There is a guy from North Ontario
It was this statement that caught my attention: “There’s no band, but I got in there with my sonics. There’s nothing else out there like it.”
This was legendary producer, genius musician and all round studio super hero Daniel Lanois talking about the new Neil Young record – Le Noise – which is being released worldwide on September 28.
Neil Young fans are a tolerant bunch. The crazy, dope-smoking, song-writing and guitar-bending maestro is without peer for those who’ve been following his wandering ways since he first left Canada and headed for California – in a hearse – in the mid-1960s.
But he can be, let’s say, a little out there. So when someone as equally eccentric as Lanois claims there’s ``nothing else out there like it’’ we should either be stupendously excited or very afraid. I’m going with the former until I hear what’s on offer. With a September 28 release date, we can only assume it will leak out on the interweb in the next week or so.
This is an astonishingly fortunate time to be in the market for new music. There is just so much around that you can’t stop swimming for fear of drowning. While I was distracted by the national elections, I missed heaps but I’ve been catching up big time – something helped by attending the brilliant Bigsound music conference in Brisbane this week (more about that soon).
Top of the ones I didn’t hear while we were voting (although it’s only just being released) is Justin Townes Earle’s Harlem River Blues (Bloodshot) – the third, most complete and most satisfying record from the son of Steve and the godson of Townes Van Zandt.
It delivers on every piece of promise that Justin held out with his first two CDs – The Good Life and Midnight at the Movies. It’s rich in Americana music history from his hero – Woody Guthrie – his godfather and real father. He tells the stories of the working man on railroad songs like Working for the MTA and teases us with some rockabilly on Move Over Mama – a tribute to the King, surely. There’s a wonderful song, Christchurch Girl, he wrote at Sydney airport about a dalliance he had while touring this country in recent years. It’s one of those beautiful everyman songs about love on the road.
The highlight of the disc is a truly stunning tune that brings early Springsteen to mind – Rogers Park has the superbly captivating narrative, the spine-tingling solo piano work and the harmonica that never gives up. This is one of the records of the year and anyone who loves Justin’s work, his dad’s catalogue or that of Townes Van Zandt (not to mention anything else that’s come out of the great Austin, Texas/Nashville, Tennessee axis) should get a copy. He’ll be back here soon, so make a note to see him. He’s a consummate performer.
The other, somewhat similar record, that slipped by in the election time was An Outpose of Promise (Plus One Records) by that brilliant Brisbane alt-country outfit, Halfway. It’s the band’s third CD and easily their best. It’s a slow burn but a keeper. Built around the song-writing talents of John Busby and Chris Dale, this is a collection of songs that are brought to life through the talents of knob-twiddler Wayne Connolly and producer Robert Forster.
There’s the chugging Sweetheart, Please Don’t Start (with its locomotive guitars), the deeply empathetic 110 and the cracking opener, Oscar, which delights with lyrics like this “I don’t pretend to know what’s in your head/Books, booze, and Oscar De La Hoya’s sweet hands”.
Halfway has always been one of Brisbane’s very best live bands – they have that rambling ensemble feel that gets under your skin. The band’s recorded work is just as strong and this third disc is a joy. This is a fantastic eight member group that rolls, rocks and moves. The understated studio work of Connolly cools down some of the on stage exuberance but it also puts the vocals – and the lyrics – front and centre. This is top drawer Australian music.
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