"Old man by the river said the world's about to end/ high water coming like a hundred tilt trains/go take your children, get the beer out of the fridge/ go make a new home out on Flat Top Ridge." - Devil In The Wind - Matt Ross.

It's a great challenge making an album after winning Star Maker - one of the longest running talent quests in the unlucky radio country.

Just being a finalist in U.S. talent quests and reality shows can earn riches for artists if they have a decent catalogue of original songs.

Sandringham born singer-songwriter Harmony James has released a vast raft of her own tunes since winning a Nashville contest.

Her outback travels and travails were a fertile font for her creativity.

Previous Star Maker winners diverse as Lee Kernaghan, Keith Urban and James Blundell have topped charts.

Kirsty Lee Akers is thriving with her originals and Kylie Sackley opted to head to Nashville where she had success as a hit writer.

Others soared briefly and withered on the vine in a nation where radio is a country music wasteland.

Luke Dickens, who succeeded Luke Austen, as the 2011 winner released his debut disc last year.

The former Young shearer wrote four of 13 tunes on the disc produced by Nash Chambers.

This enabled Poppa Bill Chambers to collaborate on one song and guest on mandolin and his son-in-law Shane Nicholson to play piano, mandolin and banjo.

So what about the songs?

Well, you have to dig deep into the disc before you reach originals that give some insight into Dickens writing.

The sequencing finds Dickens kicking the dew off the glass with vintage hits by recent Australian tourists Kevin Welch, a latter day Texan, and Houston born Rodney Crowell.

True Love Never Dies, replete with video, and Ashes By Now are true gems - especially when first recorded.

An even more recent Nashville tourist - Jerry Salley - combined with fellow bluegrass aces Chris Stapleton and Ronnie Bowman to write It Takes A Woman.

Tia Sellers, a writer for expat Australasian publishers Barry and Jewel Coburn, provided You Can't Put It Back Again that precedes another Salley-Stapleton song I Gotta Have It.

This may be safe sequencing but risky for music buffs who try before they buy.

We don't reach the artistic peak until song number eight - the title track by Dickens guitarist Matt Ross.

The song, one of many inspired by the Queensland floods, peels back the Toowoomba islands in the stream and "a cyclone as big as Texas off the Townsville coast.

Ross hasn't joined the climate change growth industry - he shoots home the biblical blame to the old Satan driving the wind.

It's a credible crack at a genuine country song and released a year before prolific award winner Troy Cassar-Daley turned his farm flood traumas into a river driven tune on his eighth album Home.


"I was 14 years of age when El Dorado called my name/ and I blindly followed fate to where she stood/ the new moon was arising, casting shadows across the yard/ of a hundred year old story made of stone." - El Dorado - Luke Dickens-Bill Chambers.

Ross's powerful paean is a sibling of Dickens' original El Dorado that exploits a weather metaphor for adolescent love.

The firm hand of co-writer Bill Chambers enables Dickens to turn El Dorado into a train song of sorts with a nice line in nostalgia dating back to the days of mills and wood stoves.

Dickens gives the evil old devil another workout in Tex-Mex flavoured The Dancer - penned with Jasper Somerville-Collie.

But this time it's demonic toxic seed that fuels the "devil's own daughter" who takes on extra duties as a vampire.

It's a clever segue from the title track - a devil double shot - and proves why south of the border imagery and instrumentation is such a refreshing flip for roots country music.

The late Marty Robbins, Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm, Texas Tornadoes and more recently Ronnie Dunn even scored mainstream airplay with their bi-lingual brushes with Old Mexico.

The historic Troy Seals song Two Old Cats also helps broaden the music base but has been recorded so many times.

More evocative are Dickens tunes Friend Of Mine, with Novocastrian Catherine Britt adding vocals and The Long Way Home - both penned with former Olympian middle distance runner Paul Greene.

The former finds the singer's character falling asleep on a daydream train in one of a vast vat of songs that eulogise country freedom life over "city lights and pipe dreams all tangled up and tied."

The Long Way Home, despite being a little hook heavy, is a credible song of forgiveness.

Dickens masters mood swings and imagery in his cover of I'm Giving In.

It's a smooth segue to fitting finale - the Ross-Van Preston song Steal Me Away.

His character chooses true love over fools' gold of Beverley Hills and Hollywood, rolling hills of Tennessee and transient musical stardom.

Hopefully this shearer won't be fleeced by that fame flame and instead win a chance to cut another album.

And with more originals it may even reward and exceed Dickens' great expectations.

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