2017 CD FEATURE
CAUGHT UP IN THE DREAMING (Compass Brothers).
PATERNAL ASHES OF LOVE EARN HERITAGE AND GOLD
“Well the Old Man kicked the bucket/ about seven months ago/ and they left me with his ashes/ and he left me with a note/ It read, ‘son you know I love you/ from this world I've been released/ and I know you'll know just what to do/ so I can rest in peace'/ then suddenly it struck me!/ I knew exactly what to do/ I opened up a jam jar/ and I emptied out the screws/ and then I poured the Old Man's ashes in/ with a smile upon my face/ and then I left him there within the shed/ everything must have its place!” - Old Man's Shed - Luke O'Shea-John Krsulja.
Cronulla singer-songwriter school-teacher Luke O'Shea and long-time mate John Krsulja turned ashes into gold when they wrote Old Man's Shed about paternal pride.
Their song about a proud fix-it father whose craft was perfected in his backyard shed won 2017 Heritage Song Golden Guitar at the 44th Australian country music awards in Tamworth in January.
It was the seventh Golden Guitar for O'Shea, 47 and father of three, who shared the award with Krsulja - host of songwriting workshops and concerts at his DAG Sheep Station retreat at Nundle near Tamworth.
“It was such a magical moment for John and I - a very special song for the both of us,” O'Shea revealed after his fourth heritage Golden Guitar added glitter to his sixth album Caught Up In The Dreaming .
“We wrote the Old Man's Shed to celebrate our fathers and to sing up the generations of pre-Bunnings Australian gentlemen, who had that shed/shrine somewhere in the backyard, where they would work, fix and make things with precious tools that were slowly accrued, collected and rarely shared!
“We knew this song was very special due to its ability to connect deeply with audiences of all ages, sex, colour, cult, creed, and it's quite magical to see the tears and laughter flow - somehow all within a three and a half minute song.”
With supreme irony the song preceded Another Trip To Bunnings - on a similar subject - on The Bushwackers 24 th album The Hungry Mile.
So did Sing You Up - Luke's 2014 protest song about coal seam gas mining - that was followed by Bushwackers Leave it In The Ground.
There's no suggestion the latter song's writers - Roger Corbett and Allan Caswell - mined Luke's larder.
Caswell collaborated with Luke on One Last Prayer for this album.
But life imitated art for Luke and his dad Rick when they were arrested in 2015 on the banks of the Namoi River for protesting against coal seam gas mining at the Maules Creek mine.
“On the site that my father and I were arrested on, the house and shearing shed, built by grandfather and great grandfather, is now where a massive water pump with access to billions of litres of high security water sits,” O'Shea revealed before his latest Golden Guitar win.
“I couldn't win Male Artist of the Year for Sing You Up , which is about farmers and everyday people fighting corporate greed, without doing something about it, so we locked on to a water pump.
“There are so many reasons why the huge Maules Creek mine shouldn't have gone ahead, and the destruction of the forest is just one, but we're also losing sacred sites of the Gomeroi.
“ Sing You Up is a song about our actions and a call to farmers and activists to show them they weren't alone, so my 71-year-old father and I locked onto a water pump.
“We had an overwhelmingly positive response from people across the country who understood why we were taking that action. We wanted to get people talking about what's happening in these communities.”
“I feel a connection to the land through dad, and both sides of the family come from regional areas - Bathurst and Boggabri. And my backyard growing up was the Royal National Park , so I love the bush."
AMBER INSPIRATION FOR LUKE
“You don't speak to me no more/ there's a black dog at the door/ and he wants to come inside/ baby what you trying to hide/ lay your cards upon the table/ I will help you, I am able/ but you gotta let me try, let me inside.” - Catch You - Luke O'Shea-Amber Lawrence .
Protest and social comment songs have long been a common thread in O'Shea's suit - especially the plight of servicemen and women.
