Warren Fahey – A Panorama of Bush Songs


I’ve spent a good part of my life travelling the Australian bush and, during the sixties, seventies and early eighties, I spent three months a year, for almost twenty years, travelling this extraordinary country from mountains to the seas, from deserts to the far flung corners of the mythical Outback. I’ve smelt dust storms, salty oceans, pine-scented gullies, stretching gum forests and that distinctive smell of the bush at night and early morn. These are smells that I will carry to my grave and are inexplicitly bound to my own view of what the bush represents. The bush is also people, extraordinary people, who live in the history of the people who pioneered this complex land. These are the determined pioneers who sweated to build farms in the middle of nowhere and found themselves fighting bushfires one month and floods the next. Then voracious insects would swoop down on their crops one season and followed by drought the next. These are the pioneers who shrugged their shoulders and bravely battled on to make Australia what it is today. They should never be forgotten and the songs on this collection celebrate their and our survival.

Let me get one thing straight here. I became a singer by default rather than a natural journey. For years I described myself as ‘Australia’s best known shower singer’ because that’s how I saw myself. I started to learn songs because, as a product of the nineteen sixties folk revival, I realised that there were very few Australian songs being sung so I started learning them for my own amusement. A stint in Newcastle provided a launch pad and I well remember that first night when my knees knocked like the bells of St Mary’s. I was filling in for a singer who hadn’t arrived and I’ve never stopped singing. My main reason for singing was to perform the songs that I had collected off old time singers and, later on, unusual songs from other collectors. I have never been interested in singing the ‘folk top 40’ and would much prefer to give life to some variant or long asleep ditty. Looking back I have to admit to a repertoire unlike anyone else I have ever met. I like this aspect of being a singer and being able to give songs a new life. There is also the fact that I am a ‘ham’ and enjoy the opportunity of treading the boards – be it a stage, a radio microphone or across a dining room table.

I love the old bush songs because they tell our Australian story like no other medium. They are emotional time capsules that have been handed down from singer to singer and, in the traditional process, given the occasional polish or even straightening out. I particularly love singing songs that I have a personal relationship with as a collector. Whenever I sing a song taped from Joe Watson, Cyril Duncan, Jack Pobar, or any other song carrier, I feel involved with that story and the responsibility of passing the song on to an audience. Some songs I have been singing for over thirty years and others are only new to my memory bank. Many of the songs were initially learnt so I could include them in ABC Radio programming. Others I learnt as part of The Larrikins repertoire. I still learn songs that tickle my fancy and I still get caught at traffic lights singing at full bore. It sure beats listening to commercial radio and so called popular music.

I am a folklorist more than a singer and this has coloured my repertoire and, I hope, the way I view and perform songs. For instance, The Nugget Family, a song included in the collection, is an important song from the gold rush era however I have never heard anyone else sing this comic song. I have recorded hundreds of bush songs and this selection just scrapes the side of the barrel. I will release more if only as a document of what is available to other singers.

On this compact disc you will find bushranger ballads, shearing songs, droving tales, colonial ballads, seafaring songs and even a few songs about love – a real mixed swag.

“Larrikins, Louts & Layabouts (Folk Songs and Ditties from the City) These two CDs really belong together and so are reviewed together here as one package (although available separately). Together they contain 64 Australian songs, recorded by Warren Fahey over a span of 30 years or so, and come from archives of recordings made at various festivals, concerts and studio recordings. The music for the albums was selected and produced by Warren Fahey and David Mulhallen (who did most of the work). Musically, Warren was supported by his famous group The Larrikins and individually by these musicians in various combinations: Dave de Hugard (button accordion, piano accordion, Anglo concertina), Bob McInnes (fiddler & mandolin), Cathie O’Sullivan (Celtic steel-strung harp & tin whistle), Chris Kempstcr (guitar), Andy Saunders (fiddle, mandolin, tin whistle & guitar), Andrew de Teliga (mandolin, fiddle, guitar and whatever else is in the studio), Declan Affley (guitar & tin whistle), John Morris (guitar), Margaret Walters (vocal backing), Jacko Kevans (piano accordion & anglo concertina). Each CD is supported by a beautifully laid-out and very informative 28 page booklet. These two major new releases are a very welcome and important addition to the recorded music of Australian folk songs available today. The 27 “Bush Songs” are a traditional treasure chest of great songs and Australian history of the bush and contain many songs not previously available on disc. There are 37 songs and ditties on the “Larrikins…” album and it contains a lot of funny and witty material, including some great political satire songs from the 70s and 80s.This is a unique collection of these types of songs and most likely a first in Australia. Warren is the vocalist on all the songs and he does a great job in performing all these songs, demonstrating great insight and dedication to his chosen material. If you wish to know more about these two CDs, have a look art Warren’s very informative website www.warrenfahey. corn. It contains complete details about the background, musicians, full song descriptions, and track listing with some sound samples.” Review by Dieter Bajzek.

“Warren Fahey has been promoting Australian folk music in various forms for well over thirty years as festival organiser, concert promoter, record shop and label owner and as a performer. His band, The Larrikins, existed in various lineups for many years, making a number of commercial recordings on Larrikin Records and many others mainly for David Mulhallen’s series of folk music programs for the ABC. These two CDs are drawn mostly from these ABC tapes and are divided, as the titles might suggest, into songs from the bush and others from the city. Fahey has a distinctive singing style, which I have always enjoyed, an is, I suspect, very much influenced by older traditional singers he has met and recorded over the years. What the accompaniment lacked was any real sense of doing anything interesting with the material. It is just about always a matter of everyone starting at the beginning, playing the tune and finishing at the end. This may have been a deliberate stylistic approach, or merely constrained by ABC recording budgets, but it always limited the musical appeal. At the same time, there are so few recordings available of decently recorded Australian folk songs that these are certainly welcome. Both are generously programmed CDs, with 27 songs on the Bush CD and 37 tracks on the City disc, though some of these are quite short fragments. Some songs have appeared on older recordings, in different arrangements, but many were recorded specifically for ABC broadcast and have not been previously available.” Review by Julius Timmerman.

About the artist: Offering a unique repertoire of rare broadsides, goldfields minstrel songs, old bush songs, larrikin ditties, children’s rhymes and songs about early city slickers. Warren Fahey is joined by fellow ‘larrikins’ Marcus Holden, Clare O’Meara and Garry Steel.

2 in stock (can be backordered)

SKU: TN315-43 Category:

Additional information

Weight .200 kg
Dimensions 22 × 16 × .50 cm


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