DIARY - 25 JANUARY 2014 - 8 BALL AITKEN CD REVIEW
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE (PHOENIX MOVEMENT RECORDS)
JAIL OR MEXICO - THE FEMME FATALE FORK IN THE LOST HIGHWAY
got a redneck and a head of red hair/ my momma warned me, 'son, don't
go there'/ she clears the tracks and protects her name/ when things go
wrong others get the blame/ she asked me to pick me her up from the store/
I didn't know what the stocking was for/ she burst out of the bank with
the sock on her face/ yelling at me 'get the hell out of this place.'"
- "She's Going To Mexico And I'm Going To Jail." - 8 Ball
traveller 8 Ball Aitken has maximised his travels from the far North Queensland
cane fields to the bad-lands of Texas, Tennessee and the Deep South and
idyllic Fiji to cooler climes of Canada, Scandinavia and vast extremities
The former banana picker has appeared as an extra on TV show, Nashville,
guest on singing crime novelist Kinky Friedman's Texas Roadhouse Live
TV in Austin, the BBC and played octogenarian Loretta Lynn's Dude
Ranch in Tennessee.
8 Ball has also expanded his CV with his songs being used in U.S. TV shows
diverse as Justified, Breaking Amish and Parking Wars.
His travelogue includes 200 plus gigs a year on the Lost Highway and brought
him home down under in spring for a national tour that boomeranged him
to Tamworth this month.
So it's no surprise that the Atherton Tablelands raised troubadour's sharp
eye for detail and wry humour in crime sagas and homilies is accentuated
by his dynamic delivery.
His 12 track seventh album was produced in Nashville and Hervey Bay by
another expat Queensland refugee Michael Flanders - a frequent studio
Svengali for fellow Australian refugees in the U.S.
This sparkles from energised entrée, I'm Going To Jail (She's
Going to Mexico) - a numbing narrative - to instrumental finale
Old Hickory, with guest guitarist and prolific ARIA and CMAA award
winner Troy Cassar-Daley.
Aitken, second eldest of 12 children from near Mareeba, has long used
videos to flesh out credible characters - especially being hoodwinked
by a Mexican senorita seductress in a robbery in the former and doing
time with his band in now defunct Boggo Road jail in Brisbane.
"This is what happens when you transplant a Queensland banana picker
into the American South," 8 Ball jokes.
"But I promise to be out from behind bars before my next gig in your
There lies the merry musician's magic - writing videogenic songs that
translate beyond his homeland in memorable music clips that score widespread
His entrée segues into Love The Way She Rolls where the
Mercedes driving diva Janis becomes a temptress from the middle of the
road to the hard cold shoulders.
Aitken extends his vehicular imagery into My Tank's On Empty -
with accompanying metaphor for faded love refuelled by a liquor chaser.
The singer struts his stuff with the "hicks and redneck chicks from
the sticks" in the rock flavoured Hillbilly Disco before escaping
for the great outdoors and a desire to sleep with a bucolic belle in Underneath
But he gets the boot when he loses his lover, aided by same sized footwear,
who decamps in his shoes and leaves him unlaced and drink spiked in
Mile In My Shoes.
loses again in melancholic passion play Destroying The World where
the character's boss suggests a return to piloting a Massey Ferguson
as short term fix for faded love.
And A Gig Is A Gig enables the singer to roll with the punches
as he explores nocturnal neon nirvana where the "drummer gets
the chicks, bass player gets the weed, the agent gets the money"
and the barman has to enforce the "no shirt, no service"
rules of the bar where the star lost his shirt many moons ago but
enjoys his chosen career as he doesn't have to go to bed early at
Those characters and their vices are resurrected in Politics Of
A One Man Band as the singer retrieves his snakeskin boots to
kick group members back into line.
It's a sibling
of sorts of Hobo Millionaire who loses his job at the mill and
wife who decamps to Canada - the hapless hobo reprises his happiness as
he busks and fishes for his supper and hitch hikes west "high on
wine and rich on time" with few worries.
Yes, wry humour abounds - especially in Catfish Wish where the
male lead indulges his desire to be hooked by a woman and battered and
eaten in a culinary mode after "sizzling in the pan."