Luke and fellow Sydney singer-songwriter Amber Lawrence wrote Catch You , accompanied by a poignant video featured on Nu Country in 2016.
They wrote Catch You to raise awareness for victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and featured Damien Thomlinson - an Afghanistan war veteran - in their video.
“Along with Damien and Luke, I'm a proud ambassador for Defence Care , an organisation that helps current and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force and their families in times of injury, illness or crisis,” Amber revealed at the time.
“I really hope that you are touched by the powerful video shot by Duncan Toombs - and if so please share it far & wide.”
Luke also wrote another powerful Australian Defence Force anthem Ragged Bloody Heroes .
It features The Ode read by Luke's father in-law Tom Stone - a decorated WWII veteran - and is endorsed by the Department of Veteran Affairs in Canberra .
Luke's father Rick spent five years in the CMF Army Reserve and his uncle, William (Bill) O'Shea, after initially serving his national service, enlisted in the regular army to become a career soldier until retirement at 65.
“I am both proud and humbled to be a Defence Care Ambassador,” Luke says.
“As a husband and father of three I can fully appreciate pressures and anxieties facing many working parents. But to combine these with the horrors and stresses experienced whilst serving abroad. I am determined to support - and if needed, to be that ear that simply listens - so that these remarkable Australians never feel abandoned or alone.”
Luke's hard hitting Three Brothers (The Great War) won APRA Song of the Year and his third consecutive Heritage Song Golden Guitar.
The song reminded Australians that ANZAC Day is a sombre commemoration, not celebration, highlighting the sacrifice and ongoing damage of war.
It detailed a tragic tale about country towns torn apart by foreign wars - how three of its sporting stars and sons of the soil were sent to Gallipoli in the not so-great war.
O'Shea praises country conscripts who made the ultimate sacrifice - not masters of war who made massive mistakes.
He personalised his parable by drawing pen pictures of three victims that resonated for surviving families.
Those credible characters include the youngest - the courageous captain coach of the local footy team who only lasted “three steps on the shore of Gallipoli .”
Then there's the school teacher who met the love of his young life on the dance floor of a ball at his town hall but perished “when the shells, they rained like teardrops fell - in Pozieres in France .”
The third cab victim is eldest - “a farmer who once loved to laugh and joke/ but three years on the Western Front something inside him broke/ so much death, the gas, the bombs, few can understand.”
MY COUNTRY'S MY KING
“On the frontlines they hold out/ while our Generals sell-out/ paying off their debts with our lives/ protect food and water for our sons and daughters/ and it's time that we stood up and we rise/ for my Country my King/ to this land we owe everything/ and I'll raise up my voice I will sing/ and I'll serve you my Country's my King!” - My Country's, My King - Luke O'Shea.
“They have a really great understanding of the size of this beautiful country,” Luke revealed.
“We do a lot of travelling with the kids in regional areas, so when I say I'm touring, they understand where I'm going.
“We just spent a few weeks on the south coast, where we disappear every year. There's no reception and all we do is surf.
“We're completely exposed to the heat, thunderstorms, and wind. That makes you feel good for the rest of the year.”
O'Shea described 2016 as a challenge despite his success.
"It's been a tough year, it was a change of labels, change of management and change of agent, you have to fight pretty hard to retain your joy sometimes," Luke explained.
"And, I've done that and I've come out the other side and I'm feeling very optimistic about the future of the music and writing and the direction that it's heading.
“It's impossible for anyone who's toured this country not to have a real affinity with this place and I try to show that beauty through my music.
“That's really what Joy McKean and Slim Dusty did - they were able to show how magnificent this country is through their words and song.”
UPON A CROSS ON CALVARY
“He's got an outlaw on his left and upon his right/ got a storm changing day into night/ upon a cross on Calvary/ well I cried, “Hey there Jesus - remember me”/ and he said, “tonight we'll be in Paradise”/ “all is forgiven!” - ain't that nice/ then he smiled at me through his despair/ and he said “well everybody's got a shot with one last prayer”/ just one last prayer!” - One Last Prayer - Luke O'Shea-Allan Caswell.
