Rhonda Mawer – Nobody’s Fault
CD review by Tony Smith
TN2516 – $20 TN154 Feb 23
As the sleeve notes explain, Rhonda Mawer has been singing since about 1970 at folk clubs, in concert and on radio.
In that time she has collaborated with some serious company, and a photo montage reveals her with the Wheeze and Suck Band and many others.
Mawer describes her music as a mix of traditional tunes, old blues and jug band favourites.
She covers Martha Copeland’s ‘Desert Blues’ from 1928, Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’, Memphis Minnie’s ‘Me and My Chaffeur’ from 1941, Clara Smith’s ‘Whip it to a Jelly’ from 1926, Stephen Foster’s ‘Hard Times’, Peggy Lee’s ‘I’m a Woman’, Maria Muldaur’s ‘Ain’t Gonna Marry’, Mississippi John Hurt’s ‘Richland Woman’ and Henry Thomas’ ‘Fishing Blues’.
Mawer sings these blues songs very strongly.
Her lower register flows naturally, and the deep feeling in these songs is obvious.
The traditional songs are ‘Lord Franklin’, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, ‘The False Bride’ and ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me’.
Given that most traditional songs have been covered many times, Mawer does well to give these tracks original treatments.
‘The False Bride’ is one that shows just how true Rhonda Mawer’s voice is.
Mawer also covers ‘Sither’ by Colin Dryden and ‘Reading Gaol’ by Oscar Wilde/ Dryden.
Dryden covered mostly traditional songs from England’s north from where he migrated to enrich the Australian folk scene.
The lyrics of ‘Sither’ include: Weft and weave it was your game/ ten thousand hours upon the frame/ then walking home in the driving rain/ with a brand new watch and a pension.
She thanks Naomi Dryden-Smith for keeping the songs of Colin Dryden alive.
These two tracks are a very natural fit with the others.
Dryden’s songs should certainly not be forgotten and we all should thank Mawer.
Supporting artists on various tracks include Garry Steel on keys and accordion, Andy George on guitars and vocal, Alan Meadows on harmonica, mandolin and vocals, and, Adam Barnard and Rosie McDonald on harmonies.
With experienced studio musicians such as these, Mawer had a head start.
And of course, Marcus Holden as usual contributed arrangements and production and numerous instruments including bowed and plucked strings, recorder and ‘harmonies etc etc.
Holden mastered and recorded the CD at Bloody Dog studio in 2022.
Mawer dedicates the album to her late brother Graeme and what a fine tribute it is.
Rhonda Mawer smiles from the front cover of the CD, surrounded by colourful flowers.
This is an album which any potential listener would open in a good mood, and they will stay happy when they hear these 15 familiar tracks so expertly covered.