MARCH 23, 2019.


Athenaeum Theatre - Melbourne .


“You know that I need you/ through the darkness I will lead you/ but I've always been afraid of the light.” - Afraid Of The Light - Lachlan Bryan -Kim Richey.

It was the perfect historical venue for a showcase with a quintet of major singer-songwriters sponsored by Nashville Country Music Association - peak promotional organisation for the fastest growing international music genre.

Here, in this heritage listed majestic theatre built in 1839, there was more than music, comedy and literature in its bones.

On a previous visit we ventured inside its hallowed walls for a memorable concert by singing Texan crime novelist-comedian Kinky Friedman and his Texas Jewboys.

And later the Cat Stevens Peace Train tribute show by New England born, Riverina raised prolific Golden Guitarist Darren Coggan.

But tonight this 1,000-capacity castle was also healing HQ of a world mourning the Christchurch massacre and devastation of twin cyclones on the Cape York and Pilbara coasts.

It was fitting the entrée artist was Mornington Peninsula born singer-songwriter Lachlan Bryan whose CV extends to video director and music journalist.

Bryan has recorded solo albums and others with his band The Wildes and duets with diverse peers.

Here he kicked the dew off the glass while others settled for grass at the Marvel Stadium where the Easton Wood led Western Bulldogs triumphed with actors Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon adding to the VIP litter barking up the right tree.

Bryan reprised his tune Afraid Of The Light penned with Ohio born Kim Richey as a duet on the Wildes 2015 album The Mountain.

Lachlan revealed his song began solo in an Adelaide hotel room before a trip to the Nashville cabin of Richey, renowned for naming the Mother Theresa bun that earned its own web site.

She also wrote songs with Bryan 's tour partner and boxer Paul Thorn who fought Roberto Duran before swapping his gloves for guitar and song-writing.

Bryan played Hallam Hotel with Thorn on June 25, 2013.

Kim was born in Ohio town Zanesville named after Ebenezer Zane - great-great-grand father of western novelist Zane Grey.

Her Melbourne debut was the Corner Hotel, Richmond , on January 37, 2002, in an embryonic songwriters-in-the round concert with Jim Lauderdale, Canadians Jason McCoy and Fred Eaglesmith and late Van Diemen's Land lass Audrey Auld.

That concert was promoted by Rob Potts - the late Tasmanian born Nu Country TV benefactor - who died in a tragic motor cycle accident in his home state in 2017.

With a bitter-sweet boomerang tonight's local promoter is Rob's son Jeremy Dylan - video director and latter-day manager of Lauderdale who returned here for the 12 th CMC Rocks Queensland festival in Ipswich .

This eclectic concert cast proved the Potts flame was burning bright in Jeremy's custody with another Tasmanian born promoter Michael Chugg.

Bryan 's subdued set was short and sharp and included Whistle and Waltz written and recorded with Kasey Chambers for his 2011 album Shadow Of The Gun.

With sardonic humour Bryan revived A Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Man - from his fourth Wildes album Some Girls Quite Like Country Music.

The singer explained the song and album title was a double-edged sword - perils of an older man chasing younger women.

And despite many city slickers' elitism many of those younger and older urban belles liked country music - proven by the hugely successful Potts-Dylan-Chugg festival and concert promotion.

Bryan also showcased his voodoo song Dugdemona penned with Oklahoma songwriter Bruce Wallace in Nashville for his 2016 album The Mountain , promoted with a video.

After learning of the song source - a mythical New Orleans witch - it was time for interval choc tops while some patrons watched the Bulldogs dine out on Sydney Swans on mobile phones.

You can never say opening acts are ignored in reviews.


“You got my number you can call on me/ if you're in trouble put the fall on me/ when you're mad you can take it out on me/ when it don't add up you can count on me/ when you're low come get high on me/ make it slow take your time on me.” - All On Me - Devin Dawson-Jacob Durrett-Austin Smith.

Californian singer-songwriter Devin Dawson - sole male in the posse - led the entrée patter.

He fronted a quartet of creative international flag bearers for the CMA invasion of pop, rap, rock and dance dominated domains.

Sadly, the soft lighting in the audience prevents me reading my notes.

But I can reveal it was an equally memorable evening for artists and audience.

So, a little background for this entrée.

When Dawson , just 30, read his briefing schedule for our pre-concert interview he revealed he thought his dad had flown in as a surprise guest.

Yes, Devin's dad is also named David but is an academic and lawyer and sire of twin hit-writing musicians.

Sadly, his aged interviewer is a fifth-generation Shipwreck Coast dairy farmer who toiled as a journalist for 53 years, radio host for 30 years and TV producer for almost two decades.

