Cathie O’Sullivan – Down By the Green Bushes


Review by Sue Robinson

Listening to this CD was travelling to the past. Indeed, the song choice and traditional arrangements took me right back to the 70s when I used to frequent the folk clubs in Sydney and the same, or similar songs were being performed in the same way.
Cathie O’Sullivan has a high, clear voice and mostly arranges the songs she sings herself, sometimes using familiar tunes, like Eileen Curran, the tune added to Stony Town, or Barbry Allen, or Lovely Molly or Miss Patterson, which is added to King of the Faries. Lyricists include Dorothy Hewitt (There’s Anguish), Banjo Patterson (Song of Artesian Water), and Henry Lawson (The Teams). O’Sullivan clearly pays homage to the our folk history, and chooses arrangements which emphasise the beauty in traditional arpeggios and instrumental harmony lines.
And the instrumentalists are fine. Fiddle and whistle are played by Declan Affley, Cleis Pearce wrangles the electric viola and Brownyn Evans plays flute, often echoing and emphasising the vocal melody. (to ed: The spelling Brownyn, is from the CD but is probably wrong), with Cathie herself playing metal-string Irish harp and five-string banjo.
Part of the CD is devoted to a seven-minute message from our nation’s traditional owners represented by Nipper Kapirrigi, who was recorded speaking this message of welcome and introduction at Kakadu in 1981. It is significant, no doubt, but it is also crackly and in the language of the Bardmardi clan. The brief sentence on the CD cover does not add a great deal of meaning, and I would have liked an insert with a translation of the actual message Nipper was sending us. Without it, I could only feel slightly worthy while I listened to more than seven minutes of incomprehensible, monotonic speech – not a track I’ll be playing to liven up a party.
Down by the Green Bushes features songs about whaling, sailing, mining, and drought. Its songs are serious and the mood it evokes is not exactly light-hearted. The CD is basically a gentle, pretty selection of familiar and traditional songs. But within this muted palette, the musical colours are mixed subtly and cleverly, and although the arrangements are traditional, O’Sullivan rings the changes and selects running order to provide plenty of variety.
For example, the track, Barbry Allen, features a live performance, and O’Sullivan’s interpretation on this track is, in my view, iconic and flawless. King of the Faeries/Miss Patterson which follows it, is instrumental, showing just how the metal-string harp ought to be played. Then the next track is Leaving, sung against a single drone note from the viola – three traditional folk arrangements, juxtaposed to give the listener a little variety.
If this CD were a book, it would be a reference work. It is well done, it contains a lot of information, and it’s worth putting on your shelf.

Out of stock

SKU: TN1989-69 Category:

Additional information

Weight .050 kg
Dimensions 14 × 12.5 × 1 cm


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