DIARY - 29 JULY 2012 - PAUL COSTA CD REVIEW
COST OF BUYING BACK THE FARM
years went by and at 25/ he was doing fine/ he started buying land back
home/ a hundred acres at a time." - Buying Back The Farm - Drew
singer-songwriter Paul Costa has a blunt message for banksters -
leave family farmers alone in your dash for cash.
The Robinvale reared orchardist first explored big banks foreclosing
on family farms on third album In This Life.
Costa and brother Noel - one of the four Costa singing siblings
- wrote Survivor 1932 about the historic depression that
wreaked havoc in the bush and cities.
It was a flashback to a distant era when banks, businesses and industries
crashed and farmers were forced off their family land.
Paul, Noel and long time producer Rod McCormack daubed their riveting
post Great Depression parable with the triumph of racing icons diverse
as Phar Lap, Peter Pan and Gundagai Dog on The Tuckerbox over poverty.
on Costa's fourth solo album Wheels & Steel, he updates
history on his evocative version of Drew McAlister-Allan Caswell
song - Buying Back The Farm.
So why is
Costa, who recorded six albums with his brothers, aiming both barrels
at big city string pullers?
"Times are tough out there at the moment, no doubt about it,"
Costa told Nu Country TV in a call from Lilydale while on tour to promote
Wheels & Steel.
"It's a cycle really, looking back to 1932. We haven't seen the next
one yet. It's probably not that far off. It's a 70 or 80 year cycle."
Costa, now 40 something, and his siblings were raised on the family's
90-acre citrus farm at Robinvale near Mildura.
And, although it was tough when the Costa patriarch died in 1993, they
didn't lose their farm to the bank and then have to plough back their
off-farm income to retrieve it.
That's the saga of the character in this song penned by Drew McAlister,
Narrabri born son of a meat worker turned farmer, and expat Englishman
"Our farm was basically in not that great a financial shape with
what was owed on it - but we paid the bills," Costa revealed.
"By that stage I was working for Elders Merchandise - so was my brother
Don. The two younger boys were at university. We had been through a tough
time but farming wasn't that high on the list. A few other farmers in
the area lost their farms to the banks."
END OF TOWN
big fish, little fish/ with nothing in the middle/ all hooked up like
a puppet on a string/ and the only escape is the power of the people/
what goes around comes around/ on the big end of town." - Big
End Of Town - Paul Costa-Tamara Stewart.
reloads when he nails corporate bullfrogs in Big End of Town
- one of three songs penned here with Goulburn Valley raised Tamara
Stewart, now 38, four-album veteran and contestant on The Voice, is
one of the three Sloper sisters raised at Mooroopna in the dairying
and citrus belt.
The fertile font, once blessed by a 1974 tour by late country star-stock
car racing driver Marty Robbins, was also launch pad for Hawking Brothers,
late Kevin Shegog's band Gold Toppers and latter day Shepparton starlet
his citrus flavoured adolesence with Andrew Pupillo and Charlie Wilde
- major songwriters for veteran Melbourne roots country band The T-Bones.
Paul also recalls musical soirees and Robinvale Eagles footy fields with
Pupillo whose social comment tunes embrace a vast landscape north and
south of the Yarra.
But, unlike The T-Bones, Costa headed north to the NSW Central Coast with
his wife Suzy and son Dylan.
The singer is a strong supporter of farmers but doesn't put all blame
on the banks.
"I don't like to pick on the banks," Costa conceded.
"Some times it could the fault of the farmers - they're not all that
great operators. You can't blame the banks completely."
But it's clear that city slicker desk jockeys are the tyrannical targets
in Big End Of Town.
and Stewart wrote the song after being bombarded with political ads
during the NSW state election.
"There seems to be two sets of rules," Costa says.
"There's a green light for the corporations and another set of
rules for the small families who actually build the countries. It
seems like its allright to have them swept out. It seems like these
days that's the way it is and we accept it. I don't think it should
be the way, accepting it so easily."
small farmers, business owners and trades people face ruin because of
the carbon tax and collateral damage.
