2017 CD REVIEW
THE HUNGRY MILE (BUSHWACKERS)
BUSHWACKERS TELL COAL-MINERS TO FRACK OFF
“Well, you can't eat coal and you can't breathe gas/ they're selling out the country for a pile of cash/ they're digging it up and shipping it out/ wherever it can be found/ they're sending it off to China/ leave it in the ground” - Leave It In The Ground - Allan Caswell-Roger Corbett.
Veteran band The Bushwackers have joined a punchy posse of Australian artists protesting in song against coal mining on our rich farm land and way beyond.
The band lampoons foreign frackers in Allan Caswell-Roger Corbett penned tune Leave It In The Ground from their 24 th album The Hungry Mile .
Peers including former jillaroo Harmony James, 39, and ARIA Award singing Sydney school teacher-singer-songwriter Luke O'Shea, 47 and father of three, also fired song salvoes at frackers.
Harmony nailed it with Coal Seam Gas , accompanied by a video, from her third album Cautionary Tales.
O'Shea also delivered powerful images of our rural land pillaged by greedy foreigners in his video for My Country's My King on his sixth album Caught Up In The Dreaming.
Luke sang of how he believed our politicians don't protect farmers from corporate raiders.
Life imitated art for Luke when he and farm raised dad Rick, 71, were arrested for protesting against coal seam gas mining on rural land and did a stint behind bars in Narrabri.
The O'Shea clan was protesting on the polluted Namoi river bank near Maules Creek where Rick was raised.
None of The Bushwackers were arrested for turning the sentiments of their song into action.
But they don't resile from the powerful message of protecting food producing farmers and their land from multi-national mining and resource companies who compete against exports of the fruits of the farming families dating back generations.
The band, celebrating 46 years of performing with 90 different members, is no stranger to fighting for causes and chronicling our history.
“The Bushwackers don't mind a bit of stirring the pot when we feel something needs to be said,” says band co-founder singer Dobe Newton who has long lived in the Beer Can Hill delta in inner Melbourne suburb Northcote.
Their four books and three Australian Country Music Golden Guitars are testament to their longevity and talent.
Leave It The Ground segues into Rich Davies tune Dirt Under My Nails that highlights enrichment of our multi-cultural milieu ignited by post-World War 2 European migrants.
It's a sibling song of sorts of The Hungry Mile title track that is illustrated by a period piece painting by Sydney artist Bill Nix.
The tune, penned by Corbett, Newton and Colin Gentles, graphically describes the plight and struggles of Great Depression workers who flocked to Darling Harbour docks in Sydney to seek casual but back breaking work to feed their starving families.
ANOTHER TRIP TO BUNNINGS
“Sunday morning, a lovely day/ the wife said darling are you awake/ I've got a couple of things that I need done/ before I even got the kiss/ she hands me a massive list, and it looks I'll be off to Bunnings.” - Another Trip To Bunnings - Roger Corbett.
They include Troy Cassar-Daley, Lee Kernaghan, Shane Nicolson, Luke O'Shea, Catherine Britt, Fanny Lumsden, Aleyce Simmonds, Sara and Greg Storer, Amber Lawrence, Caswell, John Williamson, Felicity and her trio mates Lynn Bowtell, Kevin Bennett and more.
Bennett's inclusion is fitting - he also penned the following tune Australian For Broken Heart - one of the band's rare covers and shared vocal duties with Dobe.
It's followed by Easy Does It - Corbett and fiddle Claire O'Meara's revamp and homage to Scottish band The Easy Club's instrumentals of the eighties.
GOUGH GIANT OF A MAN
“A big storm hit Australia in 1972/ that's when the winds of change began/ it's time was overdue, a time of war and fear you need a better plan/ and out of Cabramatta came a giant of a man/ with just one stroke of his mighty pen/ he brought us home from war/ he shone a light on human rights and battered down the door.” - Giant of A Man - Roger Corbett-Allan Caswell
The band follows with another Corbett-Caswell homage Giant Of A Man , inspired by late prime minister Gough Whitlam's social and politician transformation of Australia during his short reign.
“The time that Gough came to power was also the time when The Bushwackers were first making their mark,” Dobe recalled.
“Without Gough and the huge changes that came to Australia on his watch, I'm not sure if we would have been able to do what we did. It was the first time that Australians became impassioned about their own culture - it ended the cultural cringe. We were even able to proudly take that music overseas.”
It's a far cry from The Bushwackers birth in 1971.
“We were regarded rather poorly by the folk community back in the 1970's,” Dobe explained.
“At the time there was an archival mentality to the music brought to Australia by the first settlers, or invaders. We never forgot our responsibility to the music, but we saw our role as bringing it alive, making it fun and relevant and giving it a new lease on life.”
A good example is another traditional revamp by Corbett - Dennis O'Reilly and The Backblock Shearer .
The songs are part of the legacy of songwriter John Meredith who established Australia's first bush band - The Heathcote Bushwackers in 1952.
The Bushwackers helped celebrate his life and work at the 2016 Port Fairy folk festival.
Corbett and Caswell also penned celebration of Republic Day that ensures further debates about the nation's future, long before it becomes a Republic.
A fitting finale is Corbett's tribute to the music buffs and fans who date back to the band's birth in 1971.
That was an era enriched by diverse instruments including singer Dobe's Lagerphone, fiddles, accordion, guitars, bass, whistles and drums - all a vibrant vehicle for the band's sense of history and humour.
“The Bushwackers are woven into people's lives, from one generation to another, and we love that shared history says Corbett who joined the band in 1980 and wrote or co-wrote seven songs here.
“As well as our role in the folk world, and in terms of traditional music, we've had a long and treasured history as part of the country music and family.”
That even included supporting Shotgun Willie Nelson on his 1981 Australian tour.
Current members are Newton, Corbett, Mark Oats, Clare O'Meara, Michael Vidale and Ben Corbett.