All Sorts is the latest album from ARIA nominated educator and musician CJ Shaw. Since ‘ANZAC Biscuits’ gained over 30,000 views on social media in 2019, and an ARIA nomination for Music Teacher of the Year, CJ has been busily recording this album. The collection of ten songs affirms Shaw’s position as a creative and dynamic storytelling.
CD review by Tony Smith
As well as being a singer songwriter around Canberra, CJ Shaw is a music teacher.
In fact, he has been nominated in the ARIA process for music educator of the year.
Given the importance of music in all learning and the way music has helped all of us through the pandemic, CJ Shaw is an important person.
Shaw does the vocals with guitar and harmonicas.
Backing musicians include Steve Fitzgerald (drums, percussion), Matt Nightingale (bass), Hannah Czaban (vocals), Clare Fitzgerald (piano, backing vocals), Simon Wegman (beats, backing vocals), Allyson Newman (piano), Ben Zala (guitar), David Perram (electric guitar), Craig Greening (mandolin), Timothy Wickham (violin) and Alex Voorhoeve (cello).
On the technical support side, CJ also thanks Kim Vennonen, James Harney, Louis Montgomery, arts ACT and Kate Smith and the Palmerston District School community.
The names of the ten tracks are listed, not as is usual, from top to bottom of the sleeve notes, but clockwise around the edges of a square which resembles a cube shaped sweet.
Could it be a licorice all sort?
The tracks include a tribute to ‘Adelaide’, ‘she brought the rain/ buckets down all over town/ filled up every drain … to help it grow again’.
There is something typically Australian about this song which features some fine harmonica.
‘Full On Heart (featuring Hannah Czaban)’ adds variety to the presentation of the tracks.
‘Ain’t Many Like Lenny’ is a tribute to a man, who as a boy, was involved in some of the great events of the twentieth century, particularly the opening of the Harbour Bridge.
There is a nice vocal chorus here.
In ‘Terminator Shades’, a teacher on playground duty encounters a variety of students.
There is a ‘hip-hop’ go about this one.
‘ANZAC Biscuits’ expresses a hope that by baking biscuits, children might ensure their father comes home from war.
Other songs include the upbeat, ‘Great Lyneham Divide’, ‘Werewolves’ with some nice guitar riffs, and ‘Lonely Road’, about coping with an alcohol problem.
‘One * One’. Count your fingers and your toes – ‘one and one make two’.
Young lovers find that ‘one and one make new’.
Ten tiny dancing toes and eyes so blue.
One and one made you.
One and one make three – make a family.
‘Choose to Chew’ advises eating kangaroo.
In fact, CJ seems so taken with savoury kangaroo mince that he has slipped a sheet with a recipe into the sleeve cover.
This has little appeal until you realise Shaw is singing more generally about the ways in which colonists ignored Indigenous people and so failed to learn from them.
So settlers made huge mistakes, some of which persist today, such as the introduction of hard hoofed animals and removal of vegetation.
Apart from CJ Shaw’s ability as writer, arranger and performer, this album establishes clearly the good humoured nature of his creations.
Several of these songs are simple with cumulative lyrics and are well suited to the honest voices of children.
They encourage open and innocent listening generally.