The neon moon was high in the sky when Indiana born singer-songwriter Jace Everett hit the stage at the Hallam Hotel - gateway to the Gippsland coal and dairy belt.

But the latter day Nashville artist had been recently stung - not by Blake Shelton's Honey Bee but a Sydney merchant.

"I paid $14.75 for a chicken sandwich in Sydney," the singer told patrons seated in the shadows of a more modest culinary blackboard.

Hallam is way down south of razor city with its cutthroat prices.

But Everett could have saved his promoter Neil Richard's coin by joining Maccas diners avoiding far more exorbitant parking fees at Tullamarine Airport by having a burger.

By the time Everett, 39 and holding, had posted the fowl price on his web page it had risen to $22 - obviously an early victim of that soaring carbon tax feared by the Hallam truckies.

His band's diet had also changed dramatically.

"Our drummer Derek Mixon ate some kangaroo tonight," Jace joked as entrée of sorts to his set and appetiser to the Gympie Muster founded by Johland graziers The Webb Brothers - famed for their seventies hit Who Put The Roo In The Stew?

Everett's roots rocking quintet - featuring co-writers guitarist Dan Cohen and bassist Stephany Delray - kicked off with older songs No Place To Hide, Possession and More To Life.

It was one of those rare gigs when the writer had never previously heard any music by the headliner but plenty by Hunter Valley support act Kirsty Akers.

But song #4 had a familiar title The Good Life - but it was not the tune of the same name by Texan troubadour Charlie Robison or recently departed tourist Justin Townes Earle.

Mine host and fellow GFC victim Ian Bennett - that's Geelong Football Club and a Shock Records stalwart - had furnished me on this hot August night with Everett's third CD Mr Good Times.

Helpfully, the artist showcased new songs Great American Hero, The Drugs Aren't Getting It Done and Business Is Booming in the order they appear on his CD.

Everett delivered his music with the satiric swagger they deserved as he confessed he had a pre-conceived imaged of Australians as "giant rugby league players who practiced by tackling kangaroos."

That image took a battering south of the Murray Dixon line where it was teams opposing failed finalists North Melbourne whose energies were deployed to tackling Roos.


And, due west in Tiger Land at the Corner Hotel where Amazing Rhythm Aces keyboard player Billy Earheart no longer wore the No 8 Geelong jumper given to him by latter day TAC Cup executive Kevin Sheehan.

That gift has shrunken since the band's 1980 tour when Billy was guest of Australian Marijuana Party Senate candidate J.J. McRoach and this writer at a Geelong-Richmond clash at the MCG.

But back to Everett whose band revved up One Of Them and Damned If I Do before reaching his career song - a favourite with cable TV viewers in his homeland.

"I was asked if I was worried about being a one hit wonder," Everett joked.

"I said 'before that I was a no hit wonder."

It was time for the swampy Bad Things from the True Blood TV series that features music by the Dixie Chicks, Buddy and Julie Miller, Lucinda Williams and Robbie Robertson.

The artist also gave the audience Good Times and Let's Begin Again from his new disc.

It seemed the most aurally accessible tunes were Billy Joe Shaver classic Ride Me Down Easy and the duet with Akers.

"I first met Kirsty back in Nashville when she did a Global showcase," Jace revealed.

"There was a lot crap on stage that night. But she was a small package with a big voice.

She and her management are the reason we're over here in Australia."

It was no surprise their duet of In Spite Of Ourselves - originally cut by former Chicago postie John Prine and Iris De Ment - was a show-stopper.

Akers' recorded version with Bob Evans reportedly passed gatekeepers at JJJ and locally on RRR and PBS.

But there was more to come - and like modern fag packages - preceded by a health warning.

"I'm on a lot of cold medication," the singer advised as he finished with Angel Loves The Devil, What It Is and Fade Away.

"I've got my problems."


One of those problems was not diminutive diva Akers who kicked the dew off the glass - at 8.30 p m sharp.

This was a thirsty Tuesday and alt country patrons - many from deep in the valley - had onerous work duties in the morning.

Akers, fiercely proud of her Hunter Valley indigenous roots, nailed it with Blackbird - one of seven tunes penned with touring partner Melody Pool - an integral member of her quintet.

The Akers-Pool originals embraced domestic abuse in Where The Lonely's Found and adulterous adoption in Dirty Farmer's Daughter.

The latter female victim anthem was maybe a sibling song for Akers finale - the Angaleena Presley penned tune Knocked Up.

"My mum was 16 when she fell pregnant with me," confessed Akers who has given birth to three memorable albums since winning Starmaker and her first Golden Guitar as a teenager.

Presley, a member of the Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert, was also source of evocative narrative The Territory that began life as Tennessee.

Akers gave an inspired reading of positive love song Has Anybody Ever Told You - penned by the other Pistol Annies singer Ashley Monroe, a frequent co-writer with Catherine Britt.

The singer joked that the heartbreak that soured It Gets Back To Me - a song she reprised from her debut disc - almost turned her into a lesbian.

And she explained it was guitarist Tommy Johnson in Coen Brothers movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? who inspired Satan's Game.

Patrons, bemused by Akers posing au naturel on the CD slick for third album, Naked, soon had their answer.

"I couldn't afford clothes to go to the photo shoot," she explained.

And her original song cupboard was not bare despite adding to the Neil Young royalties' trove by doing a cover of Heart Of Gold.

But the highlight was her satirical album finale - That's How You Get Famous.

"It was written as a joke," Akers confided, "Melody and I wrote it after watching TV."

So what did the gal pals see on TV - a flotilla of reality TV video victims auditioning for rehab resurrection as a career sales tool?

There didn't appear to be any fragile femme fatales in the audience this far from the fashion fields of South Yarra and the ecstasy bunny circuit.

Akers, aided by a sympathetic sound mix, enabled the passionate power of her vocals and lyrics to do the talking.

Now all she needs is a soul sister or brother of the calibre of Texan Sunny Sweeney or Zac Brown to expose her wares to a wider audience.

Maybe a tour with the Pistol Annies would be an ideal launch pad.

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