"I'm gonna find me a reckless man who chases the big sky/ maybe a river gambler or a shotgun Sam with a wandering eye/ trade this wedding band for something less permanent/ just don't settle on a shoe that doesn't fit." River Gambler, Corrina Steel-Jeremy Edwards.

Corrina Steel

Tears are a powerful inspiration for Camden born country singer Corrina Steel.

There was the night in a Tenterfield pub when drunken footballers caused her to flee the stage and cry in her room upstairs after she performed western swing and country songs by artists diverse as Bob Wills and George Jones.

And then there was a night in Memphis when her car caught fire and ended chances of seeing Jones play the Ryman Auditorium - Nashville home of the Grand Ol Opry.

Steel never performed in a covers band after her experience in the town eulogised by the late Peter Allen.

But the singer still sings the praises of Jones and one song by late singing actor Hoyt Axton on her acclaimed debut disc Wayward that she launches at The Cornish Arms on November 24.

The launch is a curtain raiser to her appearance on the Nu Country stage at the Arts Centre Summertime Grooves Concert Series on Sunday January 30, 2005.

Steel is not your average country singer - she bares her heart and soul in song and is not reluctant to talk about her inspiration.


Corrina, who made her radio debut as a DJ on Nu Country FM at the Paris, Texas, end of Collins St in 2001, is prolific.

She wrote 10 of 11 songs on her debut in settings diverse as a Lismore farm house, an Ettalong Beach motel with Bill Chambers and the back of TAB tickets in a tiny pub at Mallangene.

Her Nu Country era, with exposure to the most eclectic music in the western world, was an extension of her childhood listening near Camden south of Sydney.

"I was born in a little town south west of Sydney," Steel said, "out near Camden. Dad named me Corrina after Merle Haggard's version of Corrina, Corrina. He grew up in the bush near Warragamba. He would have been hovering around a little wireless back in the late forties like a lot of people back then down in the valley where he lived. It's now the Warragamba dam. They flooded the valley. They were all packed up and moved. They dug up the graves."

Corrina and her two elder guitar-playing brothers grew up listening to their father's vinyl county music.

"My brothers played guitars and were more into Led Zeppelin and AC-DC. Now they have Jerry Lee and Johnny Cash. Gone back to it. We couldn't pick up many stations - missed out on mainstream pop stations. The first CD I heard was Crossroads - the Ry Cooder soundtrack to movie."

Steel left her country home and school at 15, to ply her music in a country duo with now deceased performing partner Greg Bain.

"I left school early, I thought I was in gaol," Steel revealed, "I was 15 when I went to Sydney. I was playing with a friend from where I grew up. Went to Tamworth for first time at 16. We were doing a bit of duo stuff. He passed away when I was 21. He was into Neil Young side of country. He was a bit of a cowboy - we never got into the city side. We played mainly out in the boondocks. We managed to write a couple of songs together but never been able to get my hands on them. Greg Bain. I was also in this heavy swampy blues band about seven years ago."


Steel later spent 12 months living in Memphis with Kenny Brown - adoptive white son of blues artist R L Burnside.

"I needed to go over and see where all the music I loved came from,' Steel recalled.
"He taught me to play slide guitar. My desire to play slide here is not as strong as it was over there. I fell back into songwriting mode.
It's like every man and his dog is playing slide guitar here.

One of R L Burnside's sons played in the North Mississippi All Stars. While living there I attempted to drive up to see George Jones perform at the Ryman. The car broke down the night before. I was in Memphis. I had been at Junior Kimbrough's Juke Joint the night before. The car caught on fire. Those sorts of things happen when you hang around Junior's."

Instead Steel returned here and retreated to a remote farm near Lismore for writing sessions for her album with writers diverse as Jeremy Edwards and Steve Wood.

"We wrote Move On there," Corrina added.

"I had known Jeremy for a long time. He was in a band and is making his own album. It was my lyric idea and his melody."

Steel also finished River Gambler with Edwards.

"I wrote lyrics to that on the back of a TAB ticket in a little bush pub at Mallangene - between Casino and Tenterfield. It's an Aboriginal word. Maybe a big TAB ticket or two or three TAB tickets. A big night at that hotel is about 10 people. There's a lot of reckless cowboys up there, real characters."

Steel called her CD Wayward (Snakedrive-Shock) about soul searching for her muse.


Corrina duets with Bill Chambers who plays dobro and slide guitar on three tracks on a disc that featuring fiddler Mick Albeck - former spouse of Beccy Cole.

"I wrote Paradise Lost with Bill in a motel room at Ettalong Beach," says Steel.

"It was a cheap little motel room with a glorious view. We had a bottle of wine, a couple of guitars and it came out of nowhere in a couple of hours."

Steel included one cover - I Dream Of Highways penned by late singing actor Hoyt Axton whose hits reach back to the sixties for artists diverse as The Kingston Trio, Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf.

"I'm a huge fan of Hoyt," confessed Corrina, "I only discovered him in the last three years. I go in full bore into finding everything they ever recorded. I'm even surprised a lot of musicians don't know of him. People are not aware of him - thought if I put it on there would bring him to a few people's attention. It's a gentle song that Bill and I do acoustic. Bill has been a mate of mine for a long time. He wanted me to make an album and a was a huge inspiration."

Steel also filmed a video for her autobiographical tune Western Star at Picton on Razor Back Mountain.

"It took the longest to write," says Steel, "I wrote it with Steve Wood. I had the lyrics. I have just done a video clip with a dog named Rocky and an old station wagon. It was very desolate, very dry when we recorded it. There was a drought there. It was about growing up in a small place."


Not quite as small as Tenterfield the night she cried herself to sleep after fleeing from stage when drunken footballers abused her musical choice.

"We were playing old western swing and old American country, and this bunch of drongo football players were yelling out, 'Play country'," Corrina revealed.

"I thought that's what we were doing, but they got quite angry about it.

One of them yelled out, 'Play some Shania.'

"So I put my guitar down, left the band with it, went upstairs and swore I'd never play in another covers band again. And I never have."

In hindsight Corrina says she had maybe another option on the night.

"I love Tenterfield Saddler. Maybe if I had sung that it would have placated them."

Instead Steel reverted to performing original tunes that bring her to the Cornish Arms with her band on November 24.

And, of course, the Arts Centre lawn - Sunday January 30, 2005 - for the Nu Country TV concert, a highlight of the Summertime Grooves Series.

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