CD review by Tony Smith
These stalwarts of the ongoing ‘folk revival’ have been producing high quality music since the 1970s.
In this album, Davies and Ilott have covered some folk classics and given us some original works.
There are several songs popularised by the Byrds, a couple written by Bob Dylan, the title track ‘Chimes of Freedom’ and ‘Lay Down Your Weary Tune’ and ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, using lyrics from the bible set to music by Pete Seeger.
These tunes hark back to the days of the Vietnam war protests.
They also do some Gary Shearston songs, ‘Tenterfield’ and ‘Shopping on a Saturday’ and ‘Isle au Haut Lullaby’ by Gordon Bok, who is one of their favourite songwriters, and Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’.
An interesting cover is a lesser known song from the 1980s ‘Summer-Winter Phase’ by Les McKinna.
The original tracks are among their best.
‘Light Across the Sea’ is a powerful plea on behalf of people incarcerated unjustly, such as asylum seekers and critics of various dictatorial regimes.
Ilott’s 2013 song ‘Whitehaven Coal’ recorded by Barleyshakes in 2015, takes aim at the greedy peddlers of fossil fuels, such as the notorious Adani.
The song asks where Whitehaven’s soul is and worries that Australia could become little more than a quarry, a ‘hole’.
‘The Round Wood’ tells of Davies’ Nottingham childhood and how the young manage to locate any bit of nature in which they can spread their wings.
Ilott’s ‘Whiskey Grass on the Line’ is an important reminder of the social and environmental destruction caused when public assets such as railways are pushed aside to allow avaricious investors to provide transport infrastructure.
The Coalition Government elected in New South Wales in 1988 was determined to destroy the railways, much to the delight of investors in toll roads, trucking companies and fuel depots.
Accidents are more likely to be fatal where heavy vehicles are involved and roads deteriorate quickly as trucks rumble over them.
These social disasters hardly matter to the ideologues of economic rationalism.
Davies (vocals, mandolin and mandola) and Ilott (vocals, acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel and bass guitar) are joined here by J.D Ilott (pedal steel, Dobro and vocals), Clara Barrs (violin), Tony Ilott (bass guitar), Tom Battle (bass guitar) and Barleyshakers Kristin Kelly (violin) and Alan Kelly (bodhran).
The arrangements by Davies and Ilott ensure that the various instruments are used to maximum advantage.
The pedal steel, for example, makes ‘Tenterfield’ an earthy song, Ilott’s banjo is a feature of his original songs and the Byrds’ covers depend heavily on the 12-string guitar.
There is a familiar and comfortable pattern to albums by these veteran writers, arrangers and performers.
Their Restless Music/ Storm King productions are always of a high quality.
There is a good balance between tunes which take the listener on a nostalgia tour and songs that discourse on very contemporary issues.
This is gentle but biting protest music and very pleasant listening.
CD Review by Pat Drummond
Roger Ilott and Penny Davies have for decades been the epitome of the Folk tradition.
They have written and recorded a multitude of songs, which chronicle and celebrate the history and tradition of Australia, particularly that of the Northern Tablelands.
Based in Stanthorpe, Queensland, they have also been the driving force in the production and recording of many albums by other Aussie Folk artists, including the legendary Gary Shearston.
In every way as important as preserving the traditions of the past, however, Folk Music has always set its sights on being the impetus for improving the world of the future.
This is another reason that Roger and Penny’s albums across the years have been so admirable.
They carry on the tradition of the ‘protest’ song which has also been a very big part of that genre’s heritage.
Both these factors have come forcefully together in two recently released CDs entitled, Chimes of Freedom and Pyramids Road.
Chimes of Freedom begins with a powerful self-penned song, ‘Light Across the Sea’, which speaks out for the dispossessed refugees who have been forced from their homes only to be imprisoned and persecuted in the many countries in which they sought asylum.
The next track takes us back gently to the historical facet of the Folk Tradition with the track “Tenterfield’.
This song, penned by Gary Shearston, tells the story of the influential Federation Movement speech which was delivered in that town and led Australia towards becoming a unified nation.
The album Chimes of Freedom is a wonderful journey that leads us across an array of Folk classics and recent inspirational songs which call for change.
It incorporates both original and ‘covers’ material.
The stand-out tracks for me include, ‘Whitehaven Coal’, which confronts the destruction of our farmlands, our heritage areas and our water supplies by the mining corporations and the classic, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, penned by Pete Seeger from The Book of Ecclesiastes, which was a huge hit for The Byrds in the 1960’s.
Traditional Folk, Folk/Rock and elements of Australian Country Music come together seamlessly on this CD.