"Lyndal is a waitress and she looks a lot like Faith Hill/ turning heads down at the roadhouse working the grill/ you'd expect she'd be the only one/ but there's plenty more where she's from." - Something In The Water - Lee Kernaghan-Garth Porter-Col Buchanan.

Lee Kernaghan wanders into the foyer of the Como in South Yarra with rain dripping from his hair and clutching a plastic bag containing his latest purchase.

"l've gone country and eastern," the multi-award winning Corowa born country star quips as he proudly displays a Ravi Shankar compilation.

Kernaghan's seven albums have amassed 700,000 plus sales despite a boycott by big city corporate commercial radio chains.

Which is why the singer made a TV and print media invasion that sent eighth ABC disc Electric Rodeo gold within three weeks of its release.

Kernaghan mined the motherlode with a timely Current Affair feature on punny Texas Queensland 4385 tune and obligatory performing seal cameos on the comedy corrals of me-too hits and memories mausoleums which don't play his music.

But what else can a boy from the bush do to expose his music in a jungle where crime and ethnic gangs kill and catch their own to a refried rap and disco soundtrack?

So how does Kernaghan, 39 and holding, react to radio rejection?

He candidly reveals all in the shadows of a trendy suburb whose reality check a few days later was a triple murder and soaring street violence?

"How can I put a positive slant on this," Kernaghan asks Nu Country, "the only light I see is the music is getting so damn good it can't be ignored, public demand for great country music is still very high. Concert ticket sales are higher than ever. We need some more radio programmers around Australia who know good songs and play them rather than rely on statistics and surveys. What is happening there is the classic case of the dog chasing its own tail."


Kernaghan teamed with Music City writers Jim Lauderdale and David Lee Murphy as well as co-writers - Col Buchanan, Rod McCormack, James Blundell and his producer Garth Porter.
He re-ignited his passion for his outlaw country roots with the duet on Wild Side Of Life with soul-mate Murphy and reached out for the mainstream with his bush battler ballad A Handful Of Dust featuring a guest vocal by Olivia Newton-John.

"I met David at Tamworth and started talking about our major influences," Lee says, "we were both heavily influenced by the outlaw movement of the late seventies. We loved Hank Jr, David Allan Coe, Waylon & Willie and still worshipped Merle, Lefty Frizzzell and Hank Sr. I said 'let's write a song, not part of what is accepted as current country in America. Let's just do it because it sounds right.' It didn't take long, two or three hours. He is one of the most skillful writers I have written with. His singing is just awesome, it was challenging duet to do with him. He's a real instinctive writer, just grabs an idea and runs with it."

That song broke the mould of Kernaghan's bush, babes and utes anthems that won huge rural followings but is unlikely to break him in cities where style rules over substance.

Which is why Kernaghan is keen to make the most of live shows and TV marketing.

David Lee Murphy

"I don't feel as comfortable on TV as I do live but you do pretty well do what you do because it's the only way you can get your music out in front of a national audience. I feel sorry for people in the cities as they only get a narrow view of what's going on in music at the moment."

Kernaghan's cause is helped by 24 hour a day country music channel CMC on Austar in the bush and CMT replacing its refried rock and blues ballast with country.


The singer believes Electric Rodeo is a departure because of marathon sessions and re-mixes of songs featuring Nashville session serfs.

But the hard core of rural rooted songs - The Way It Is, Something In The Water, An Ordinary Bloke, The Odyssey, Sing You Back Home, A Handful Of Dust, the title track and Long Night - will sate loyal fans.

Long Night - an adaptation of a poem by contract musterer John Hawkes - is a good example.

"We had a camp out the back of Yaraka in western Queensland (population 29) when John turned up with a slab or beer and a bottle of Bundaberg rum," Kernaghan says, "he recited the words of a song he hadn't finished about life as a drover and missing home. It was perfect for this album. We did three different versions."

Lee is proud of hook heavy Texas QLD 4385 and You Rock My World, penned with Blundell, who was raised up the road from Johland town Texas at Stanthorpe.

"Country music is evolving all the time," says Kernaghan, "Texas QLD 4385 rocks. It's as good as anything you hear on the MMM Network. Its thematically very rural and I'm proud of that."

But what about Baptise The Ute - is it a shameless shit kicker aimed at the ute set akin to alternacountry L-Platers dusting off the corpse of Gram Parsons?

I love utes and I love driving them," Lee laughs, "yes I did target the ute market. Most of them are my mates. I love my 78 series ute. I had a great time baptising it, about a year ago. It's only natural that I should like to sing about them. So many of my mates drive them."

Kernaghan doesn't re-invent himself like city chappies but swaps four wheels for four legs in The Man From Snowy River.


