Acclaimed in both the folk and history spheres, the Sydney Cove Project relates emotive, human, often quirky tales of settlement and first contact in Sydney at the time of the First Fleet. Woven with celtic and classical sounds and rich harmonies, the songs breathe life into the words of those who were there, drawn from journals and diaries of the time and with a focus on the confused relationships between the settlers and Sydney’s traditional owners. Hear a previously unsung chapter in our nations history being sung with full force!
CD REVIEW – Jim Lowe
It is always a wonderful experience to discover new music that immediately excites you. When that excitement continues to grow with each new listen, then you know you have found something really special.
This is indeed the case with Ben Scott’s recent CD Sydney Cove Project.
As well as vocals, Scott plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, whistles and bodhran.
Kathryn Bain’s sensitive and expressive singing voice plays an intrinsic part on the CD.
The sound is further enriched by the talents of Rita Woolhouse (cello), Garthe Jones (mandolin) and Chris Gillespie (guitar and double bass).
This new song collection deliberately confines itself to songs dealing with the initial years of European arrival and settlement in Australia.
As the liner notes state, “These songs are an attempt to fill a gap in Australian folk music”.
Relying heavily on contemporary written sources, Ben Scott has carefully crafted eleven fine songs.
Use of primary source material may suggest to some a restrictive approach to the song writing process and outcome.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
It gives greater credibility to the portrayal of events and personalities as interpreted by Scott.
The skilful inclusion in some of the song lyrics, of quotations from these primary documents, adds considerably to the dramatic dimension in each song.
And the occasional roughness in attempting to fit some of the phrasing comfortably with the melody, for this ear anyway, was not a problem.
There is also room for the songwriter to infer legitimate, possible outcomes where evidence is scant or ambiguous.
For example, the song “Patyegorang” cleverly plays with the notion of a relationship between William Dawes and a young Aboriginal woman.
The use of Dawes’ recording of indigenous language allows Scott to develop further the possible relationship in a very intriguing way.
The tune accompanying this song is both attractive and evocative.
This is inspiring song writing.
The CD starts with the catchy “Black and White Ball”, subtly introducing in the narrative some of the themes to be explored in later songs.
“A Child For A Hat” relates how relationships between the new arrivals and the indigenous population were confounded by blatant ignorance, cultural difference and misunderstanding.
The awkward situation faced by Clarke in following an order is dramatically portrayed in this song.
The jaunty “Where’s Rose Hill, Where?” relates the events of a seemingly innocent exploration party led by Watkin Tench.
By the subtle inclusion of a descriptive or narrative detail, Scott makes us aware of some serious, future problems.
This last song is an indication of how important it is to listen closely to the lyrics of all the songs in this collection. And the gentle and thoughtful arrangements of the instrumentation allow the vocals to be clearly heard.
Although the song lyrics do not come with the CD, they can be found at sydneycoveproject.com.au
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this refreshing and inspiring collection of songs.
How enriching to have such interesting, inventive songs that make our history that much more accessible and meaningful.
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