CD review by Tony Smith
There are some Chinese characters on this CD, largely because Perth based Jane Germain proudly acknowledges her Manchurian ancestry.
Germain is no slouch.
She is on ‘5 String Circus’, the 2018 Banjo Babes calendar with internationally acclaimed country and bluegrass instrumentalists.
She collaborates with Ian Simpson on country style tracks and in 2010 they represented Australia at the World Expo in China.
They have toured there and worked with Chinese musicians including the Mongolian rock musicians Hanggai, taking their music beyond the conventional.
She has received numerous awards and recognitions including the song of the year award at the 2016 Composers Festival for ‘Listen To What You Know’.
For the eight tracks on this CD, one of several on her website, Germain is joined by The Dreamers: John Reed (cittern), Steve Garde (guitars), Steve Prescott (bass), Ashley Cook (drums), Jim Fisher (guitars, mandolin and bass) and Brian Booy (drums).
This backing gives the album a country rock or even a rhythm and blues feeling rather than country and western.
A lyrics sheet shows many metaphorical and literal references to natural phenomena such as rain, rainbow, sky, sunlight, shadows, night, mountain, valley, stars, thunder, rock, ice, sea, storm, web, fire, hill, eagles, clouds, autumn, day, dawning, world, horizon, ground, moon, field, flowers, trees and water.
On the title song, ‘Free Spirit’, Germain sings her own harmony.
This track has an impressive instrumental break with a slightly Oriental feel evoked by the cittern.
‘Somebody Tell Me’ – ‘why does it (love) have to be so hard’ is a slower track.
Some excellent bass is a feature of ‘Aint Gonna Run’.
To me, ‘Living on the Edge’ is the most enjoyable track.
The arrangement and guitar work is very Dire Straits.
Other tracks include ‘Different light’, ‘How Many Times’, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Speed of Light’.
Overall, the theme of the album is yearning for freedom.
The songs urge us to ‘Listen to your heart’, a recommendation based in experience which is sometimes bitter.
It is unclear whether this album was recorded in a studio and then made its way to the festival screen
There is some lovely vocal harmony with Jane’s singing, but in the absence of any acknowledgement of vocal backing, it is safe to assume that this could be Jane herself multi-tracking.
Another small mystery is the picture of Jane with mandolin on the CD cover.
But overall, this album has good variety, nice arrangements, skilful playing of instruments and powerful singing.