Helen Begley – West Brunswick


As a resident of West Brunswick for the past 20 years, Helen Begley was inspired to write a homage to the suburb after her long association with it ended last year due to the rental market out pricing her love for living there. The result is a new album, her second as a solo artist, aptly titled, “West Brunswick”.

A tour of house concerts in the council municipality of Moreland, including West Brunswick, as well as other suburbs of Melbourne, regional Victoria and interstate is scheduled for 2013 to promote the new album. In keeping with the local neighbourly flavour of the project, the album is recorded, designed and printed in Brunswick.

Over the years, Helen has travelled Australia playing to audiences in country towns and capital cities, in venues as diverse as concert halls at folk festivals, rickety stages in Tasmanian forests and iconic gig rooms in inner city Melbourne. She is a respected Melbourne songwriter and has written songs for Carl Pannuzzo, Penny Larkins, Jody Galvin and the Tenderhearts and Melbourne folk band Milk. Her writing credits extend to poetry, spoken word, short stories, blogs, scripts and she is a regular arts reviewer for online arts website Artshub.

In 2011, after her move to Coburg, she grabbed her guitar, hopped on a plane and travelled to the USA where she took every opportunity to play in pubs and cafes across the nation. She even got to play at The Bluebird Café in Nashville and caught up with her songwriting buddy and sometime collaborator Clint Land in Kentucky for a bit of a song writing session.

Helen produced her first solo album “The Bride” in 2010. Her songs have also appeared on three Milk CD’s, ‘Made’ (2001), ‘Golden Ring Life’ (2004) and ‘Shipwrecked at the Royal Oak’ (2007) as well as a number of compilation albums including ‘Girl Comp2’, ‘Reels and Roads’ with Lucie Thorne, ‘Rock Against Bullshit’ (2006), Carl Panuzzo’s album “20 Ukulele Greats” (2008), the Wilderness society’s “Forests Forever” (2008) and various Folk festival Compilations including Nannup and Cygnet.

She has appeared at the Top Half Folk Festival in Darwin 2010, Kilmore Celtic Festival 2010, Kangaroo Valley Music festival 2010, Uranquinty Folk Festival, 2010 Canberra Country Music Festival 2010, The Maldon Folk Festival 2010, Songwriter in residence at The Boite Singers Festival 2011 and Yackandandah Folk Festival 2012 as well as appearing at venues across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

She has been a judge for the Victorian Bush Poetry competition and The Man from Snowy River Poetry Competition and has previously judged the Darebin Songwriting Competition Grand Final. Last year she was commissioned by Radio 3CR to write and perform a radio song tour of her original song “All aboard the Pirate Ship”. She won Melbourne Ukulele Festival’s Songwriting Competition 2010, The Man from Snowy River Aussie Bush Idol 2012 senior section, and Albion Park Camp Cooking Damper Competition 2011. Her work has been played on ABC and community radio stations across the country.

“West Brunswick” is the result of a long, meandering walk stretching over decades and culminating in a collection of songs that capture the sights, sounds and experience of living in Melbourne’s inner north for 20 years.

The concept of taking listeners on a walk around the neighbourhood was inspired by a Gingko (Haiku poetry walk) with poet and teacher, Myron Lysenko. The result was a set of haikus and the title track “West Brunswick”. From this first song, a new challenge emerged, to write a series of songs that all made reference to West Brunswick in the lyric.

Songs written, Helen and her long time mates, Emily Hayes (Emmy Lou and the Sidesaddle Gals) and Greg Craske (Velvet Cake Gypsies), her West Brunswick made daughter, Ella Sidal, her Blue Mountains man, James Norton, recycled Wangaratta lad, Luke R Davies (Recycled String Band) and her old neighbours piled into a West Brunswick studio built and operated by sound engineer extraordannaire Lachlan Wooden(Mixer for Cat Empire, Eddie Current Suppression Ring) who lives next door to the last house that she lived in West Brunswick.

They brought instruments that can be found in many West Brunswick homes including guitars, ukulele, double bass, banjo, harmonicas, vocal harmonies, a clarinet, a piano and a glockenspiel, to help Helen put together the songs from this long, suburban stroll.

The resulting album is a warm, personal set of songs that holds the listener in a familiar armchair embrace in a lounge room somewhere in West Brunswick.

CD Review by Chris Spencer

Helen Begley is a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, ukulele, banjo, clarinet, glockenspiel and piano. She has previously performed in a band called Milk, that played around Melbourne, recording 3 albums.

This is her second album, having released her debut album, ‘The Bride’ in 2010.

On this album, Begley describes her local suburb and some of the events and people that shape her neighbourhood. All the songs have a reference to West Brunswick in the lyrics. Helen is planning to promote the album with a series of house concerts in the area!

The first track sets the scene, describing some of the sights and features of West Brunswick; track 2 “Betty” describes one of the characters that inhabits the suburb. “When Love Came to Yarrabin Street” features the ukulele and harmony vocals of Emily Hayes and Helen’s daughter Ella Sidal. “Ukulele Rain Song” also features the ukulele – its a gentle song reflecting the soft fall of rain. “West Brunswick Star” is another slow-paced track, underpinned by Begley’s banjo playing. The next track, “Every Night” continues the same tempo, but with harmony vocals. In contrast is “West Brunswick Boat Song” which has a ‘sailor’ choir singing the chorus – almost like a drunken session late at night in your local pub.

Guest musician, Luke R Davies, provides a harmonica introduction to the last track, “Northern Suburbs Lullaby”. This arrangement is sparse, just her voice and a tinkling piano and plucked ukulele, with the harmonica playing the solo for the bridge.

Begley has a distinctive voice that is well suited to the material she has recorded. It’s sort of gruff, not polished; her voice would suit the blues if she chose!

Not being all that familiar with the West Brunswick environs, I am not sure if she has captured the spirit of her suburb. However the songs and songwriting are strong, with lyrics that capture a certain essence of an urban environment.


5 in stock

SKU: TN1877-74 Category:

Additional information

Weight .130 kg
Dimensions 21 × 15 × 1.5 cm


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