CD review by Jane Bower
Jim Low is a singer/song writer, historian, folklorist, and published author from the Blue Mountains in NSW.
He has made four CDs released between 2010 and 2016 of mostly his own compositions.
The titles in order of release are ‘Above the Creek Bed’(2010),’The Further I Travel’ (2012), ‘Across the Blue Mountains’ (2013) and ‘Journey’s End’ (2016).
Jim’s deep curiosity in past and present Australian stories has motivated his many travels to places of interest and to meet fascinating people.
Many of his encounters and experiences have led to the writing of his songs.
Just over a decade ago, Jim approached Jason and Chloe Roweth, both well-known exponents of Australian folk music who have a recording studio in Milthorpe NSW, to set down some of his songs.
He planned to provide his own accompaniment.
Lowe plays guitar and mouth harp.
However, Jim was easily convinced to include the Roweths in the creative process, and to his delight, their musicianship and harmonies resulted in a more generous sound.
All of his CDs have been produced in collaboration with the Roweths.
Sixty three tracks in all, fifty four from his own pen, four are adaptions from the works of Australian poet, Jim Harper, (born 1878) and the remaining songs are covers.
Lowe’s style is consistent, with his songs documenting and reflecting on Australia’s sociopolitical and factual history, and pleasingly, the odd love song.
Tracks are delivered effortlessly with focus on the lyrics and complementary accompaniment including harmonies, mandolin, electric guitar, fretless semi-acoustic bass and mouth harp.
Jim’s love of the country, its history and its characters shine through all his work.
It’s obvious he has an insatiable appetite for Australian stories that can be best told through song.
One of my favourite songs, ‘With the Poet Lorekeet’ from the album ‘Across the Blue Mountains’ is a reflection on his time spent walking in the bush with poet Dennis Kevans and gives insight regarding both men’s philosophy of composing and their relationship with the landscape.
‘Luna Park’ from ‘The Further I Travel’ conjures up images from childhood that may have been forgotten and celebrates the richness of the past, a theme of many of the tracks.
‘Above the Creek Bed’ includes a song about singer/songwriter Gary Shearston, who has been a major influence on Jim’s songwriting (his words) and the last four lines could equally apply to Jim himself.
“And your songs, they are important.
“Their music and their rhyme
“For they document this country
“And they’ll stand the test of time.”
Many of Low’s songs introduce us to lesser known Australian characters, always empathising with the battler, or give new insights into well known Australian heroes.
Others document and reflect on events mostly from the working person’s perspective.
None of Jim Low’s songs would be out of place sung around a campfire under the Southern Cross.
Although there is never any doubt regarding Low’s stance on social justice and violence, his views are never ‘thrust down the listener’s throat’.
Susannah Low, Jim’s daughter, is responsible for all the albums’ artwork, which has a distinctly Australian ‘bush aesthetic’ – eucalypts, outback views and corrugated iron abound.
The lyrics and background notes are provided for every track and, coupled with photographic imagery, make every song very accessible.
I think an album of various Australian performers presenting Jim Low’s songs in a range of different styles would make his catalogue of work even more accessible to the Australian folk music audience.
‘Journey’s End’ is Jim Low’s most recent output, but I hope the title is not hinting that it will be the last of his creative output.
Jim has a website where you can access his podcasts, poetry, written articles and songs.