2016 CD Review
THE WAYSIDE BALLADS VOLUME 2 (Laughing Outlaw).
JACKSON BROTHERS – RICOCHET FROM VIETNAM TO GIPPSLAND
“He did his time in Vietnam/ rolling on those rolling hills in pursuit of Uncle Sam/ and he sailed back home, with the song of the wind/ cried in his soul, blood of his kin/ he raised a family, chained to the wheel.” - Gippsland Boy - Bill Jackson/ Ross Jackson.
The collateral human damage of war has long been fertile fodder for songwriters and poets - especially for European and Americans who reached back to the War Of The Roses, Battle of Hastings and, more recently, a vast vat of Civil Wars.
Here in the unlucky radio country the time span is shorter but still productive.
Sydney school teacher Luke O'Shea drew upon World War 1 for his tune Three Brothers from his fourth album Sing You Up in 2014 and fellow teacher and singer songwriter John Schumann of Redgum fame chose the Vietnam War for his classic I Was Only 19.
Now Gippsland raised brothers Bill and Ross Jackson have returned to a subject they visited on previous albums with their Vietnam War tunes Bring Them On Home and Bitter And Twisted .
This time Vietnam veteran Ross tears through his sixties back pages to fuel Gippsland Boy from his sixth solo album with singing sibling Bill.
They explore the divisive nature of the war that polarised families before and after the return of our troops - both conscripts and professional soldiers.
The Jacksons personalise their parable with a veteran survivor who returns to farm and family in Gippsland - also the birth font of fellow singer-songwriters Hamish and Lachlan Davidson, Michael Waugh and Harry Hookey.
They didn't need to venture west to the Shipwreck Coast where Dead Livers bassist and recent liver recipient Michael Schack and Lost In Suburbia band-mate Peter Bird were also forced to go “all the way with LBJ.”
Bird served in Vietnam but it may have been the Schack's silver service of Puckapunyal tucker to fellow conscript - Prahran plumber, Richmond footy star and Essendon and GWS coach Kevin Sheedy that dissuaded the brass from inflicting Schack cuisine on fellow soldiers abroad.
The Schack-Jackson musical link is not quite as old.
Jackson, as a member of seventies band the Lamington Brothers, appeared on the Dead Livers epic indie EP that also featured I'd Love To Have A Joint With Willie and I'd Love To Have A Smoke With Malcolm by expat Kiwi Peter Caulton and the late idol of Australian youth and former rodeo rider A. P. Johnson.
But I digress no longer as memories of Country Joe & The Fish and Arlo Guthrie percolate in winter sunshine.
The Jackson brothers wrote all 11 songs - with a little help from Nashville tunesmith John Hadley on humorous entrée Pink Jesus.
Yes, it was inspired by a statuette that adorned the Family Wash locale in East Nashville during a visit where they met a local filly who may or may not have been as statuesque.
It was not on July 29, 2012, when another Nashville musician was shot in the neck during the increasingly popular car-jacking fad now reaching epidemic proportions on the mean streets of Melbourne.
The other collaboration on this disc, produced in Nashville by multi-instrumentalist Thomm Jutz who toured here with Texan troubadour Nanci Griffith, features local singer Nigel Wearne as the third stringer.
Jackson describes the tune as “the story of young love destined for failure because of past experiences not yet resolved by each individual.”
An appetising country dessert, perhaps.
SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS
“We used to ride in on two wheel horses, with righteous bravado/ yeah back in the fifties we all dreamed of being desperadoes/ in between Jimmy Dean and grand old Elvis/ girls' love and cheers, guns, whiskey and sneers/ it was stick em up, wooden guns, Dixie cups/ aliens and cowboys, silver screen cowboys.” - Silver Screen Cowboys - Bill Jackson/Ross Jackson.
Equally romantic is the Jackson's journey to the Kentucky birthplace of recently deceased bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe at Jerusalem Ridge in Rollin' Into Rosine.
It's perhaps fitting that starlet Sierra Hull, recently featured on Nu Country TV , also guests on mandolin on the romantic road song.
Jackson also explores diverse shades of love in Double Shot and the impact of a loss of a job for a couple making the most of the moment of misery in his finale Come As You Are .
Don't get the impression the Jacksons have stonewalled their pain - they examine the plight of survivors of infidelity in Three China Ducks and domestic violence from the eyes of a child in Half Way House Of The Broken .
And, of course, they return to our own history with the topical Time Will Judge - another examination of the identity of the villains and victors in the Kelly gang and cops killing fields due south across the border from Jackson's birthplace in Albury.
Commercialisation of the infamous legends was in top gear long before Mick Jagger played Old Ned in the Tony Richardson directed 1970 movie that featured the soundtrack penned by late Playboy cartoonist and satirist Shel Silverstein and voices of the late Waylon Jennings, Thom Ghent and alive and kicking octogenarian Rhodes Scholar Kris Kristofferson.
Late Melbourne Grammar graduate Frank Thring, who played Pontius Pilate in 1959 movie Ben Hur, and Octogenarian wireless survivor John Laws also had cameos in the movie that was followed by a stage musical and TV mini-series.
They suffered less derision than Jagger and then singer girlfriend Marianne Faithful who was replaced as Ned's sister Maggie in the cast by Diane Craig after suffering a drug overdose in Sydney.
One suspects that treble Geelong premiership star James Kelly and latter day Essendon star was not a gang descendant.
The Jacksons also utilised a trip to Nashville's Lower Broadway music mecca to flesh out the penniless busker who sings for his supper in Every Day's A Drinking Day.
One hopes the brothers did place a $5 tip in the homeless troubadour's case - it's worth the price of entry to this pathos primed parable.
OK that's the synopsis of the disc that also features Pete Fidler on dobro, Justin Moses on banjo and fiddle, upright bassist Daniel Kimbro and drummer Lynn Williams.
You can catch Jackson and some of his partners in rhyme when he showcases the disc at the Lomond Hotel in Brunswick on July 22, the Spotted Mallard near the Dawson estate in Brunswick on July 28 and the Davidson Brothers hometown Yinnar Hotel on September 28.