CD REVIEW - 2009


"On a cold winter's morning Sydney 1941/ a girl waits at the station for the mail to come/ in pulls a train on the way to the quay/ she saw faces of boys wearing uniforms of men." - Note From A Soldier - Jayne Denham-Wakeling-Wakeling.

Jayne Denham earned her writing stripes on debut disc Sudden Change In Weather with a brace of songs about Utes and trucks.

But the Londonderry lass added another country staple - trains - to drive her message home on her second album.

But it's a stationary train and its stationery - a page from a letter that's the vehicle for her evocative tune Note From A Soldier.

Denham's damsel in waiting, Myra, catches the page, bouquet style, from Curly as the train pulls out.

"It's a note from a soldier on that fateful day/ would you write me a letter while I'm away?"

The sting is in the tail of the tale where Curly responds to the letter from Myra and they consummate their love with little apparent acrimony from old Bluey.

The song's credibility is chiseled in stone - Denham names Sydney man Ian Fisher as the fruit of the mid war mission accomplished.

Country songs are littered with letters from home to the front, dating back to eras almost forgotten.

Simpson sisters Donna and Vikki from The Waifs drew upon true-life tale of their grandparents for their post World War 11 song Bridal Train.

The war bride departure gate in 1946 was Fremantle, pit stop Sydney and the end of the line, after a boat trip, was San Francisco.

Denham excels - her salient song sequencing is a treat for those of us who care about such things.


"On a steamy day in Cessnock, two men faces the truth/ there's no second place, there's only win or lose/ and all that went before them will now be put to the test/ Feral Kev and General Leeroy would face the final test." - Feral Kev & General Leeroy." - Garth Porter.

Yes, we can thank producer Garth Porter for sequencing - his song quoted above precedes the train song that segues into his rural romance requiem A Farmer's Wife.

How's that.

Well, let's look at the characters in the former.

Yes, you've guessed it - another Ute song.

This time about a bloke called Kev from north of the Murray.

Now, this Kev is a macho chappie from Emu Plains who challenges rival Leeroy from Newcastle to a Ute drag race in Cessnock.

It's not clear if Kev's Ute is on loan from a Johland car dealer - we don't have Leeroy's email on that.

Although the characters are drawn from Denham's back pages they don't appear to have gone to God in their race at the local show grounds.

That may be in the sequel song.

"And when they reach the next world, outside the pearly gates/ you'll find 'ol Kev and Leeroy tearing up the place."

Maybe the lads emulated political peers and settled for a battle of blow waves or a double dissolution of their egos.


"You're a mother a cook/ a doctor a jilleroo/ a therapist a fencer, a seamstress, a nurse/ a gardener a chef, a rouseabout a barber/ a counselor a cleaner, a chauffeur a mechanic/ and a carpenter and a taxi driver and a nanny/ you're a bloody legend." - A Farmer's Wife - Garth Porter.

There's inherent advantages and disadvantages when artists hitch wagons to producer Porter.

You can be sure production and musicianship will be top shelf but there's danger that some songs may be derivative of his other clients.

The Kev and Leeroy saga peaks like Lee Kernaghan's Three Chain Road - A Farmer's Wife is perhaps a gender reversal of Lee's eulogy Ordinary Bloke.

Porter also wrote finale Beneath The Stars - a restrained bookend for his co-write with Col Buchanan and Denham in the title track album entrée Shake This Town.

Students may feel the title track melody reminiscent of Alan Jackson's Chattahoochie or even Don Gibson's historic Oh Lonesome Me.

But I'm sure there's no horseback rider being served a beer in the bar of the North Richmond Hotel in Jackson's video.

It's a bucolic barometer for the meat on the bone of a disc aimed at the good old boys and gals who live outside the city limits - or wish they did.

Denham, a hairdresser by design and singer by night, has acute ears for the voracious appetite for her radio-starved audience.

Unlike corporate chain chaps she doesn't need to play a clinically tested, university formulated tune down the city coaxial cable to verify audience taste.

Maybe she just opens the door of the salon a little wider and turns up the volume into the mean streets.


"Look at the girls of 75/ round and cute, twinkling eyes/ we hit the ground and we were running free/ look at those girls of 86/ up to all the usual tricks/ cut-off flannies, and faded jeans/ life was good out in the sticks." - The Girls Of 75 - Garth Porter-Col Buchanan-Jayne Denham.

The tonsorial teaser doesn't mean septuagenarians when she ignites her gal pal anthems - The Girls of 75 - Trucker Chicks or Buchanan tune Road Train Fever.

Now don't get the impression Denham is a one-truck pony milking the bovine beauties beyond the neon.

Check out the social comment in Road To Our Town - the timely tale of towns reduced to shadows on the cold shoulder or urban progress.

"They call it a freeway but it cost us all the same/ don't you know that a journey is not A to B/ it's the places in between/ but it takes more than a new slab of highway to give up on this town."

Wild And Free - not the John Anderson hit - is a vibrant vignette of two cultures clashing (a guitar picking stockman and a city girl) with happy ending.

A Woman's Touch finds the heroine barmaid able to fix her car radiator hose and punch two drunken shearers "clear into next week" in one day - maybe without even spilling a drink.

But, like many country gals, the singer finds the male character in Mad Professor falling short - but not in the corridors of the heart.

You see her husband is a collector, "not a rejector", with an even dozen rusty cars on the front lawn.

Definitely not cutting a rug on Oxford or Brunswick Streets - his special skills include starting the BBQ with petrol, hanging curtains with a nail gun and killing weeds with engine degreaser spray.

And another invention also turns 21 - "he's been building me a kitchen since 88."


Now, that we have dissected the narratives and socio-economic niche the singer has zeroed in on maybe a word on the instrumentation.

Well, Denham proved she could cut it live on Victorian tours with a hefty female quota in her band that played Bunyip and Red Hill festivals a year apart.

And, on this album, it's Porter's A team, with the producer on piano, organ and percussion.

You know the cast - drummer John Watson, bassist Ian Lees, pianist Bill Risbey, fiddler Mick Albeck, Michel Rose on pedal steel and slide guitar, Glen Hannah on electric guitar, dobro, Rod McCormack acoustic guitar, dobro, mandolin and papoose.

Check it out.

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