2015 CD REVIEW
RAISED BY EAGLES
DIAMONDS IN THE BLOODSTREAM (VITAMIN-SLIPRAIL)
FAGS, FEMME FATALES AND EAGLES
“Jackie was a tough kid/ she'd light up when the moon did/ shining like a streetlight/ down on the corner near where I lived/ we got caught stealing cigarettes/ Jackie's mama slapped her in the teeth/ she said ‘you ain't gonna see him no more, you're just a kid he's just a thief'/ when Jackie smiled there was blood on her lip.” - Jackie - Luke Sinclair.
Trips to childhood have long been a fertile font for songwriters dating back to days of yore when moonshiners, bushrangers, highwaymen and pirates reigned and later fuelled the radio waves.
Now, in an era when generations of city children are raised on computer games and cower in the shadows of fear by religious power junkies and political ponces, it's a pleasant surprise to find some local songwriters still sourcing reality.
Raised By Eagles guitarist-vocalist Luke Sinclair resurrects an embryonic romance with an adolescent partner in crime, and maybe rhyme, in his song Jackie from the band's second indie album.
Sinclair casts his victim as a tough school kid suffering summary justice at the end of her mother's fists for two minor sins - stealing cigarettes and hanging out with a male co-offender.
It's not exactly on the same scale as Californian Merle Haggard who turned 21 in San Quentin after a litany of teenage crimes that climaxed when he broke into a Bakersfield restaurant through the kitchen when mine host was still serving dessert out front in the dining room.
But like Merle, now 78, young Sinclair has the smarts to call the teeth slapping mother “mama” as she dispenses discipline the old fashioned way before suburban softies rewrote the maternal manual.
Sinclair's character's lover, whose absences from the school bus after the aforesaid punishment are left hanging in the ether, has, of course another distinctive deposit in the writer's memory bank.
“She was pretty in the best way/ she used to smell like pine wood,” is a salient sniff of the senses.
So what about the music?
Well, Sinclair, multi-instrumentalist and fellow vocalist Nick O'Mara, bassist Luke Richardson and drummer Johnny Gibson massage their message in an accessible delivery that enables the lyrics to never drown in a wall of sound.
They avoid the pitfalls of a vast cast of vocally challenged peers whose penchant for sonic grunge ensure the irritant factor alienates fans and foes of modern country folk music.
Co-production with Roger Bergodaz ensures a radio friendly octet of credible songs for a hungry market place.
There's no bro-country bravado with tiresome tail-gates and urban pick-ups or vintage nasal whine of the asinine Australiana army.
Instead, lyrically, this is highly reminiscent of the best work of pioneer country folk icon Eric Andersen and his protégées and aurally, there's a touch of maybe Greg Quill's Country Radio and early Dingoes .
But, more importantly, this is a young band blazing its own trail with idyllic imagery - especially in Window Seat that contains the album title in the body and hook.
They entrée with Sinclair penned love lament Falling Through where the male lead is left behind in the middle of writing a song by a femme fatale in that popular song locale - Jericho Road .
SUGAR CANE – MORE THAN A SWEET REFRAIN
“If you had love at any time/ you hid it like a thief/ somewhere in the white noise/ somewhere underneath/ I'm thinking of that train/ heading north through the sugar cane.” - Sugar Cane - Luke Sinclair.
For the price of a $2 coin flipped into her upturned hat she revealed she spent her 18th birthday nursing Chad Morgan - the Sheik Of Scrubby Creek and eldest of 14 children - in hospital after his motor cycle collided with a car on Christmas Eve 1953 when he was playing Santa for kinfolk.
But I digress.
Chad , now 82, starred in his own excellent ABC-TV docco and Raised By Eagles make do with a video that will also hopefully score exposure on diverse platforms.
Gippsland born Melbourne singer-songwriter Liz Stringer and aptly named Van Diemens Land export Van Walker, who once opened for singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman at the Caravan Club in Oakleigh, sing backing vocals on Sugar Cane.
Stringer, who leaves to record her fifth album in Todd Snider's hometown of Portland , Oregon, in July, also sings harmony on Jackie and Doorstep.
In the Nick O'Mara penned Doorstep the narrator resists the temptation to dub his character's nocturnal arrival on a woman's front door after a Saturday night bar-room closing his last call for love.
But he gets close - “last drinks, last call/ while I'm waiting for a sign/ I'm thinking of the sweetness of your skin.”
Here O'Mara chooses a different sense to Sinclair - it's taste not scent.
So it's no surprise to learn that O'Mara also wrote Honey where he rhymes fishing with wishing.
That enables him to get very punny with his lure - “You can use me as your bait anytime/ just put me on a hook/ and honey, baby drop a line.”
Sinclair and O'Mara also continue their aquatic metaphors in their tune Waterline where lost love sinks with finality - “I saw you drowning but you never waved/ I just watched, hoping you'd be saved.”
The band's imagery retains its sting right through to Sinclair penned album finale Days Fall where the character's addiction to love is more potent than his penchant for “booze and weed.”
Sinclair's Toronto born singing spouse Tracy McNeil also adds backing vocals.
So the verdict?
Rarely does a local act live up to its hype.
It seems Raised By Eagles has flown above suburban stereotypes in the inner city café latte coal-mines and instead opted for a soulful sound with credible narratives.
Hell, the punny Honey hints they might even have earthy bush roots.