CD REVIEW - 2012
BUTTERFLY (Independent)


"Look out to a stormy sky/ beneath my feet it's wet and dry/ pray it's gonna rain today/ all my troubles washed away/ here in my hometown/ lifts you up and turns you around/ when the rain comes down." - My Hometown - Susan Lily Hutchinson-Paul McNaughton.

The Riverina region of NSW has produced more AFL stars than country singers and songwriters.

But when Susan Lily Hutchinson fled her hometown of Hay as a teenager to pursue an academic career in more populous Wagga-Wagga she was in good company.

Wagga-Wagga was also home to veteran Danglin Brothers drummer-producer Roger Ansell, singer-stage star Darren Coggan and latter day refugee Steve Case.

But Susan's saltbush plains home had a more high profile admirer - Banjo Paterson depicted it graphically in his 1896 poem Hay And Hell And Booligal.

When Banjo hit Hay it was an oasis on the banks of the Murrumbidgee - a vast contrast to nearby Booligal, long beset by rabbit-grasshopper-snake plagues and other vermin.

This was well before the climate change industry mushroomed and Hay became one of the prisons of choice for World War 11 servicemen from across the ocean.

Banjo followed in the slipstream of Charles Sturt who may have broken bread with the local Nari Nari tribe when he passed through in 1829.

It's not clear if Cobb & Co dumped lawyer Banjo at the Hay gaol, built in 1856, for client visits.

Lake Bolac reared singer-songwriter Neil Murray recorded his eulogy of sorts - Lights Of Hay on his 2007 CD Overnighter.

But it was up to Hutchison to pick up the baton and weave more modern memories of the town that now houses five museums in Hometown on her debut CD Butterfly.

The singer extols virtues of rural adolescence - freedom to enjoy simple joys and friendships - in the idyllic bliss of a riverbank town.

Lily exploits more precipitous weather metaphors than Banjo and also bemoans closing of the western rail line from Wilbriggie to Hay in 1985 - just 103 years after it opened.

A little like Victorian government shutting another western railway line from Warrnambool to Port Fairy - just before the towns became meccas for tourists and nice little earners for oil companies.

So don't mistake this song for a mere trip down memory lane.

The singer highlights excessive petrol prices for rural travellers returning home in these troubled times.

It's not clear if Lily or co-writer McNaughton subliminally borrowed the reflection mirror of home lyric from singing actor Mac Davis's 1980 hit Texas In My Rear View Mirror.

Maybe Davis's childhood digs at Lubbock in the Texas panhandle were more parched than Lily's.

Anyway back to the music.


"Don't fall in love with me/ or I'll only run and hide/ don't break a heart that's true/ maybe I'll fly away tonight/ in all my dreams and every waking moment/ I'm the best that I can be/ now that I'm broken." - Broken - Susan Lily Hutchinson.

Lily wrote all 14 songs on her album - she collaborated with her producer McNaughton on My Hometown and Not Today.

Lily, real name Hutchinson, followed in the footsteps of her producer who recorded most of his radio friendly tunes in a bygone era as Paul Norton.

Paul was bassist for Mushroom Records band The Runners who cut two solo albums before splitting in 1985.

He returned to Mushroom as a solo artist and recorded albums and a #2 single Stuck On You that had a distinct country feel.

It may have been a catalyst for his label boss Michael Gudinski to chance his arm on country on his Liberation label with Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, Michael Thomas and Troy Cassar-Daley.

Listeners and viewers of Nu Country FM-TV enjoyed Norton's recording renaissance with expat Oregonian Cletis Carr and the late Rose Tattoo refugee Peter Wells in 1994 in country trio Hillbilly Moon.

So it's no surprise Norton's expertise was perfect potion for sonic waves needed for the late blooming Lily album.

She kicks off her disc with apt entrée Got The Monkey Off My Back that was a direct result of tutelage from vocal coach Nikki Nicholls in 2002.

It segues into her ruptured romance requiem Broken with Norton spouse Wendy Stapleton on backing vocals, and featured in her first video clip on Nu Country TV.

"I dabbled in poetry and songwriting when I was younger and then began again in earnest four years ago when I first met Paul Norton," the singer revealed in 2007.

"Paul has become my songwriting mentor and co-wrote Not Today - the first song I ever took to him."

Both songs embroidered her 2006 debut EP and were reprised here on this album.

The singer's salient song sequencing finds Hometown, replete with Gerry Hale on fiddle and mandolin, preceding melancholic positive love paean Miss You Much and the joyous Naughty Girl.


"You only kiss me when you are drunk/ you only hold me when you are sad/ only do it when you are lonely/ say that I'm your one and only." - You Only Kiss Me When You Are Drunk - Susan Lily Hutchinson.

Norton also lured Michael Christiano, aka Christian of Fisk & Christian, to play guitar and dobro on Not Today.

The younger Gary Young, not the Daddy Cool, Falcons and Leslie Avril drummer but the Scarecrow singer, enlivens four songs including the title track as guest guitarist.

But this is more a joint venture between producer and protégé - weather metaphors are tossed into the blender in A Little Rain and metamorphosis in Butterfly.

That may be better use of our alphabet middle letters than melancholia of You're Not Here (Sunrise) and lachrymose lava of Feels So Strange.

But just as the listener reaches for the levity button there's movement at the station on the uplifting recovery of Mountaintop and the Christiano dobro daubed Not Today.

The singer finishes on a high note with the riveting So Right So Wrong and the hedonistic and assertive You Only Kiss Me When You Are Drunk.

Lily's longevity will depend on community radio and TV - and equally importantly live performances.

Unlike many peers she has a post graduate degree in Radiography from Sydney University after earning her stripes at Charles Sturt University in Wagga-Wagga.

She follows a daytime career as a medical imaging technologist but is unlikely to revert to a previous role as stand-up comedienne.

That is unless she feels the need to make pithy presentations to medical conferences or maybe record company boardrooms.

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