It's a similar theme to Shotgun Willie Nelson's annual Farm Aid concerts
designed to protect families from losing farms to corporate raiders.
"The cost of farming is going through the roof," Costa added.
"By putting the carbon tax on here it's forcing a lot of self employed
people out of business. We're exporting our coal to China where they're
building coal-fired plants with not as much filtering as we're putting
in here. It's all still going in the air - it's a retarded way of doing
How does that work?"
the year of 1829/ the Ribbon Gang was grown/ from a whip crack of injustice/
a fatal seed was sown/ from the caves of Abercrombie/ they fought the
bitter fight/ now they were wanted men - dead or alive." Ribbon
Gang Lane - Paul Costa-Rod McCormack.
back into history for Ribbon Gang Lane - a true story about injustice.
"I was staying at a hotel in Bathurst," Costa recalled.
"I walked into this small bar for a drink. Covering one wall of the
pub was a big picture in stages with graphics. It told the story of the
Ribbon Gang - two convicts were caught skinny dipping and brought back
into town and given 50 lashes. All the convicts formed their own gang
and wore green ribbons - Irish sign of rebellion. They were given a hard
time. They called the Army in, rounded up 10 of them and hung them. The
street where they hung them was named Ribbon Gang Lane. I went back on
the net, researched it and then had the complete story."
Costa also goes into bat for the downtrodden in Shine - one of
five songs penned with McCormack.
"I was very honoured to be asked to be Ambassador for Mission Australia
in September, 2011," Costa revealed in his biography.
"Since then I've been involved in fundraisers for community service
programs they run. I was so inspired by great work they do with youth
and homeless people - wrote song to help inspire others to be the best
they can be. Mission Australia is all about giving people hand up, not
a handout. It's philosophy I believe in very strongly."
Costa balances social comment tunes on his album with others reeking of
nostalgia and romance.
They include Sad Old Country Song, Comin' Down, With This Ring, Meant
To Be and Shake These Chains.
I was raised in the Mallee/ driving tractors and riding bikes/ there's
nothing for a boy like me/ to be on them day and night." - Tractors
& Bikes - Paul Costa-Tamara Stewart-Drew McAlister.
Tractors & Bikes is a snapshot of adolesence on the banks of
the rivers, channels and levees in the Sunraysia.
The Costas, raised far from the concrete corrals and smoke filled suburbs,
enjoyed filial freedom riding tractors and dirt bikes when not fruit picking
for their supper after school.
And they all played in the family band Shadow Rock.
Unlike city and suburban automatons playing computer games they felt real
pain when blown out of the saddle.
"We lost of a lot of skin and grazes but never broke a bone,"
"We were battered and bruised plenty of times but no broken bones
or twisted ankles."
But, with no Costa farm to source the video, Costa drew on wife Suzy for
a video locale.
"We chose Suzy's uncle Ken Westmore's property at Boundary Bend -
about 50 kilometres from Robinvale," Costa revealed.
"It's a big farm. Two of his sons, one of his workers and my cousin
are riding quad bikes in it. Ken is standing on one of them on his family
farm. It's on the Victorian side of the Murray."
It's too early to choose new singles but Costa knows what would make good
Big End of Town would be ideal," Costa says.
"So would Ribbon Gang Lane but might be expensive to do it justice."
There's always Nick Smith-Joe Camilleri hit Chained To The Wheel
featuring duet partner and fellow Golden Guitarist Amber Lawrence.
It's not the first time a Black Sorrows or Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons
song has enjoyed a country rebirth.
Adam Brand recorded 18 for his fourth album Get Loud.
Falcons drummer Gary Young wrote The Girl Across The Street Just Turned
18 for Daddy Cool and was upset when it failed to make their Sex,
Dope & Rock N Roll disc.
But the year the song turned 21 Brand revamped and recorded it after he
heard a live version of the coming of age saga of a farmer's daughter
by Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons.
Costa is touring nationally to promote Wheels & Steel on Core-Sony.
And when he returns to the Sunraysia for concerts he won't be homeless
like the characters in Shine.
"I've still got a house in Robinvale," says Costa. "I've
owned it for 15 years."
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