We'll save the interview to preview the video for his album title track Dark Horse that airs on Nu Country TV in May.

Devin performed four original tunes including album entrée Dip, debut single All On Me, Second To Last and a new single being road tested for his second album.

This venue was more liberating than the equally historic former Tennessee state prison where Dawson filmed his All On Me video.

The latter was also scene of the rhyme for videos by Eric Church and Old Crow Medicine Show who played due south of the Athenaeum at the Forum on March 13, 2009 and October 1, 2017.

Dawson retained his gaol theme in new songs Prison and Dark Horse and video with another behind bars locale.

But here tonight this was an energised concert with plenty of escape routes.


“She's got three kids, no husband/ she's two weeks late on last month's rent/ she's waiting on the child support/ he keeps swearing that it's coming/ but if she knows him, she knows where it went/ and that pile of bills ain't gonna pay themselves.” - Three Kids No Husband - Brandy Clark-Lori McKenna.

Dawson introduced Brandy Clark - an acclaimed singer-songwriter from Morton - a tiny logging town in Washington State.

Clark , now 43, shares producer Jay Joyce with Dawson and Tennille Townes - one of two Canadian chanteuses on this show.

Her music from third album Big Day In A Small Town may have been more familiar to the audience after frequent exposure on Nu Country TV and her Stripes graphic being used to illustrate our weekly Behind Bars segment.

Brandy explained the source of her strident social comment hit Three Kids No Husband - penned with dual Grammy winner and Massachusetts mother of five Lori McKenna.

It's a sibling song of sorts of former Chicago postie and recent tourist John Prine's tune Unwed Fathers - a hit for the late Tammy Wynette.

Lori also wrote singing actor and September tourist Tim McGraw's huge hit Humble And Kind that won Grammys for both writer and artist.

Clark delved into her catalogue that includes powerful tunes Soap Opera, Girl Next Door, Homecoming Queen , humorous rural requiem Broke and evocative maternal paean Since You've Gone To Heaven.

It augurs well for her return tour.


“Boy, what you do to me is criminal/ baby when I look in those eyes/ I feel like going through stop lights/ looking at the cops like, I got nothing to lose/ yeah boy, you got me burning like a match stick/ take me to the edge and one step past it/ it ain't right, it ain't typical/ oh, what you do to me is criminal.” - Criminal - Lindsay Ell-Chris Stevens-Fred Wilhelm.

Third cab off this rank was Lindsay Ell, who celebrated her 30 th birthday down under on March 20 - three days before the concert - with a friend who flew in.

Lindsay hails from Calgary , Alberta , and has released four albums.

Sadly, none were serviced here before this tour but her Garfield publicist Frank Varasso came to my rescue with her 2017 album The Project .

Lindsay revealed it was produced by Kristian Bush of Sugarland fame in Nashville .

Sugarland - Bush and Jennifer Nettles - toured here in 2008 with Grafton trio The McClymonts.

Backed by a five-piece band they played Northcote Social Club on March 18.

It was a memorable show - not just for the music but vivid recollections of a staffer on the mid-venue desk reading a book during the entire gig.

That's true hipster-cool in the Beer Can Hill high country.

Luckily Ell didn't suffer that sort of disdain when she told the story of her songs Criminal, Just Another Girl and Waiting On You, three of nine she co-wrote for The Project including a collaboration with Bush on Wildfire.

Lindsay passed the baton to Tenille Townes, just 24, who hails from Grand Prairie in Alberta and shared songs from her third album Living Room Work Tapes .

Tenille began writing songs at 14 and a year later raised funds for a youth shelter in her home town as she toured 106 schools.

Townes flew south to Nashville five years ago and expanded her career with her latest album produced with Jay Joyce in his converted church studio in Nashville .

The singer revisited her school tours for the source of her Jersey On The Wall - the pathos primed memento of a fatal car crash involving five school friends.

She also name-checked her mother in a detailed history of Somebody's Daughter.

The first verse was inspired by a car trip with her mum visiting Nashville when they saw a girl on the footpath trying to sell lemonade.

“We were going furniture shopping and took this exit off the interstate and saw this young girl standing there holding onto a cardboard sign,” Townes revealed of the song accompanied by a video on Nu Country TV on December 1 in an episode that also featured Clark's video Not The Girl Next Door .

“We had a moment in the car as we were stopped at the red light beside her just wondering what her story might have been and whom she belonged to and just thinking about the fact that everybody's got a story. That conversation and that young girl's face stuck with me, and I knew I had to write about it.”

Townes may have been the babe of the show but her powerful voice and story-telling should build her career here when she enjoys exposure.

That, of course, was the purpose of this visit.

Review by David Dawson with photos by Carol Taylor

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