LITTLE TOWN BLUES (Laughing Outlaw)


Expat South London singer-songwriter Mark Lucas has a nice line in sardonic humour spread through his six albums - with and without his Sydney sidekicks The Dead Setters.

Lucas kicks off this road trip with Little Town Blues - a narrative about a father of three who tries to leave behind his mortgage and over-drawn love with its faded curios and other maudlin memories.

But the singer changes his character's gender in sibling song Federal Highway Blues when a worn down damsel dodges errant kangaroos and hang gliders on her nocturnal trip down Highway 23 near Canberra as she chases her dreams with wind turbines a constant choir as she approaches an equally bleak Lake George.

These characters are not destined to be triumphant in life's struggles.

Neither is the escapee in Dark Side Of The Road who drifts into the ether with no compass - just distorted static on the radio.

But, unlike the character in the Dan Penn-Chips Moman classic Dark End Of The Street , this lost soul is not cheating with a woman.

Just as desperate are the two characters in His Own Titanic who share a torn umbrella in the rain - “he was a small time trader in big futures, she was living in the now/ she took him for a schemer.”

Lucas rhymes panic, volcanic and Titanic so you get the sinking feeling there's little sunshine at the end of the voyage.

Please Tell The DJ , featured on Nu Country TV in October, is a clever revamp of radio reflecting lost love in that vast ocean of pathos primed paeans to heartbreak.

Lucas, who arrived in Australia in 1981, personalises his tune by name checking Willie, Waylon, Merle and Lefty Frizzell.

There are no winners in Stranger - certainly not the once idealistic prisoner behind razor wire in Home.

But not even the rollicking rhythm that fuels Small Town can save its ageing denizens from the anonymity brought by the tree change and sea change crowd overtaken by shopping mall real estate rats.

Lucas exercises home spun morality in Rider and de-sensitising of society through the reach of mass media and manipulation by religious zealots in Borderline.

But there may be a peaceful co-existence as Lucas reaches his jaunty finale - Metaphor Song.

He reaches into the animal kingdom for the comfort of cats and canines' survival alongside movers and shakers who find their respective resting places.

Lucas produced his album with bassist-guitarist Brendan Gallagher also playing keyboards and percussion.

Fiddler Mark Oats, flautist Dale Barlow, Doug Boyd on piano and accordion, James Church on dobro, Zane Banks on banjo and Jy-Perry Banks on tuba flesh out the sparse instrumentation.




Expatriate English singer-songwriter Mark Lucas has long been a Sydney kindred spirit of literate rural reared Melbourne outlaws The T-Bones and the Dead Livers .

Lucas daubs his vibrant vignettes about the mean streets of his adoptive city's characters with a sardonic splendour.

There's the multi-cultural merchants doing battle with the soul-less mall magnates in Shopping Town.

Yes, the times are changing and old time yarn spinners have handed the baton to a new generation of migrants selling for their supper.

Even the recently deceased drag racer, with good Catholic education and a Hills Church choir girl on his arm, who blows it all in a freeway fatality trying to outrun the law,

Nothing new there in Whitewall Tyres you might say - except for the girl left singing in the stalls with dreams of her lover who went to God to the cacophony of tyre swings.

Firewater , utilising another driving metaphor, finds the character flirting with fate and booze in pursuit of love.

But it's a far different and safer romance route in entree Love's Highway where the singer is blinded by his belle's headlights in his eyes “across a mackerel sky.”

Lucas is also a dab hand at simple love tales with fantasy fuelled Until She's Mine (Lotte Lyell's Blues ) and jasmine joy of Rainbow's End.

Such beatific bliss is rudely interrupted by social comment Standing On A Bridge - where corporate cotton heathens have their way until the water is all gone.

Well, probably not perfect climactic timing right now but yes, it's also a metaphor for a parched love of sorts with the devil lurking tattoo style on exposed thighs.

Lucas's romance requiems are never pretty - embryonic innocence fades in a tunnel of love in Sweet Corinne and angels are devoured by hawks and doves in Price Of Love .

His attention to detail peaks in Yesterday Girl where the faded dancer with “eyes like rapiers” is a survivor and fatal finale Wall Of Death as the male lead perishes in a Garden of Eden as a naked nymph takes away his breath and balance.

Yes, Lucas is a rhythmic romancer with accessible vocals never playing second fiddle to his narratives.

Well, pedal steel guitarist Damien Odell, bassist Chris Mearns, fiddler John Lee, drummer Steve Gunning and veteran Lee Kernaghan guitarist Jake Lardot ensure their master drives the train.

top / back to diary