When Coffs Harbour chanteuse Carol Young was discovered by Anne Kirkpatrick in 1993 she spread her wings.

It was a long journey that landed her a role as a backing singer with the pure country princess and then a recording deal in 1996.

But, with the irony that permeates our music industry, the singer followed her then producer Mark Moffatt to the lucrative U.S. country scene.

Queensland born Moffatt, pedal steel guitarist for pioneer progressive Australian band 'Saltbush,' headed to Nashville and toiled as a session producer for fellow expatriates Barry and Jewel Coburn.

It was there, that Moffatt who had hits here with pop group 'The Monitors,' produced Stacy Earle - sister of six times wed outlaw Texan Steve Earle.

But that's another story.

This one is about Young and partner Kym Warner - son of veteran South Australian bluegrass picker Trev Warner - fleeing the unlucky radio country and setting up base in Austin, the roots musical oasis in Texas.

They haven't yet reached the peaks of expatriate Australasian chart topping superstar Keith Urban but that took more than a decade of hard slog.


Warner, long time compadre of the Chambers family, and Young found the pickings slim in the local scene and hightailed it to Austin last millenium.

They chose Austin - because of its vibrant roots country music scene that gave birth to country-hippie musical nuptials back in 1973.

The shotgun wedding, depicted graphically in Jan Reid's book 'The Improbable Rise Of Redneck Rock,' featured diverse talents of Willie Nelson, Steve Fromholz, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Michael Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker, Rusty Wier, Kinky Friedman and a colourful cast of artists who broke the Nashville mold.

Now, 30 years down the lost highway, there's been a couple of roots country rebirths and Warner and Young are in the engine room. The duo work in the not so cryptically titled country band, 'Green Cards,' and have been doing a vast variety of live guest spots with Bill & Audrey on their joint and solo tours of Texas.

But right now they have lucked out with their work on the second album by local lad Ben Atkins who was discovered by prolific producer Lloyd Maines whose daughter Natalie is touring here with the superstar 'Dixie Chicks' in September.

Atkins, born in Henrietta (population 2675), studied first at Texas Tech in Lubbock and then the country music university at Levelland.

He cut a four track demo that found Maines, still living in Lubbock, where he made his name with the Maines Brothers Band which dates back to the forties.
Thanks to an insurance pay-out for unseasonal hail damage to Atkins battered pick-up truck he finance his band's debut disc, produced by Maines.

This time around Lloyd took a back seat and merely played pedal steel, lap steel, and dobro on Atkins sequel, 'Mabelle,' produced at the 'Hit Shack' in Austin by Warner.
Warner also played acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and harmonises on 'Mabelle' which also features Young on harmonies.

Check out the review at the foot of this article for the role played by fellow Aussie Rod McCormack - also a prolific producer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singing spouse of Gina Jeffreys and former junior cricket star.


Carol Young, like many peers, was born into a country music family - first at Dorrigo on the NSW Tablelands before moving to Coffs Harbour.

At 13 she was co-founder of the Coffs Harbour Country Music Club where she won fans with her vocal prowess.

But it wasn't until 1993 when Kirkpatrick, whose dad Slim was born down the coast at Kempsey, that she won national acclaim.

After going on the road with the pure country singer, Young was hired as a session singer in Sydney and also toured with Jeffreys.

Young cut original songs 'I'm The Reason He Is Leaving' and 'Now We're Through' and Susan Longacre-Lonnie Wilson tune 'The Time Has Come' - a hit for Kansas chanteuse Martina McBride.
The disc was produced by McCormack and featured his Sydney A team.

She then landed a deal with indie label 'Roo-Art' and cut a five track CD 'Only You' with covers of songs by Vince Clark and Coburn's hit writer Zack Turner and Ed Hill.

Clark wrote the title track - originally a pop hit for English band 'Yazoo' in the early 80's.
More importantly the disc featured 'Getting Over You' which she wrote with Heather Field and 'You'd Change Your Mind' - a collaboration with Kevin Bennett.

Bennett, whose hot band 'The Flood' tour Australia with acclaimed Nashville singer-songwriter Kevin Welch on his fifth visit in October-November, also wrote 'Gone Already Gone' on Young's debut.

'Getting Over You' - inspired by a faded love - was penned at 4 a m in the Sydney home of Field who has also moved to Nashville.

Field and Bennett harmonised on a disc that also featured Warner on mandolin and Presley pianist Larry Muhoberac and late Frank Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman.
Wackerman, who had also worked with Barbra Streisand, was in Australia visiting his wife.


Kym Warner hails from another of those country music dynasties with music cred but little recognition in the big smoke.

Kym is the son of Trev Warner who was raised in Loxton on the Murray River and moved to Adelaide when he was 11.

The Warner tree roots were deep - Kym's grandfather was a yarn spinner and MC, his grandmother a pianist and great grandfather a fiddler.
Trev Warner played in a high school skiffle band with Doug Ashdown before they debuted on an Adelaide TV show.

