‘Songs I’m Singing With Me’ begins with a knock on the door of our Bendigo home in 1984. A man in a red beret, carrying a scuffed guitar case and a bottle of wine introduced himself as John Beavis – to the surprise of our parents, who’d seen him performing at the Port Fairy Folk Festival and had been singing his songs in folk clubs and coffee lounges for months. And so began a lifelong friendship.
John Beavis has a poet’s heart, a bird’s eye, a wry smile, and a swinging, finger-picking guitar style. As children, we would fall asleep by the fire as he sang with our parents. The harmonies soaked into our bones. John showed us that through the craft of songwriting you could tell your own story, and that folk music didn’t have to be written by Dylan or Joni. Once, he gave us a guitar, insisting he must pass the torch to a new generation of songwriters. We grew up on his songs. We grew into his songs. We’re still learning what they mean.
John’s songs were not as widely heard as deserved due to his ongoing battle with mental illness. But these songs would perhaps not be so delicate and insightful were it not for what John calls his ‘tragic magic’. His songs are still some of the best we know. You won’t find his music online or in record stores; we rescued his songs from an old warped cassette tape of a live recording from the ’80s.
We have created our interpretations of John’s songs. For some it will be a chance to remember, for others to discover. We began with these songs. We always return to these songs. These are the songs we’re singing with us.
Review by Chris Spencer
Alanna & Alicia have been in Brunswick (Victoria) studios, Thirty Mill and Audrey, cooking up another fine album, Songs I’m Singing With Me.
Here, we have the perfect collusion of beautiful singing,
The twin sister voices locked in harmony with the inspired songwriting from the pen and guitar of John Beavis.
This delicious album is an absorbing tribute to John.
It makes great company for a wintery day or for embracing the summer breezes –the music of life’s seasons.
Here is the back story.
John Beavis’ appearances emerged at various clubs, venues and festivals in the 1980s – Troubadour, Port Fairy, One-C-One, Maldon – and were eagerly attended as the word spread.
The human mind can be willed to create great art, beautiful words and exquisite songs.
John Beavis was such a writer, and a growing audience flocked to hear his fine works, to meet the poet behind the pen.
The album is all the more special and poignant as it underscores the healing power that music plays in the lives of all of us.
For many, if not all, it is as essential as the air we breathe.
No-one can breeze through life without serious challenges to well-being.
John’s have been in the hills and valleys of mental health, prompting a step away from the stage to nurture his musical gifts behind the scenes.
The twins too have triumphed over their own storms.
This lovely album holds that story.
The music they have created together carries them safely home.
You can really feel the love in the mix.
As children by a Bendigo fireside, Alanna and Alicia listened to John singing with their parents, Michael and Maudee Egan.
They too had been fine folk singers, nurturing the ‘hand-me-down way’ of folk music.
John was the first real songwriter the twins had met, and the concept of actually writing songs was a stunning revelation.
Years later, John visited the twins, by now folk singers, to present them with a guitar, “insisting he must pass the torch to a new generation of songwriters”.
“We grew up on his songs.”
Needless to say, John continues to support and inspire.
The songs on this album will be known well to John Beavis fans, and include ‘Time Was’, ‘Love’s Fools’, ‘Bird in the Hand’ and ‘Fly Like a Bird’.
Enda Kenny sings on ‘The Maritime’, while a band of seven accompanies the twins.
Together they have created a beautifully rounded album, which makes for a thoroughly satisfying listen, be it in the car, lounge or a plugged in ramble by the river, maybe with a Bendigo Shiraz or a “bird in the hand”.
(He said it!)
Songs I’m Singing With Me is an inspired tribute to the muse of John Beavis.
It is a musical gift of thanks to him most of all, but also to their parents and all supporters along the way.
The beautiful picture of John Beavis, taken at the Troubadour in 1980, is just one of many excellent reasons to become a fan!
The album is highly recommended and fans will be rewarded to discover the other works by the very talented Alanna & Alicia.