CD REVIEW 2015
SOLITUDE (Lost Highway).
FROM A BROOME PEARL BOAT TO UTAH
“Sliding down hell's backbone/ dark is night, heart unknown/ I'm just looking to lighten my load/ I'm scared, I'm scared, I'm scared/ welcome to the middle of nowhere/ all fired up, wild at heart/ bloodshot eyes at the wheel of your car/ you're ready, you're on your mark/ you don't care, you don't care, you don't care/ heading for the middle of nowhere.” - Middle Of Nowhere - Bex Chilcott-Vicki Thorn.
Bex Chilcott, aka Ruby Boots , is well qualified to cite different inspirations than many roots music peers - certainly not latte sipping in suburbia.
The west coast raised singer-songwriter vividly remembers her musical baptism.
“Up until I was 21, all my life was fairly tumultuous so I didn't have the opportunity to follow that,” Bex revealed before release of Ruby Boots debut album Solitude for U.S. label Lost Highway .
“I remember hearing The Waifs album Sink or Swim on a little island off the coast of Broome , WA where I spent most of my days chipping pearl shells, working as a deckhand in the burning sun.
“I hadn't picked up a guitar at that point, and from a distance on first listen I was drawn to Vikki's voice, it played a hefty part in what inspired me to start singing and writing. Fast track to ten years later, and I find myself flying half way across the world to write with my now dear friend, an experience that has nurtured my journey since.”
So it's fitting that her recent single Middle Of Nowhere was also inspired by a different journey to Waifs singer Vikki Thorn's latter day home in Utah .
“I was tired, jetlagged, emotionally drained, and scared out of my wits - the latter mainly because I had no idea what I was walking into,” Chilcott revealed.
“I knew Vikki lived on an isolated farm in Utah somewhere, and that we were setting out to write a few songs, and that's where my knowledge ended. I hadn't even bothered to find out an address and was nearly refused entry into the country at customs! After meeting my new, tiny-framed yet big-voiced friend Vikki in Salt Lake City , we drove to the farm - a drive that proved to be highly entertaining. In the final leg I succumbed to my jetlag daze and passed out, later waking up in the total darkness of the driveway on a very isolated property, about a twenty minute drive to the nearest sign of civilization a lonely petrol pump.
“Welcome to the middle of nowhere” Vikki said. “I quickly replied with all the false bravado I could muster, “That's going to be the name of the first song we'll write tomorrow”.
The singer toured here with Americana duo Shovels & Ropes in February and supported Louisiana swamp rock legend Tony Joe White in April before her national tour in May.
RUBY BLUE AFTER COLA & WINE
“Thirsty as a river runs deep for you/ lost in the wind, bird with no wings/ without you child/ the songs you sing, well they keep me coming back/ speak the words I lack/ you're the hunger, you're the heartache.” - Ruby Blue - Bex Chilcott-Vicki Thorn.
Bex also wrote No Stranger, replete with gun and war metaphor, and vehicular love song Baby Pull Over with Thorn.
This album features a collaboration with Jordie Lane on his production of nostalgia fuelled romantic bliss of Lovin' In The Fall .
“The best bit about song-writing is the mystery, it's the endless well of possibilities, of course the more you fine tune it the more you learn, but it's the combination of the emotion and the craft that can go any which way,” Bex explained.
“It's not like riding a bike, once you know how to ride you're all set. Song-writing keeps on giving, listening to Dylan records or Jackson Browne makes that point pretty well.”
Although Bex doesn't initiate pain to source a song she is adept at harvesting hay from heartbreak.
“You mean like royally screwing things up in your life and making huge mistakes, sabotaging close relationships to reach heights of emotion to write from?” she says.
“I think there is a point where some songwriters become self-destructive to write, I have definitely been through it, and sometimes unfortunately still do, though it's not my go to place anymore. Now I try to let other people's lives, views and approaches be the muse.”
WALK AWAY WITH BILL CHAMBERS
“I don't want to watch you walk away/ I don't want to watch you walk away/ for every step you take/ oh another little part of me breaks/ I don't want you leaving in the morn/ I don't want you leaving in the morn/ I'll try hard to ignore/ the sound of heavy footsteps on the floor/ I don't want you leaving in the morn.” - Walk Away - Bex Chilcott.
She wrote Wrap Me In A Fever closer to home - in a cheap motel room in Sydney inner western suburb Newtown .
"My songs are my vessels that keep me in check,” explained Bexs who released two indie EPs before recording her album with Tony Buchen, Bill Chambers, and Anna Laverty.
“But sometimes you feel like you've taken what you want from that period or moment in your life, put it in a song and move on, whereas Wrap Me In A Fever keeps on giving because it's a bittersweet reminder of the vulnerability that rears it's lonely self when we follow our hearts, and that's something that's never going to change.
“ Wrap Me In A Fever was written a couple of years ago so it's hard to revisit that place of which it was birthed again, but I do remember it was in my favourite cheap hotel room in Newtown, Sydney whilst on the road that it was written. I was pretty miserable and broken hearted that day and was really happy to have had the day off to go off and write it, it was one of those release/therapy songs, the kind that help you resolve something in order to move on.”
She recorded her song at the Sing Sing South studio in South Yarra with producer Laverty.
"Anna and I bonded over a mutual obsession of Ryan Adams before we had even stepped into the studio. She instantly fell in love with Wrap Me In A Fever so I just as instantly felt that recording the song with her would be one that was high in chemistry and connection in the studio."
Chilcott borrows a Sunday morning coming down lyric from Kris Kristofferson to reverse the singer's gender in her plaintive title track Solitude .
The singer exploits road metaphors in her pathos primed solo composition Walk Away that features song producer Chambers on acoustic guitar.
It segues into fitting finale Long Time Coming where the narrator apologises for not being able to prevent the ruptured romance of the song's victim.
Ruby ploughs lachrymose lava in the same vein as Lucinda Williams without maybe as much diversity as Kasey Chambers, Catherine Britt and U.S. peers Elizabeth Cook, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, Brandy Clark and Lee Ann Womack.
But this is her debut disc and touring will provide fertile fodder for more songs and, hopefully, more accessible production.