Lee Kernaghan was having a yarn with a bloke from Texas after performing at Russell Crowe's lavish Oscars party when he decided to ask a few questions of his own.

"I said 'what do you do for a crust down in Texas, Rick?" Kernaghan told Nu Country.
"He replied 'I'm the Governor.' We had been chatting for about 20 minutes - he was asking me about Australian country music and talking about the similarities of Texas and Australia."
Governor Rick Perry, whose predecessors include U.S. President George W Bush, now has a chance to closely examine the wide-open spaces.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has invited Governor Perry to visit the tiny town of Texas, Queensland, on his planned visit.

Accompanying Premier Beattie's invitation was a copy of Electric Rodeo - featuring the song Texas, Queensland, 4385 - which reached Top 5 on its first week of release here.
Beattie originally issued the invite to Perry in March when he visited Texas capital Austin.
"I'm a Kernaghan fan and hope that Governor Perry will become one too," Beattie says.
"I look forward to Governor Perry's visit and hope that he enjoys Lee's latest CD."


Kernaghan recognised actors Ronnie Howard, Ben Kingsley and Nicole Kidman after doing a 12-song performance for Crowe's cronies.

"The governor just sidled up to me after I came offstage and was asking me all about Australian country music," Kernaghan revealed.

"I didn't realise Premier Beattie invited him to Australia long before my CD was released."
Kernaghan's songs might be receiving airplay at the Governor's stately mansion and on radio stations in Austin but not in capital cities in his homeland.

The new album sold more than 40,000 albums in its first month of release and pushed the singer's career tally to almost 700,000 despite his reliance on TV for exposure.

Kernaghan embarked on a high profile TV and print media campaign to promote his new album and the stage show The Man From Snowy River.

He appeared on most current affairs show and also had cameo roles in Big Brother and the premiere of Russell Coight's All Aussie Adventures .



The support act sold a million plus copies of his debut disc and mine host is nudging 800,000 career sales on this east coast tour.

David Lee Murphy and Lee Kernaghan consummated musical nuptials before a near capacity crowd at this majestic old bayside theatre.

They have leaped a myopic moat - a wall of fear that once banished the genre from the city limits.


Prolific hit writer Murphy, 43, recruited three of Kernaghan's seven-piece band for a small slab of the tunes that bought his 60 acre farm.

After 25 years in honky tonks, clubs and arenas, this long tall latter day Tennessean effortlessly troubadour punches out his hits.

The title track of Out With A Bang segued into Mama's Last - a descendant of the late Johnny Paycheck's epic I'm The Only Hell Mama Ever Raised.

Murphy paid homage to new Aussie Maton guitar in The Road You Leave Behind and Scatter The Ashes - cut by former rodeo rider-liver transplantee Chris LeDoux.

It's high octane, rocking country with debut single Just Once from rodeo movie 8 Seconds.
Interaction with bassist James Gillard, guitarist Brendon Radford and drummer Mitch Farmer on a three-week tour is fluid and fierce.

Murphy competes with balladic ballast on the charts but his triumphs are raunchy hits Party Crowd and Dust On The Bottle - the fiery finale to his all too short set.

This is the audience that city radio forgot - genre starved heartland hombres who drive from the bush to hear what they see on rural TV.

And tonight they loaded utes and buses for aural relief from foreign wars and fashions - a vermin on family farms and rural business.


So when the band hits stage without leader there is a hush as the voice of Kernaghan booms into Texan Tracy Byrd's I'm From The Country.

Spotlights illuminate the singer as he strides from the back of the audience, guitar in hand, and ignites bush hit Something In The Water.

Kernaghan is a hi-tech redneck with a turbo charged band performing under a huge video backdrop embroidered with vivid rural images.

These snapshots, grabs of his rural rooted songs, slip under the city radar like stealth bombers.

The singer has long exploited the ute market with Baptise The Ute, High Country and Boys From The Bush but he has also lured some of the micro boppers who flock to Kasey Chambers and Catherine Britt shows.

With a gigantic balloon bouncing through a heavily draped venue in Great Balls Of Fire there's a surge of primary school boys and girls frocked up in bush clobber - cowboy hats and Wrangler shirts - to the stage.

And they know the songs - 3 Chain Road, The Way It Is and Country Crowd.

Someone has defied the country blackout and plays these songs on the wireless.
There is a sense of theatre as Murphy joins Kernaghan for their collaboration - Wild Side Of Life and the late Waylon Jennings hit Good Hearted Woman.

And the girls from the bush invade stage for a climax with Hat Town, Texas, Qld, The Outback Club, Copperhead Road and finale - Electric Rodeo.

This dynamic concert proves Lee deserves to conquer cities - even without airplay of pop peers.

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