"I used to throw rocks at the mining site when I was a kid/ wasn't gonna bend my back and work like my daddy did/ I was always dreaming of the next big town/ but here I am stuck in this mining camp slowly going down." - Two Miles Down - Troy Cassar-Daley-D Green.

Queensland singer-songwriter Luke Austen didn't have to re-invent himself before cutting his debut album after winning the 31st Tamworth Star Maker contest in January.

The bassist served time in the outback beer and wine mines for four years with veteran rodeo troubadour Brian Young after leaving high school in Mackay.

Another six years on bush and coast roads again with Troy Cassar-Daley was his finishing school.

So it's no surprise the young veteran strip-mined the bucolic motherlode of his travels to fuel his nine originals here.

At 29 Austen sounds like neither of his employers as he sorts wheat from chaff in his travels and travails.

Entrée tune Look What Love's Got Me Into and his paternal pride paean She's So You are punctuated by graphic Cassar-Daley mining tune Two Miles Down.

The latter is a vitriolic vignette - more about mining magnets than mining magnates dominating governments' dash for subterranean cash.

It's smart sequencing when Austen honours embryonic employer Young with an insightful reading of his Harcourt hombre Pete Denahy's tribute Every Time He Travels Through Cloncurry.

Austen proves a worthy roads scholar.

He gives the song by Denahy, who shares his hometown with Victorian premier John Brumby's bush retreat, a collage of detail driven narrative nuances from time in the subject's shadows.

Checking trailer tyres and pumping diesel at dawn before riding into town in red dirt sunsets for gigs is foreign to DNA of city chameleons hitching wagons to the genre.


"Just before sunrise out Nymboida way/ two young men discovered a cave/ out chasing dingoes where the cold weather blows/ they stumbled across some old sacred bones." - Sacred Bones - Luke Austen-Troy Cassar-Daley.

There's more salient sequencing as he segues into a parody of hedonistic hi-tech tight rope credit card walkers on the wry word play of Livin' On Borrowed Dime - one of eight collaborations with pianist Vaughan Jones.

You've seen the victims on our mean streets - acres of urban ears glued to mindless mobile phones and eyes to puerile plasmas for self-immolation on the crass cross of consumerism.

Vance Packard prophetically previewed this disease in his 1957 Hidden Persuaders book.

Austen injects the mood swing in delicious western swing of faded love in Walkin' Out The Door before his riveting living for the weekend rocker That's How I Roll.

Swing may have generic melodies but check out the similarities with the Kim Williams-Ken Spooner penned 1991 Joe Diffie hit If The Devil Danced In Empty Pockets.

That's How I Roll is broken up by a George Jones name check and radio metaphor with faux gospel harmony by Chris Thomas.

Austen, pardon the pun, is no one truck pony.

Especially when he exhumes his truckie-coalminer sire's dingo hunting discovery in Sacred Bones - fittingly and tastefully written with Cassar-Daley.


"I was born Michael Thorne, on a summer night in 64/ a troubled boy no good at school/ it took a day to get your name/ l knew my heart wouldn't be the same/ every time I made the most of every moment with Emily Rose." - Thorne Amongst The Roses - Luke Austen-Vaughan Jones

Equally evocative, paternally inspired and penned with Troy and Jones is Lonely Highway - these inter-generational characters are road warriors as truckies and singers.

Austen cruises through his barroom romp with Jones and Adam Harvey on the wry There's No Such Thing As a Sure Thing about a girl.

Then there's the chalice choice where the jinxed girl loses out to a mere car in HQ 454 Monroe - penned by Grafton born duo Cassar-Daley and Cold Chisel refugee and country hit writer Don Walker.

And if you think that's cute check out the album finale - the male lead wins love at 23 and belated paternal approval in Thorne Amongst The Roses.

It's not just the prickly floral arrangement but the age old tale of the archetype rough diamond winning over sceptical and protective parents of the bride.

That's very clever - unlike many peers Austen nails messages without sonic storms.

Producer Graham Thompson ensures songs drive this train as pedal & lap steel guitarist Mike Daly, fiddler Mick Albeck and Rod McCormack's banjo, mandolin and dobro whip country cream onto this gateau.

For trivia buffs this Mike Daly is from Whiskeytown - not the equally prolific Texan or Nashville steel players.

Other A team session serfs are drummer Mitch Farmer, bassist Ian Lees, pianist Jones, guitarists Brendan Radford, Mark Punch, Glen Hannah and Stuie French with Cassar-Daley guesting on mandolin and background vocal on Sacred Bones.

Austen enjoys subdued lighting as he parks his posse way beyond the shadows of his mentors.

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