Hannah Gillespie – All the Dirt


ALL THE DIRT – Hannah Gillespie

‘With a voice redolent of Marianne Faithfull’s world-weary vulnerability, Canberra balladeer Hannah Gillespie presents her second album, All The Dirt. The follow-up to the highly acclaimed Growing Up Stupid, it’s produced by Ken Stringfellow (REM, The Posies, Big Star). A vivid compendium of countrified emotions, these songs comprise vignettes both joyful and bitter, veering musically between sultry dirge and jaunty march, painted lavishly with Stringfellow’s opulent production, the dobro brilliance of Terry Lee Hale and the poignant string arrangements of Phil Peterson (Owl City, Nada Surf).

Equally as ethereal and fey-folk/country as Faithfull’s timeless laments, these songs sparkle with a wry energy, courtesy of a top-flight band that haunts them like tasteful poltergeists, artfully toppling a chorus here, scattering marbles under a verse there, to create as joyful and lively a work as anything in the alt-country catalogue.

Paris-based Ken Stringfellow also contributes guitar, backing vocals, mandolin and wurlitzer, while the work of musicians Kevin Nicol, Tony Hunter, Matty Nightingale, Ben Gillespie, and Hannah’s sister Briohny is effortlessly deployed. Less jazz-inflected than Growing Up Stupid, the album’s country credentials (Felicity Urquhart performed ‘Just A Man’ in the 2011 Telstra Road to Tamworth) are impeccable, but the songs embrace folk and pure alt-pop with equal ease.

Opener ‘There Are Songs’ invokes the archetypal country lament, ripples of piano and accordion mingling with down-home guitars yelping like Dwight Yoakam’s ghost. ‘Saplings’ likewise enlists a banjo and handclaps to draw out an eldritch folksy grace and ‘Undercovers’ employs a Greek chorus of sighing strings to launch its jaunty pop chorus.

The mournful trombone of ‘Headlights’ underwrite ‘Bride School’s plaintive melodica and a delicate pop structure that gingerly informs the agonised refrain; “if I scrape the bottom of the barrel too”. ‘Poor Boy’, the bleakly sublime ‘Wilds and the Woodwork’ and the Felicity Urquhart-stamped ‘Just A Man’ are staunch alt-country outings, emphasising this album’s roots, which, however far they may roam from the Wilco/Neko Case/Richmond Fontaine form guide, seem inextricably founded in this yet un-exhausted realm.

Having demonstrated her dab hand at the sinuous turns of jazz on Growing Up Stupid (also available here), Gillespie’s folkier leanings blossom in the latter part of this album as ‘Tales from The Tote (Vinnie)’ and ‘You Come Over’, flirt with whimsy and mandolin, while ‘Sally Goes to Woodford’, co-written with cousin Ben Gillespie, idiosyncratically re-imagine this quintessential Australian folk experience.

While treading a delicate path through the pathos of the countryesque songbook, the songs never detour through the schmaltzy swamps of mainstream, Brooks and Dunn hillbilly pop and this thoroughbred sensibility distinguishes the record from that kind of country.

With fine songs and effortlessly good production in the pocket, it’s Hannah Gillespie’s voice that truly carries All The Dirt. From within this beautifully cracked veneer, it bestows on the songs a burnt lustre, like Marianne or Lucinda Williams, sending fragile telegraphs from the emotional frontier.


CD review by Ian Dearden

With a voice that almost eerily channels Broken English-era Marianne Faithfull, and songwriting straight out of the alt.country territory of Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt & Emmy-Lou Harris (with hints of Leonard Cohen), this is a CD for grownups only.

Wrapping that distinctive vocal timbre, shaped by whiskey chasers, late nights and broken dreams, around a swag of eleven songs of heartache, disappointment and treason (ten of them Hannah Gillespie originals), doesn’t make for easy listening.

However, as Neil Young once famously observed, the middle of the road is no place to be – all the interesting stuff takes place out on the edge, and capturing the interesting stuff in song is clearly the less travelled pathway that Hannah Gillespie wants to follow.

Lost love, lost dreams, fading shadows and fl eeting glimpses of a better life are the themes that inhabit these songs. There are glimpses of a better life (Sapling), of a chance to grab some happiness on the way through (Under Covers, You Come Over), but there’s more than a few broken hearts along this lonely highway (Headlights, Poor Boy, There Are Songs).

All of this, by the way, is superbly recorded, at Infi del Studios, Queanbeyan, with a hot country rock band (Ken Stringfellow on guitars, keys, mandolin; Matt Nightingale on bass, guitars, mandolin and Kev Nichol on drums), with other contributors on brass, strings, banjo and dobro.

The artwork on the album is equally superbly presented, with repeated images of wide open plains behind the lyrics.

A great album, but be prepared for the sorrow, heartbreak and pain!! You can find out more at www. hannahgillespie.com.au.


CD review by Chris Spencer

This is Hannah Gillespie’s second album. This time, she has asked musician/producer Ken Stringfellow to produce the album. This album is more musical, with emphasis on more varied arrangements and song structure.

I didn’t think that all of these were successful, a couple being a bit experimental in arrangement or too far ‘out there’, for example, “Headlights” with its unusual trumpet accompaniment and “Sally went to Woodford” being the songs in question.

Much has already been written about comparisons with Gillespie’s voice with that of Marianne Faithful. There’s certainly plenty of character and grit in her voice. I was also reminded of Melanie Safka and Kasey Chambers.

Gillespie has also chosen to use a particular swear word in “Under covers” that will annoy some readers. Recall when Faithful used the magic word in one of her songs during her comeback period in the early eighties? The impact is similar, yet the song’s theme, perhaps, of jilted love or a relationship that went belly-up, doesn’t necessarily warrant the use of such language. As you can see, it’s created some comment about the song, though!

Other songs I enjoyed included “There are Songs”, “Sapling” with its use of banjo, “Under Covers” has the best melody and great arrangement, “Poor Boy”, and “Just a Man”, highlighted by the banjo playing of Tony Hunter, and is written from a father’s perspective talking to his daughter.

“The Wilds & The Woodwork” is a slow song with mainly Gillespie’s vocals over guitar. Almost every song is about love, searching for love or observations about relationships. However on the songs I preferred, the sound and feel that Gillespie creates are enjoyable.

3 in stock (can be backordered)

SKU: TN1782-43 Category:

Additional information

Weight .180 kg
Dimensions 22 × 16 × .50 cm


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