“All the millionaires' sons/ they hoard their oxygen/ and say he speaks in tongues/ like some kind of Messiah.” - Man On Fire - Harry Hookey.

When you leave the bush in Gippsland for the big smoke there's one thing you don't leave behind - family.

Especially when the Cowwarr clan of Hookeys are also musical.

Dad Steve taught young Harry to play guitar at 16 and sired the Hookey Family band who honed their chops on the local pub circuit akin to the Davidson Brothers due south-west at Yinnar near Morwell.

Well, Cowwarr, population 360, is an old gold mining town 27 kilometres north east of Traralgon - the city where expat stone country singer Gord Bamford first drew breath before decamping to Canada with his mum Marilyn at the age of 5.

And, in keeping with the honky tonk transport mode made popular by late Texan honky tonker George Jones the town has an annual rider mower competition - the Cowwarr Cutters' Cup .

It's cattle country but shouldn't be mistaken for Southern Cross on the Shipwreck Coast where a dairy farmer's pub was dubbed The Bullcutter's Arms after he castrated a neighbour's bull who put his heifers in calf out of season.

The Possum used his mower for transport to local honky tonks when former singing spouse Tammy Wynette hid the keys to their Caddies and pick-ups.

But, unlike the Warrnambool bull cutter, Tammy didn't chance her blade on The Possum .

Anyway back to the Hookey brothers' musical prowess - Sam joins Harry on his 12 track debut album on piano, keyboards, accordion, banjo and bass.

So does another brother Jack on electric, 12 string, resonator, bass and mandolin.

That leaves Harry to write and sing his tunes and play guitar and harmonica.

So to keep it in the family - another famed tree raised across the border in South Australia - we get to enjoy producer Nash Chambers on drums, bass, harmonica and harmony.

OK that's the lineages - what about the music and the roughage?

Well, it's a little more organic than the chart candy force-fed in the cities.


“At the time of my confession/ I was only just waking up/ you see I was born a minstrels' son/ but I strayed from the flock/ see the walls of his cathedral/ they leave me with my doubts/ were they built to keep men inside/ or were they built to keep men out.” - Lovin' Touch - Harry Hookey.

Hookey is unlikely to be accused of being a devotee of Australiana or bro-country - his only fraternal links are genetic and they were nurtured after he graduated from the hallowed halls of Melbourne University with a law degree in 2012.

“I studied law, and worked at a law firm for a number of years,” Hookey revealed in a recent interview.

“It wasn't ever where I wanted to be, just where I thought I should be. Misdiagnosed is how I felt about myself. Feeling like I've got the diagnosis right now with this music caper.”

So that's where the album title track came from.

Mixing music and law is not uncommon - it can also be handy when Harry negotiates publishing, performing and managerial contracts.

So who else does Harry join in local music-law nuptials apart from Mark Holden?

Penshurst raised Rusty Bucks barrister bassist David O'Brien defended music venues in noise pollution cases before sharing National Party Upper House digs with Congupna bred Sports Minister, former Fremantle coach and Geelong tough man Damian Drum who once sang Beat Farmers songs on the Cats bus.

And, of course, some music buffs may recall bluegrass barrister, novelist, poet, legal activist and latter day law lecturer Gary Forrester, now 68, and famed for his satiric song Uluru (And The Baby Came Too) as Eddie Rambeaux with his Melbourne band The Rank Strangers.

Dead Livers drummer Richard O'Keefe dispenses justice daily in his role as a Magistrate when not picking up the tempo and jokes for the outlaw band who celebrated their 37 th anniversary in September.

Hookey sourced and road tested much of the material for his album in diverse venues while backpacking through America with brother Sam.

One fertile font was a venue in downtown New Orleans that also housed a strip parlour and bowling alley.

“When we booked it, I was willing to play anywhere and it was just for the experience of playing in the states,” Hookey recalled.

“We rocked up to the venue that had live music and organised the gig and they were really cool about it. We were placed down by the bowling but could see the other frivolities going on down the other end of the venue. Strangest gig I've played thus far, that's for sure.”


“See the jailbird breaking free/ like the very first sailor that was sick of the sea/ says I never wanna run again/ drunk man says now fill me up/ like the very first lover who was sick of love/ says, I never wanna drink again.” - Sometimes - Harry Hookey.

Hookey kicks off his disc with aspiration anthem Man On Fire where the male lead rise above his wealthy detractors and rides to his destiny solo and proud.

It segues into fractured family homily Sometimes and the Dylanesque wanderlust of Where I'll Be Found and the title track.

But don't write Hookey off a mere Dylan devotee - vocally he's closer to Steve Forbert and even reminiscent of Eric Andersen in the harmonica fuelled naked passion of Something To Die For.

Hookey's character resists the pressures to turn love into life time commitment in aptly titled Rolling Wheel but the lure of a familiar flame tempts the narrator to head north to the arms and charms of a femme fatale singing by the rain tree in Audrey's Song .

Whether that rain tree is the Johland forest or a metaphor for liquid love is left open ended.

The free-wheeling spirit of the troubadour in Hookey is exercised in Let Me Die (In Loving Arms) and the biographic Biblical imagery of rock edged Lovin' Touch - a tune that may be kryptonite for radio.

Don't get the impression this is all vino and vittles - the singer tries to exorcise ruptured romance by the use of colours in more accessible Vanishing Act.

And in Come And Go the singer gives the Scriptures another slash with colour coding of adolescent indoctrination in a lover's time travel from heart healing in a steel city and then further north to the coast.

But the male pursuer accepts that the streets of heaven are not lined with gold and aims for glory and resurrected romance in the south of France .

Hookey's fitting finale is the offer of unbridled love and redemption in Last True Believer.

And you're probably wondering about the illustration on the cover of the CD - a topless lass in a cowboy hat by South African fashion photographer Sam Haskins.

“This poster of a girl named Cowboy Kate caught my eye one morning at a market stall before I was about to head up to Nash Chamber's Foggy Mountain studio to record,” Hookey explained.

“I bought it, and we put it up on the studio wall. She sat and watched all the album tracking, and became a central thread to tracking. It was inevitable that she would end up gracing the cover the album. Nash throughout his studio collects portraits of nudes and a few other weird artefacts and so I saw it at this market and thought it would be great and so the poster sat on the wall and overlooked the whole session and it became a running joke that we had to make the album live up to Cowboy Kate because the photograph is so renowned. She was the goddess of the whole recording and everything had to be up to her standard. It was four boys locked in a studio for four weeks with a topless girl in the room, it became a bit of an obsession.”

So, like that explanation there's a healthy undercurrent of sardonic humour sprinkled throughout this album - to take it too literally would mean it was Misdiagnosed .

Check out Tonkgirl's Gig Guide for Hookey's tour dates – with and without Ryan Bingham.

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