His session serfs here include past and present members of Little Big
Town and Lynyrd Skynyrd and Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant's bands.
Aitken plays electric and slide guitar, harmonica, resonator and cookie
tin on a disc enriched by fiddler Tammy Rogers King, George Jackson on
banjo, Flanders' pedal steel and mandolin, aptly named Peter Keys on keys,
Hammond B3 and Wurlitzer and Chris Tuttle on Hammond B3, piano and accordion.
At 32 it seems 8 Ball has matured with age and is right on cue throughout.
Ball Aitken Discography - Phoenix Movement Records distributed by MGM.
8 BALL 2004
ODD BALL IN - 2006
REBEL WITH A CAUSE - 2008
TAMWORTH TAPES - Enrec Studio - 2011
ALIVE IN TAMWORTH - 2012
REBEL WITH A CAUSE - 2013
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE - 2014
BALL TELLS ALL ON NASHVILLE SESSIONS AND SONG WRITING
in Nashville has excited me even more about song-writing than I have been
for the past ten years on the road," 8 Ball says.
worked so hard on my song-writing, concentrating on composing new
songs in between a busy year of touring. I wrote with so many talented
songwriters, but funnily enough, 90% of the songs that made the
final cut were written within the last two weeks before the recording
session. I really knuckled down and made big decisions, once I had
a serious deadline looming."
He describes how his song-writing process has changed since his
"I feel that my song-writing and slide-guitar playing has grown
quite considerably, after two years of living in Nashville,"
8 Ball added.
way I play feels bigger, bolder, and more confident than before.
Some of my strongest new material has heavy-duty Southern country
and blues sounding guitar riffs. It's fun stuff to play live. I
feel like I approach universal themes of lost love and loneliness
with some interesting angles on this album, especially in songs
like Destroying the World and Mile In My Shoes.
worked a lot on building strong stories and descriptive imagery into my
music. I have learnt not to waste any lines in a song. I've met so many
people on the road - and most of them have an interesting story, if you
make the time to have a good chat with them. To me there is nothing like
an exciting story to make you feel like you are actually in the song."
So, what's it like for an Aussie banana picker to live in Nashville?
"There are no bananas to pick in Nashville, so I've spent all year
picking guitars!" he explained.
"We were aiming for a ballsy country sound, with a big dose of blues
and rock thrown in," Aitken revealed.
"I feel like I stayed true to my home-grown roots of country, blues
and swamp music, while going for a big modern radio sound."
The level of authentic roots-genre musicianship in Nashville was a revelation
to the Far North Queenslander.
"There are so many great studio musicians working in Nashville, and
we managed to have about twelve of them playing on my new album,"
8 Ball added.
"All the studio musicians were so quick to get the job done. They
were a pleasure to work with professionally, and to get to know as people.
The record producer, Mike Flanders, was very supportive of my song-writing
and slide guitar playing. Mike and I have been talking about making this
record for eight years, ever since we used to hang out and talk pedal
steel guitar on my old deck in East Brisbane."
After 10 years in show business, 8 Ball Aitken sees the music industry
changing in many ways.
"Live music, as an independent musician, feels like a lifelong commitment
to me," 8 Ball confessed.
"There is always a lot to do in a day, and I really need 25 hours
instead of 24. There are so many great places to tour around Australia
(and the world), and I have been getting to as many as possible. I really
enjoy the process of making regular videos and other content online.
I think right now is a great time to have quality interaction with fans.
Nothing seems to replace the fact that to survive, we need to make interesting
music, merchandise, and live gig experiences. I love my job just as much
as ever before."
Although he enjoys spending quality creative time in his adopted home-town
of Nashville, Tennessee, 8 Ball always looks forward to his annual Aussie
"Compared to the USA, Australia is such a relaxed lifestyle,"
"I love and truly appreciate my loyal supporters who have come out
to gigs for so long. I am really excited and ready to share my new album.
It is so nice to come home to Southern Hemisphere Summer-time weather.
There are so many towns and gigs where I have friends around Australia,
and it's just beaut to get to visit them all."
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