CD review by Chris Spencer
This is a magnificent album.
To paraphrase a television ad, Marina, you’ve done it again!
Marina Hurley, the creator of the Festival Folk Sing series, has been recording live concerts she has attended since 2006. This album is a double album comprising 15 tracks of a Hulett live recording at the Melbourne Folk Club in November2009. The album encapsulates the strengths of Hulett, his songwriting, his voice, his guitar playing and his lyrics, as well as providing a wonderful memento of live concerts and how he relates to his audiences.
You get some idea of his character, personality and wit. Despite being recorded on a hand held recorder, the quality of the recordings is excellent and if anyone had any quibbles, surely they would be slight.
There are a few extraneous sounds accompanying the recording such as applause, laughter, chatter but rather detract from the album, they create the illusion that you are in the room watching his performance. I am only aware of Alistair’s musical credence via his involvement with Roaring Jack, a folk rock, Celtic band that worked out of Sydney during the late eighties.
Hulett himself describes the band has having more punk roots with more comparisons with the Sex Pistols, but not having seen the band perform live I can’t attest to this description. Originally from Scotland, Hulett returned to Scotland where he recorded several more albums. The songs on this album range from traditional songs (The Wife of Usher’s Well), three that Roaring Jack recorded (Playing for the Traffic, The Day The Boys Came Down, and The Old Divide & Rule) and covers of Brian Warfield(Joe McDonnell), Will Shade (I’m Stealing Back to my Same Old Used to be), Pete Seeger(Quite Early Morning) and Ewan MacColl (Ballad of Accounting and Dirty Old Town).Quite a few of his own compositions sound as if they could have been written centuries ago (The Fair Flower of Northumberland)and cover such issues as poverty, war, police violence against aborigines in Redfern (The Day the Boys Came Down, although when I first heard this song, it seemed to be more about the IRA and retribution violence),politics (The Old Divide and Rule, Joe McDonnell)while Militant Red, The Fair Flower of Northumberland and Carry You With Me are the closest he comes to doing a love song.
Fans of Leonard Cohen might want to skip track12, Way Too Long in the Tower of Song where Hulett is critical of the Canadian singer, despite being a fan. Because Hulett’s own material is so strong, his covers of Pete Seeger and Ewan MacColl seem pale in comparison. His version of Dirty Old Town lacks the passion of some other interpretations, but he slows it right down to make it his own. However he knows the skill of finishing a set with a song that leaves everybody singing along with a well known song.
In all, a great album, and highly recommended.
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