[Published in The Sydney Morning Herald, July 08/2016]
Heart Of The Rat Records
A “unique fusion of the traditional and avant-garde” is how Matt Malone’s debut album is described, and for once it’s not merely publicity hot air. Stripped and bare in the outlaw country tradition but with the menace and slow stabbing guitar of a Rowland S Howard special, S.I.X is all doom and gloom, sometimes whispered sometimes bursting from Malone’s throat all spittle and bile. He’s not afraid of space, of shimmer, of spotlighting his wavering, slightly grotesque wail.
The Beast, an eleven minute epic, chugs along slowly courtesy of the acoustic guitar riff while electric shimmers paint the background black as Malone intones over the top, his voice the instrument bringing the song to its couple of climaxes. Haunting backing vocals. The song seems to stop a couple of times in the middle but then rebirths and carries on. Maldoror begins with the crackling of a low fire, builds slowly, Malone’s vocal ragged as old cloth, building to an electric fuzz. Revelation Law is perhaps the most country song on the record, but it’s fractured and broken, somehow rebuilt into something which makes an eerie sense. Which is an apt way to describe the entire record – dissonant, cracked, haunted. Fantastic.
Samuel J. Fell
[Published in Rolling Stone, November 2016]
Let Love Rule
Archie Roach’s tenth record is a gem. At its core is the theme of love, but overall it’s an eleven song-long message of hope, “what I wish for” as Roach himself says. Covering a range of styles, Let Love Rule centres around his deep and rough-edged voice, the mainstay through these songs which paint vivid pictures of a theme which in no way seems clichéd or overused, not in Roach’s hands anyway.
The addition of the Dhungala Children’s Choir and the Short Black Opera Choir on the title track and No More Bleeding is a masterstroke; Jen Anderson’s violin throughout plays a pivotal role; the songwriting is poignant and as strong as ever, on an album which fair oozes soul and honesty.
Samuel J. Fell
Key Tracks: Let Love Rule, Mighty Clarence River, No More Bleeding
[Published in The Sydney Morning Herald / The Age, December 09/2016]
With his eleventh studio album, Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock has proven, once again, that he is indeed the master of juke joint swing. The Austin, Texas-based Hancock, who’s been active since the late ‘70s (although not releasing his debut record until 1995), delivers here a set that embodies the foot-stompin’ American south; a melding of western swing, hillbilly and country, along with elements of jazz, to create a sound that, while a throw-back, comes across as fresh today as it would have been in the day of Bob Wills.
With a crack band behind him, Hancock is at the height of his powers – the humid and slow Dog Day Blues, the rollicking title track, the jazz-inflected instrumental Over Easy, a fine reimagining of Merle Travis’ Divorce Me C.O.D. The man’s laconic delivery, his mastery of the form, all this combines to create a record which just flows – it’s not forced, it’s not pre-meditated, it’s not slick and sharp. Nope, it’s a Friday night in a lean-to tonk somewhere in Texas, sweat running down your back as you shuffle across the dance floor, cold Lone Star beer in hand – a cracking release from the master.
Samuel J. Fell