CD review by Tony Smith
This album of six tracks has Chris Gillespie on guitar, harmonica, banjo and vocals, with Matthew Luciano (mandolin, guitar and vocal harmony) and Ben Hazlett (bass and vocal harmony).
Gillespie is one of many fine musicians who flourish in the NSW Blue Mountains.
Despite the punning name of the ensemble and some rambling guitar riffs, the style of this music is definitely not country and western.
It could more properly be called urban blues.
The atmosphere is pretty much as you might encounter in a pub having an open mic night.
In fact, the first song, ‘Balmain’, is about a meeting of knees beneath a pub table.
Gillespie’s voice is bright and clear, at times sounding like Paul Kelly.
The song is addressed to a beautiful woman, named at the end ‘Ah Jessica’ as the harmonica expresses yearning.
‘Patch the Whippet’ is analogy beginning ‘It’s a dog’s life’ and has some sweet mandolin.
Scents are paramount here, where every dog expects his day.
Clearly, Gillespie is fond of animals, as two tracks are devoted to birds.
The ‘M2 Cockatoo’, complete with exhaust induced coughs, complains, with justification, of the way humans take your home and push you out.
And of course the hotline for inquiries is a dead end.
‘Bimbai’ is a tribute to the birds which carry on with good grace even though ‘everything’s dead/ because we killed it’.
The final track, ‘John’, is a foot tapping, hand clapping tale about the heat of recent summers.
‘Come on John, we don’t have very long’ to find the answers to the wind and sun, to the climate.
In 2008, a John was removed from political office, at least partly for failing to address climate change.
The title track makes nice variety as it begins with unaccompanied voices.
Then they continue as the refrain ‘free, free to roam, far away, far away from home’.
Indeed, the overall impression of this album is that the lyrics are paramount.
Gillespie could be one of the ‘beat poets’ who begin with the words and add musical backing.
Gillespie’s arrangements are as natural as can be.
The music turns the poems into ballads, and as there are no strong choruses to invite participation, this is an album which rewards careful listening.