Winner of the 2022 Australian Folk Music Award for best traditional album, ‘Thylacine’ contains banging Celtic-roots original tunes and folky songs from the heart.
Austral – Thylacine
CD review by Tony Smith
TN2515 – $20
TN154 Feb 23
This quartet plus guests play music of a very high standard.
They obviously enjoy themselves and their music is consequently infectious.
Austral are Rhys Crimmin (guitars, didgeridoo, percussion, harmonica, vocals), Angus Barbary (fiddle, mandolin, vocals, bodhran, banjo), Connor Hoy (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle) and Caity Brennan (fiddle, vocals).
The supporting artists are Niroshan Sathiyamoorthy (tabla), Mischa Herman (piano), Beth Knight (vocals) and Sam Arthurson (electric guitar).
Writing credits for various tunes and songs go to Ciaran O’Grady, Ed Pickford, Tom Freiburghaus, Richard Thompson, Norman Blake and Corey Henderson.
The opening track, ‘Throwdown Hoedown’ is pure party, while ‘Thunderberg’ has rather a more ominous sound.
‘No Frills’ is another fast dance tune with a Celtic swing.
‘Edgy in Zurich’ has some fine flute and bass notes on electric guitar.
‘Woodford Nights’ is a light, breezy instrumental set that skips into the changes.
‘Thylacine’ is a more lyrical instrumental about the Tasmanian tiger.
The strings conjure up a wandering spirit.
‘Bok Choy’ has ethereal flute leading in with accelerando following.
‘Henry Bloods’ begins with ominous chords then develops with flute over arpeggios.
It evokes vistas such as mountains in fog with sunlight breaking through.
The songs are every bit as accomplished as the instrumentals.
All are by prolific songwriters.
‘Pound a Week Rise’ (Pickford) presents a nice arrangement of instruments and voices.
‘Down you go down below Jack, never see the sky, working in a dungeon for a pound a week rise’.
This is a great song in the working class tradition, specifically in the sub-genre about the drudgery of working in the pit and the stinginess of management.
‘Beeswing’ (Thompson) describes falling for a ‘laundry girl’.
The songwriter recognises her inner spirit – a rare thing, fine as a beeswing.
This is a song about a lost child running wild, even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down for her, but she knows that ‘you wouldn’t want me any other way’.
‘Billy Gray’ (Blake) features fine voice solo unaccompanied.
This is a tragic ballad about a dangerous outlaw of the American frontier.
The CD was recorded on Wurundjeri land by Mischa Herman at Echidna studio and on Kaurna land by John Murphy.
Austral note their great respect for ‘elders past, present and emerging on the sacred country of these nations’.
The CD was mastered by Joe Carra at Crystal Marketing.
This album presents a very good balance of lively danceable tunes, songs with interesting lyrics and evocative flute and fiddle playing.
Hopefully, others will follow.
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