"Well, I swore when I was 15 years old I'd be retired at 30/ I told every man in town I would be back and dirty at 40/I kept on doing it, I did those gigs for years and years/in the heat and dust and rain and the floods/to try and sell my songs but I'm still here." - How Long - Leslie Avril-Sam Lemann.

She was raised in Eltham and moved much deeper into the Victorian bush before the horrific Black Saturday fires claimed a bunch of buddies.

But Smiths Gully chanteuse Leslie Avril is a true survivor - she proves it again on this soulful masterpiece.

Sure, she's on the flip side of 50 on only her fourth album since she long ago trod the boards with Reuben Tice, embryo of the Skyhooks prototype.

But, like the fermented grapes she has groped, she has matured with age in a career that embraces jazz, blues, rock and her first love - country.

As one of the best practitioners of her art she bares soul and travails of her travels in her originals.

No point leaving best to last in four songs penned with guitarist producer Sam Lemann.

She kicks off with How Long - a powerful paean to her career longevity.

The broken dreams, horrific hurdles and personal tragedy are meat on this bucolic bone.

Avril doesn't beat around any of those metaphoric bushes - her entrée is a salient signpost to the struggles of a soulful spirit refusing to be snuffed.

And that's just one searing song - an autobiographical trip down the years of a woman, never deafened by the ticking of the biological clock.


"The show's all over now, in the backroom with the band/ miles from my home again, temperature is coming down/ out on the dance floor, DJ is playing too loud/ should go home and rest my voice tonight." - Foolish Things - Leslie Avril-Sam Lemann.

Want to know why Avril is not the star she should be?

Well, it obviously has nothing to do with talent, taste and desire.

Maybe some of it is explained here - nocturnal struggles for stardom far from home and post gig peaks and valleys are reprised in Foolish Things.

Avril hasn't Googled heartbreak and sorrow in cyberspace.

She has lived it so many times in thousands of neon choral corrals and smoky skull orchards in all vast expanses of the globe.

Not just the pubs, clubs and concert halls of her homeland - the unlucky radio country for artists who choose to follow their musical passion and not the cloying corporate chain radio wasteland.

Avril has ventured deep into Scandinavia, the U.S. Europe and the South Pacific in chasing her dream.

Put a mike in her hand and she soars to that fame flame with none of the calculated career choreographing of lesser lasses.

Avril picks up the slack for precious pre-fabricated peers as she portrays the heavy lifting of a long-suffering spouse in Hard Workin' Woman.

Who is the woman who returns from working the bars, without opiates and pills, and cleans the house while burning the midnight oil for that ungrateful no-good man?

Well, it's the sweetheart of the rodeo who finds solace in the radio and TV.

Yes, real country.


"It's 4 am, Eastern Standard feeling/ I swear I know every crack in this ceiling/ the TV's getting on my nerves/ I can't stand to look/ my eyes won't stay on the words on the pages of my book." - Eastern Standard Time - Paul Gadbsy.

Equally evocative is Eastern Standard Time - an insomnia anthem of pain and little pleasure - written by bassist Paul Gadsby.

Avril's heroine is again home alone - this time it's the boudoir and her constant companions provide temporary relief but won't save her from her fate.

There's radio, TV and the almost forgotten tool of the trade - the humble book.

Maybe tall bassists also enjoy tall stories in the small hours.

But I digress.

And there's Steve Teakle's accordion driven treatment of vitriolic Perfect World - penned by Chris Stockley, guitarist in her nineties band The Blue Healers.

The Melbourne Blue Healers - as distinct from the Johland country band of the same name with a different vowel movement - were one of those short-lived but well loved suburban combos.

It's Teakle on piano in the driver's seat of the idyllic Lonely & Longing - a tune from Leslie's long time drummer DJ Gary Young and his singing spouse Angie.

Those homegrown homilies are tastefully punctuated by a heartfelt duet with different drummer Andy Swann on Dan Penn-Chips Moman soul standard Dark End Of The Street.

They are followed by equally evocative Tonight The Heartache's On Me.

Yes, the same song that helped shoot lauded Texan trio the Dixie Chicks to international fame and fortune.

Avril also honours local peer Marni Sheehan in spiritual cheating song Devil Call Your Name.


"All alone now you're gone/ I hate to see you go, but now you're gone how do we carry on/ never felt so all alone/ I walk in the wind but I feel I'm going nowhere." - Song For Les - Leslie Avril-Sam Lemann

Avril's unconditional support for mentors peaks in her tribute to her late bassist Les Scott in Song For Les.

"I've lost a few bass players," Avril confessed.

"Spiro Philipas from the Blue Healers, Les Katzmarek from Adelaide (original Cold Chisel) and then another - Les. Very sad stuff."

Lemann embellishes co-writing on this acoustic gem with dexterity on four and eight string Ukuleles with Trevor Reading on double bass.

The cream on Avril's gateau is her French vocal on La Musique Country, replete with accordion.

Might be trite - but how many bi-lingual country chanteuses reign this far south of Louisiana?

It's not clear if Lemann or Leslie should be credited for sequencing of haunting beauty Love Letters and inspired reading of Texan legend Guy Clark's epic L.A. Freeway as her finale.

Yes, prolific latter day Tennessee troubadour and luthier Clark is one of the many artists to share stages with Avril.

You may not read much elsewhere about this dynamic disc but it could be the sleeper of the year.

Certainly, no need to try before you buy.

Just check out the other session serfs - multi-instrumentalist Andy Baylor and backing vocalists including Jody Bell and the boys in the band.


The CD slick cover shot was taken at Albert Park Lake.

Andrew Cohen at the Wooden Boat Association supplied the old wooden rowing boat The Lindsay Symons.

"It took me months to find one," Avril confessed.

"The old bloke who is holding the antique telescope is CD sponsor Jack Hutchinson from Brisbane."

So who provided the appealing apparel worn by Avril?

"My dresser is Aussie rep Christine Bitomsky for Vivian on Holloway in London," says the singer.

"They also dress Nigella Lawson."

What about that white chapeau and frilly undergarment on the inside sleeve?

"I took my own petticoat pics," the singer confided.

And the back sleeve features the subject of the CD dedication - Papuan born bassist Les Scott.

I'm Alright Jack is available at P O Box 34, Smiths Gully, Victoria - 3760, and The Last Record Store - 304 Smith St, Collingwood.

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