where she cut her fifth self-titled album in Austin in the heart of Texas and mined a murder vein from deep in our red heart.
She resurrected the old style murder ballad popularised in the thirties and forties and refined down the years.
Britt's teen tragedy Sally Bones was rooted in the tribal tribulations of our outback culture crosses all races, genders and genres.
She reportedly sourced the subject from cousin Bess Nungarrayi Price - a key warrior in her brave battle against child sexual abuse and neglect in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.