He also teamed with Carol Sturtzel in a duo and recorded with Dennis Sidall as Trev and Dennis.
It was this generation - when Sturtzel's daughter Beccy Cole and Kym Warner played with offshoots of the Chambers family group which became the 'Dead Ringer Band' - that won them national exposure in their own right.

Trev played fiddle and banjo, Kym mandolin and Beccy rhythm guitar and harmonies on the Dead Ringers four track debut 'A Matter Of Time' in 1992.

And on their first album, 'Red Desert Sky' in 1993, Kym played mandolin and Trev added fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar.

And in 1995 Kym played electric rhythm and mandolin on the title track and 'More About Love' on the Dead Ringers second CD, 'Home Fires.'

Kym also played swags of sessions and followed in his family slipstream by winning diverse instrumental awards.

But national exposure and awards don't translate if you're a hired hand playing with artists who don't win commercial airplay in their home land.

So Warner and Young fled Australia for a nation where county music exposure is a right - not a privilege.


BEN ATKINS - MABELLE (Hightone-Shock).
"I remember that Friday night at the Al-Amera Club/ the band was playin' them old songs that everyone seemed to love" - 'Mabelle' - Ben Atkins

It's mildly ironic that Adelaide multi-instrumentalist Kym Warner and partner Carol Young have found success in Texas capital Austin.

The Aussie duo toiled here for more than a decade before chasing their dream to the roots country oasis.

And, there, like former Saltbush pedal steel guitarist Mark Moffatt in Nashville, Kym is winning acclaim as a producer.

Ms Young harmonises for Texan singer-songwriter Ben Atkins on his second album 'Mabelle.'
Kym and Carol have not lost their sense of humour - the duo's work in Austin band 'Green Cards' led to their Atkins role.

Ben hails from tiny Texas town Henrietta and this wondrous disc is their entrée to international acclaim.

Atkins, son of a small town lawyer and schoolteacher mother, is cut from the tree that gave us Robert Earl Keen and Slaid Cleaves and recently Hayes Carll, Kevin Fowler, Adam Carroll and Houston Marchman.

The singer daubs his portraits of life in the slow lanes and big paddocks with a brush dripping with rampant reality from way beyond the city limits.

So it's bizarre that he punctuates his vibrant vignettes with a staccato splashed cover of Kasey Chambers 'Last Hard Bible' with distorted vocals.

OK, Warner is a former Chambers sideman but Atkins should really leave covers for lesser lights - there's no way you can improve on Kasey's killer vocal on that classic.

Atkins, just 24, is too good an artist to be tainted by dead end deviations from one of the best albums of the young millenium.

Having said that, Warner's pickers aided by Rod McCormack on banjo at his NSW studio, do a superb speedy bluegrass cut of 'Milo Johnson' - a Texan tumbleweed who flees into the Aussie outback.

Atkins mines the rich motherlode of his roots that led him to Texas Tech in Lubbock and his Lloyd Maines produced debut disc with his band.

With true Texan humour it was paid for with an insurance claim for hail damage to his pick-up.
Atkins kicks off his disc with the title track - a honky tonk heroine whose hedonism is punctured by a two stepping, two timing devil.

"The last year brought in a flood/ that washed her hope away/ soul was tainted with scars from all those sleepless nights and days/ thought her fortune was told when Jesus took her child."
Atkins' music is a sonic soundtrack of life in Texas - a yearning to flee his roots and a memories magnet dragging him back.

'Every Time You Turn Around' is replete with the tedium of losing footy teams, dry counties and boring newspapers, reprieved by rooster fights and illegal smiles across the Red River.
Sounds like Victoria.

Ben's character dodges bullets "which fly like an eagle in the sky" in the wanderlust of 'I'm To Blame,' laced by Maines' pedal steel.

There's a haunting beauty in evocative road love song 'I Don't Want To Hide' - a quality shared with 'The Same,' 'I'll Come Around' and 'Ask Me Why.'

'Another Time and Place' was inspired by Atkins great-uncle, just 17, on Normandy Beach on D-Day; 'Rivers and Pines' tells how his grandparents met and eloped after living on opposite sides of the Red River.

"Her daddy frowns upon me as his feet walk the ground/ beside that mule I guess his blind eyes/ they won't ever see that I ain't no fool."

Warner and Atkins have listened to many Maines proteges, creating an organic sound awash with Warner's mandolin, bassist Brad Fordham doubling on upright bass, Joel Guzman on accordion, Nick Connolly on B3 organ and fiddler Eamon McLoughlin.

Atkins guitar and harmonica playing is augmented by guest guitarist Jedd Hughes and Warner and Maines adding dobro and lap steel.

None of that would matter if the songs weren't good enough but they are the freshest to invade these ears and well worth the ticket.

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