Luke produced his album with collaborator Benjy Pocock at his Vibetone studio at Pomona on the Queensland 's Sunshine Coast .
O'Shea wrote with other friends including Drew McAlister, Dana Hassall and Pete Denahy.
“When we were writing, and while recording, Benjy and I had a mantra of maximum joy, so it was a very fun process,” Luke explained.
Album entrée Stronger Than Nicotine reached deep down south to Rye on our Mornington Peninsula where the tattooed male lead Jessie worked the dodgem cars until he fell in love with a belle Loretta - no, not the Octogenarian Kentucky coal-miner's daughter.
But the two characters travelled north-west to Broome where Jesse became a fly-in-fly out mine truck driver and gave Loretta a pearl, not an old chunk of coal aka Billy Joe Shaver, after she fell pregnant and headed back east.
Without reading too much into this story the male lead's fate, like many peers, is crushed by the tyranny of distance and the end of the mining boom.
Maybe life imitating art.
The open ended saga segues into less complicated romance requiem Begin And End In Love and anthemic My Country's My King .
Luke and Pocock ignite of For The Love Of Me - that explores the not so unlikely romance between a rich man's daughter and a poor man's son with a tragic climax.
The duo tear pages from the Robert Earle Keen-Tom Pacheco-Charlie Robison song book where the woman falls pregnant and they elope as her lover tries his hand at highway robberies to support the pending child.
The duo's road weary crime narrative segues into the atmospheric title track, replete with earth, wind, blood, fire, water and soul imagery and messaging, and Old Man's Shed.
Equally memorable is greed fuelled Biblical fratricide murder ballad One Last Prayer where O'Shea and Caswell reference a cross on Calvary on their road to redemption.
The killer, suffering nightmares in his cell while awaiting execution after murdering his brother for gold, tries to swap regret for redemption by resorting to religious forgiveness.
Salient sequencing leads O'Shea into childhood fantasy memories of Like Snow penned with Darling Downs singer Dana Hassall, 25, and Catch You - his collaboration with Lawrence .
ON THE OPEN ROAD OF LOVE
“We've not been down this road before/ you feel uncertain and unsure/ you're not convinced now that we can, well here I am/ just what's ahead for you and me?/ let's give into the mystery/ I swear I'll do the best I can, well here I am/ we'll never know if we don't go/ along the open road.” - The Open Road - Luke O'Shea-Drew McAllister.
O'Shea conducts diverse examinations of life and love in his final five songs.
Luke combined with Pocock and wife Soni who record and perform as The Vibe in Smooth Sailing where characters survive storms of life and love by using safety of a lighthouse as their guiding star.
He also draws on the solitude of the sea that anchors the tranquility and importance of slowing down and sharing the present moment with soul-mates and loved ones in Time .
“For all we have is time and time is all we need/ and I will give you mine while you are here with me/ for one day you will go/ so far beyond the sea/ and all that we will hold are fading memories.”
O'Shea expands on the strength and longevity of inner love in his collaboration with Yackandandah singer-songwriter Pete Denahy in Everyday Eyes .
They sing of a woman whose vision is focused and not tainted by fleeting beauty.
Those eyes peer deep into her partner's psyche and inspire him to stay for their entire journey.
It would appear collective strength ensures that the male character will be waiting in the after-life.
“And as the years flow all things they pass/ but in those eyes the beauty still lasts how they shine/ from so deep inside/ and it's the place where my love resides and when it's my time/ well I'll be waiting on the other side/ for those everyday eyes.”
Easy To Me is a confessional of sorts where the male reveals a weakness for lying to a lover.
O'Shea reverts to weather metaphors in his finale The Open Road to illustrate virtues of fully exploring the journey of life and love despite the fog of doubt.