Barry Skipsey – The Wrong Tram
CD review by Tony Smith
TN161 Feb 24
This CD is a worthy winner of Folk Alliance Australia’s Australian Folk Music Award for the traditional album of 2023.
Skipsey has assembled 14 tracks of uniformly high quality: ‘Laughter in the Air’, ‘Home’, ‘Australians’, ‘The Wrong Tram’, ‘The Relly Run’, ‘Missing’ (a song by Peter Bugden), ‘Deep in the Night’, ‘Man of the Sea’, ‘Good Heavens Above’, ‘Rooms’, ‘Burnt Out Shearer’, ‘Me’, ‘Foam Street Taxi’ and ‘Oceanliner’.
For someone whose activity takes place mainly around Alice Springs, Skipsey has a couple of very good songs about international matters, war in ‘The Wrong Tram’ and ‘Missing’, and about the sea, ‘Man of the Sea’ and ‘Oceanliner’.
A few of the tunes are familiar.
The jaunty ‘Oceanliner’ for example, resembles a Don Henderson tune.
It would be good for Skipsey to describe their provenance.
There is no shortage of acknowledgement for the many very capable musicians who gave support on this album.
For example, while Skipsey plays guitar and takes vocal lead, Ross Muir gets special mention as creative collaborator, and Muir plays several instruments as well.
There are also vocal harmonies from Katie Harder, Kate West, Jamie Balfour, the 5 Chanfloozies and the 12 member Shavings Choir.
Instrumentalists include Glenys Rae, Jessica Wright, Svetlana Bunic, Anders Pfeiffer, Lyndal Chambers, Joey Klarenbeek, Darcy Davis, Bill Pechey, Matthew Horsley, Luiz Gubeissi, Broderick Smith, Yarn Wositzky, Harshini Bartlett and Xavia.
Their contributions are maximised by arrangements which have the important purpose of highlighting the lyrics of these songs.
One of the standout features of these tracks is Skipsey’s strong voice.
While he supplies a lyrics sheet slipped into the CD sleeve, there is not much need for it because all of these songs are delivered with very clear diction.
This is equally true of the sombre stories and the lighter ones.
An obvious highlight for fans of traditional Australian songs is ‘Burnt Out Shearer’.
For a while, it seemed that the shearing sub-genre had said everything there was to say in this field, so a new song from the sheds is always welcome.
“Cause he knows that his days of shearing are all over/ he’ll never swing his old Lister up on the board/ he hit the road and headed home but somehow he seemed alone/ cause now he’s back as a Roustie sweeping the floor”.
I will refer a mate of mine, Michael Dickson, to the song.
Michael is a retired shearer and last year wrote a book about the wide combs dispute that tore the industry apart forty years ago.
Michael’s book shows that the history of that turmoil had not been told from the shearers’ point of view.
Whether you enjoy nostalgia, sad or happy, for Australia, for family or youth, or prefer tales of working life, Barry Skipsey’s songs have something to interest everyone.
‘The Wrong Tram’ is very much an album right for our times.
Award win has a life changing effect
by Barry Skipsey
TN160 Dec 23
Barry Skipsey was born on King Island and spent his teenage years playing in rock bands in bayside Melbourne.
My planned six week trip to the NT has now lasted 47 Years.
I met my wife, Cathryn, here and we married 39 years ago.
We have three kids and I’m now a very happy Grandfather.
My first album of original songs, entitled “NT Road”, was released in 1985.
It was well received and I was invited to perform at Folk Festivals around the Nation.
However, life got in the way and the first of my three kids arrived.
I could not see how I could continue travelling and yet still be a half decent father, so I let all that momentum slide and became a stay at home dad.
Musically, tourism in Central Australia has sustained me ever since.
This has been my bread and butter work for more than three decades.
Back in the 90’s, I wrote a song to go with the successful tourism campaign, “You’ll Never Never Know, if You Never Never Go”.
Here, I must acknowledge my good friend and songwriting musical mentor, Ted Egan.
Now at 91, he is still preforming.
Ted blazed the Tourism trail for the likes of me.
He’s always been supportive, even down to this very album and this win.
I contacted both Ted and Eric Bogle, another friend and mentor, about a number of the songs that appear on it.
I thanked them both during what was a pretty emotional acceptance speech on the night in Melbourne.
I am an emotional person.
If I was not, I doubt I’d ever be a songwriter.
Having said that. I’ve always been a story teller and this award means a great deal to me.
It was not a reality TV show with voters phoning in to determine the winner.
No, this was 50 notable (anonymous) judges in the folk music world from all over Australia.
I was one of five nominee’s and they voted my New Album to be the Album Of the Year –Traditional for 2023.
This is huge for me.
I believe it to be a validation of 40 years of song writing by the Australian Folk Alliance.
I plan on milking this award for what it’s worth as I want to get back on the road.
On the awards night, I finished off my acceptance speech by saying: “I put my folk festival touring career on hold 36 years ago to be at home with my kids.
“Well tonight, as a result of winning this award, I’m announcing that I am now free and available to be rediscovered!”
The Wrong Tram
With fourteen Original Barry Skipsey songs, ‘The Wrong Tram’ represents a large slice of my personal history. From my early working life, through to grand fatherhood. Most of these songs are New, however it does feature a number of my well known Older songs, now re-recorded. I’ve not been able to let these songs go, possibly because I’ve invested too much emotional energy in them. They’ve been given new life, in the hope that they’ll connect with a new and younger audience.
And I know when and where these songs were born. My working songs come from personal experience of being there, feeling the exhaustion, tasting the air and downing a well-earned beer at days end. But other songs have simply appeared, seemly dragged up from the deep corridors of the mind, to a moment when subconsciously, they’ve appeared on the page.
Recorded, mixed and Co-Produced by my good friend Ross Muir here in Alice Springs, we were ably supported by no fewer than twenty Session Players and two local Choirs. And what a joy it was to work with them all. In particular, I was thrilled to secure the talents of Yarn Wositzky, ‘Bushwackers’ and the return of Broderick Smith, ‘Dingoes’. Broderick appeared on my Album, ‘Let Your Spirit Fly’ back in 1995.
I could not be any happier with the outcome of this long awaited recording. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we enjoyed producing it.