CD review by Tony Smith
Warren Fahey’s life work is to advance knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Australian folklore.
This 24 track album is an ambitious project in which each track has an acoustic guitar rendition of a folk tune.
Generally, guitar music of this sort makes relaxing listening and the musicians represented are all outstanding exponents of finger style guitar.
For listening guitar players, one of the most interesting features of this album is the variety of guitars and tunings that turn up.
On ‘Condamine Way aka the Banks of the Condamine’ for example, which at 5 minutes and 5 seconds is the longest track on the album and one of the most enjoyable, the remarkable Jeff Lang plays a resonator guitar made by Don Morrison of South Australia out of ‘sheet metal from an old corrugated iron shed.
He also uses electric guitar and loops to add variety.
Other players depart from the usual EADGBE tuning, often using DADGAD.
Marcus Sturrock has some unusual tunes and also a seven string guitar and a steel stringed baritone guitar.
He presents ‘Brisbane Ladies’, ‘Merrily Kissed the Quaker’s Wife’ and ‘Drowsy Maggie’.
‘Brisbane Ladies/ Overlanders/ Augathella Station’ is also covered by David Hyams.
Apparently, Warren Fahey produced a list of tunes, from which the guitarists could choose.
It is not clear whether there were suggestions which were not included, but overall the selection is pretty comprehensive.
The guitarists chose those tunes, whether for songs or instrumentals such as dance music, on personal taste, but no doubt with a clear idea of which tunes would present well and allow the musician to display his or her virtuosity.
Yes, there is one female guitarist, Kate Burke, who gives excellent expression to ‘The Lost Sailor’ and ‘Spanish Waltz’.
Marcus Holden assists on several tracks adding variety and filling out the tunes, with Nigel Date (‘Bluey on the Brink’ and ‘The Rambling Sailor’) and Kieran Ryan (‘Eileen McCoy’s Varsovienne No.1’).
Date and brother Ian are experienced jazz musicians and this influence is plain on their contributions.
My favourites are the tracks with straight interpretations, particularly John Kane’s ‘Tomahawking Fred’ and Michael Fix’s ‘Ryebuck Shearer/ Lachlan Tigers’ and ‘Waltzing with Matilda’.
There are also contributions by Dave O’Neill, John Munro and Daniel Champagne.
As usual, Warren Fahey has provided meticulous details about the provenance of the tunes, noting for example that Sally Sloane referred to the Varsovienna as ‘Arse-Over-Anna’.
Fahey also has a good introductory essay about the place of acoustic guitar in the Australian folk music tradition, its origins and influences.
This album should have great appeal to general listeners as well as to fans of guitar and of Australian folk tunes.