2017 CD REVIEW
THE WIDE HORIZON www.darrencoggan.com
FROM GLEN TO GLEN AND FERNDALE
“The opening line to his beautiful bride/ was how he danced before Queen Victoria/ instead of digging for gold he had a merchant's smile/ and sold supplies to the miners/ then he turned his hand to working the land/ at his beloved Ferndale, a home to all his children/ the pride in his tartan continues to be handed down.” - Scotland - Darren Coggan.
When Riverina raised singer-songwriter Darren Coggan diversified into acting and TV lifestyle show hosting he cushioned himself and young family from drought devastation that drained the blood, sweat and years of the agrarian toiling of three previous generations.
It also enabled Coggan, now 44 and father of two, to harvest hay from the heartbreak in his cinematic songs.
But the New England born balladeer doesn't just personalise modern family dramas on his aptly titled sixth album The Wide Horizon he also reaches back to his Scottish ancestry.
And, of course, he tackles other historical issues diverse as Norfolk Island pioneers and the legacy of bushrangers such as Ned Kelly.
Ben Edgar, guitarist for Missy Higgins, Goyte, Passenger , Angus & Julia Stone, produced the 11 track album at the Merrigum studio in Melbourne in July 2016.
Coggan wrote all songs except his revamp of James Reyne penned Australian Crawl hit Reckless, Tales Told By We Lesser Men (Ned Kelly ) written by his Wagga Wagga drama teacher Ken McBeath and Michael Genner tune The Best Of All Possible Worlds.
The singer kicks off his album with the optimism fuelled title track that segues into Scotland - Coggan's second male artist of the year winner at Australian Celtic Music Awards in Glen Innes on Saturday May 6.
Scotland traces Darren's Celtic roots and tells the story of John Fletcher, a proud young Scot from the Fhlesiter Clan who left his home in Glenbuchat, Scotland, and migrated to New England highlands of NSW.
At just 22 Fletcher sailed into Port Melbourne and sold supplies to miners on the Victorian gold fields before settling his tartan in another Glen - Glen Innes - and raising all his children on the family property Ferndale .
Darren was also born in Glen Innes and lived there until his family moved to Wagga Wagga when he was six.
Salient sequencing finds Scotland preceding Riverina rainbow rooted tune The ‘Bidgee that name checks his sister Naomi who plays piano and Hammond organ on the disc.
Coggan resurrects the rainbow in evocative eternal love lament A Beautiful Ride and ignites sunshine in pathos primed farewell fable Until We Meet Again .
TEARS ONLY PRECIPITATION IN DROUGHT
“The spirit of the man on the land is a hard one to crush/ but it's killing my dad to auction off my home/ there's nothing but memories left for our children anymore/ was it all a dream, walking through a field of gold.” - Hughie - Darren Coggan.
“My parents and sister have been an amazing force in getting me where I am,” revealed Coggan who later quit his day job as a cameraman for Prime television in Wagga to pursue a music career that truly tested their support.
Coggan made his decision after he won the Star Maker talent quest at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in 1996.
“That was an incredible launch pad for me,” he explained.
Coggan released his debut album, Home Town , in 1997 and was nominated for five Golden Guitar awards.
But when he failed to secure any wins, his record label dropped him.
“The attitude of all the movers and shakers just dropped overnight,” Coggan recalled.
“I'd really felt we'd made so much ground. I crawled back home to Wagga for a bit. I was completely shell-shocked.”
Coggan married his sweetheart Danielle - subject of another new song Seventeen - and resurrected his career.
He also honoured his secondary school drama teacher Ken McBeath by revamping his Ned Kelly bush ballad Tales Told by We Lesser Men .
“I really warmed to Ken and he took me under his wing,” Darren confessed about his mentor who examines the myths about the bushranger.
Yes, the entire soundtrack for the Tony Richardson directed 1970 Ned Kelly movie starring Mick Jagger, was written by late Playboy cartoonist, author and actor Shel Silverstein and the vocals of Jagger, Kris Kristofferson and the late Waylon Jennings and Tom Ghent.
It also featured actors diverse as Mark McManus, Dianne Craig, Serge Lazareff, Ken Shorter, Peter Sumner, the late Toorak thespian Frank Thring and a cameo by John Laws.
But Coggan's tribute has his own stamp.
“Come gather round yorte, I'll tell you a story/ of my home in the south Pacific sea/ when Pitcairn Island sheltered the Bounty/ in love with the Tahitian dream/ they sailed out to Norfolk, the prisoners island/ for a new beginning, new seeds/ it's a tale of survival/ of pride in a people/ of faith and community.”
HAPPY DAYS FOR PEACE TRAIN DRIVER IN THE ‘BIDGEE
“Like a river flowing to the sea/ like a river running to be free/ we both know I couldn't stay/ maybe it was serendipity/ but the ‘Bidgee will always be like home to me.” - The ‘Bidgee - Darren Coggan.
Coggan also covers his own journey in The ‘Bidgee .
In 1999 he auditioned for Happy Days - The Arena Mega Musical because of his striking resemblance to Richie Cunningham.
Craig McLachlan, Jo Beth Taylor and Rebecca Gibney signed on and Hugh Jackman and Todd McKenney were considered for the part of Richie.
But Coggan was offered the part on his birthday and the role enabled him to meet the original Fonz - Henry Winkler.
“The show opened my eyes to a whole other world of the entertainment industry I'd never thought I was capable of doing,” revealed Coggan who also had a starring role as Col Joye in Shout - The Musical of the Wild One in 2003.
Coggan was also Vince Fontaine and John Farnham's understudy as Teen Angel in Grease - The Arena Spectacular.
He recorded indie albums Balancing Act that won him the Independent Male Vocalist of the Year and Golden Guitar winning fifth album War Stories that he described as his most personal album.
Coggan also guested on All Saints in 2001, 2004 and 2005 and is currently a presenter on Sydney Weekender .
But his career soared in 2010 when he staged Peace Train - The Cat Stevens Story to a sold-out Sydney Opera House .
The show was launched in Wagga, travelled extensively and graced stages of Australia's most prestigious theatres including nine shows at the Opera House.
Darren, who moved from Sydney to Helensburgh north of Wollongong 13 years ago, embarks on a three-week UK theatre tour in September with Peace Train.
This enables him to re-visit his ancestral home Scotland and sink a dram or two in celebration of his Peace Train journey.
Coggan also developed The ‘Bidgee to the Big Smoke - a chronicle of songs and anecdotes from his entire career.
“It's been 20 years since I left Prime television with Star Maker and The Bidgee to the Big Smoke tells that story,” Coggan said in 2016.
“I've done far more than I thought I'd be capable of. I'm not trying to live in the past. I've still got lots I want to achieve. But this is a nice opportunity for me to mark time and reflect on those 20 years.”
Wife Danielle is a driving force behind his ideas and their children, Gabe, 14, and Olivia, 11, helped sell CDs after shows.
Coggan started performing Peace Train when his children were in pre-school so his daughter Olivia requested singing Moon Shadow instead of nursery rhymes at school.
Olivia's passion for singing has continued and she joined him on stage at Tamworth.
His son Gabe is also an accomplished musician but encourages Coggan to learn songs “from this century.”