2016 CD REVIEW
TRACY MCNEIL & THE GOOD LIFE
THIEVES (SLIP RAIL-MGM)
STATIC ON TRACY'S RADIO BUT IT'S NOT EDDIE
“There's a hum in the power lines, a static in the air / I try to hold onto it, but my signal's not too clear/ this station I been listening to on a shortwave radio/ has too many commercials and only tells me everything I know/ there's a way out of this valley/ without stepping on the hand that helps you up/ there's a time to tune into the one who's listening/ there's a time to tune into the one you love.” - The Valley - Tracy McNeil.
Expat Canadian chanteuse Tracy McNeil has a problem with the psycho-babble and brain washing of commercial radio but it's not specifically Collingwood corporate bullfrog Eddie McGuire and his parasitic peers.
According to her fourth album entrée tune The Valley, the hum in the power lines and static on the station she's tuned to on short wave radio, is the culprit.
But this song is not about radio.
It may use that medium in its imagery but examines the song's character tuning into the preferred partner she loves with power of songwriting her existential exit.
So there's no danger of ABC and community radio and TV diluting her media power base here in the unlucky radio country.
McNeil launches her CD this Saturday - June 25 - at Carlton venue Bella Union at the Trades Hall circa 1874, with Little Georgia before an east coast tour that ends in Adelaide in August.
The singer flew in here from Canada in 2007 and co-produced this disc with Shane O'Mara and her band The Good Life at the Yikesville studio in Yarraville.
She dedicated the album to her late mentor and musician father Wayne who died at the end of 2015 after blazing his country rock trail way north of the Mason Dixon line since the seventies.
It was the same year McNeil toured solo throughout Ontario, Canada, supported Dawes in Melbourne and showcased her deep catalogue of originals at the famed Americana Festival in Nashville where singing spouse Luke Sinclair's other band Raised By Eagles strutted their stuff.
Hopefully that launch pad will prompt Americana and satellite radio to give her wide exposure in that more populous nation -without static.
BLACK THUNDER LIGHTS UP PARADISE
“It's a long way if you wanna get back/ it's a long way to paradise/ this kind of love we found, it won't come around twice.” - Paradise - Tracy McNeil.
The singer's message is clear.
If they want to plunge off a cliff to the other side they need to ensure the destination is heaven - not hell - as they don't have a valid return ticket.
Not quite the same theme as John Milton's Paradise Lost poem that began in 1658 but had a long incubation before its birth in print in 1667.
McNeil's saga doesn't have all the Biblical imagery of Milton, and unlike the poet's tome that was interrupted by the English Civil War, was finished faster in the hiatus after her 2014 album Nobody Ever Leaves.
The singer, who wrote these songs in Nashville, Canada and California, makes a healthy withdrawal from her memory bank in Blueprint despite the fear the collective soul currency may depreciate in value from separation.
Biblical scholars may be pleased to learn that time is the revelator that ensures the characters live for the moment here.
It's a stark contrast to the fall of man in John The Revelator that enjoyed gallops dating back to the thirties and sixties by Blind Willie Johnson and Son House and more recently by Tom Waits, Texan Lee Roy Parnell and another John - Mellencamp.
Unlike chart topping Christian duo Florida Georgia Line, who went searching for the Apostle John when they filmed their video for HOLY at the 12 Apostles near Port Campbell on their March tour, this singer steers clear of Shipwreck Coast chaps.
Instead she saves her coastal metaphor for ruptured romance requiem Wait On You where her character suffers at the hands of the villain who keeps “dragging me down in your undertow.”
But the singer is a forgiving soul when she exploits another aquatic metaphor in A Little Relief.
Although the victim's boat starts sinking the singer's character throws out a safety net.
She will be there to catch him if he falls - or even worse appears likely to drown.
THIEVES IN THE NIGHT
“Found it all in the city, a corner room with a view/ bodies move like a river, below the place where I often think of you/ nothing ever came so easy, nothing ever came so hard/ daylight creeps through my window and finds a way to land where you lie/ when time allows me to steal you, but oh how it flies.” - Thieves - Tracy McNeil.
Despite all that, death is revisited in the finality of Ashes where the singer ponders whether to put her partner's charred remains in a jar or wear them as a necklace.
And in one of the more memorable couplets of the decade she rhymes the necklace's mediaeval scar with “this old Gibson guitar.”
That lyric is pertinent - she wrote the song on her dad's 1968 Gibson Hummingbird .
Now, there's a vivid visual marketing tool - not for cricket but also the popular instrument of choice by McNeil, Sinclair, O'Mara and the other studio serf Dan Parsons.
Maybe even food for thought for a video director.
The album's fitting finale is a live rendition of Finer Side where the singer lures her prey by offering to ignite his charms and melt his resistance hidden behind his “silver tongue and beautiful lies.”
Well, that's just an interpretation of the songs' themes from a fifth generation dairy farmer from our deep south.
What about the music that also features her bassist Trent McKenzie and drummer and backing vocalist Bree Hartley?
McNeil and her fellow producers ensure that her vocals are the driving force behind memorable songs that deserve far wider exposure than they will receive on our commercial corporate chain radio hits and memories mausoleums.
Now, if only Tracy could provoke McGuire and his minions to exploit her aquatic imagery by suggesting a collective ice bath with Age footy writer Caroline Wilson, she could cash in on the uproar and public sympathy.
I'm sure Wilson and her Seven Network TV news spouse Brendan Donohue - a Truth copy boy in my investigative writing era at the much maligned bi-weekly trail blazer - could help fan the flames.
We could recruit McNeil's guitarist spouse and former Beechworth footy star Sinclair to dig out his boots and drive a Holden Ute to the renaming of the Yarra bank Collingwood football HQ - once the locale for concerts by Texan octogenarian Willie Nelson and the Everly Brothers.
Trivia buffs Football Note.
Luke won Beechworth's most courageous player in 1991 and best and fairest in 1992 after a Wangaratta Imperials stint in 1989.