Following on from yesterday’s piece, to celebrate the limited edition release for Record Store Day of five recent Festival Records compilations, Festival/WMA’s own Dave Laing offers up his fave tracks and some thoughts on the collection of country-rock - ‘Boogie! Presents Silver Roads – Australian Country-Rock & Singer-Songwriters of the ‘70s’.
And while you’re here enjoy the cover art by iconic Australian album cover and poster artist of the ‘70s , Ian McCausland.
‘Silver Roads’ is a collection of Australian country-rock that I compiled with Clinton Walker. Clinton came up with the idea originally of an Australian country-rock collection spanning a few decades – having just done ‘Boogie!’ at the time I thought it would work better just focussed on the same era as that, so that’s what we went with. Clinton came up with the initial list of tracks and we both added to it and tweaked it. It was a fun job, and a revelatory one for me – so much great music to discover, and so many preconceived notions about and biases against certain artists to be thrown out. Having long been a fan of American country rock and singer-songwriter stuff (and even English stuff like Brinsley Schwarz and Iain Matthews) and knowing only some of this stuff, it was a thrill to discover the range and quality of what was created here as well. Here’s a half-dozen of my favourites.
Johnny Chester ‘Glory Glory’
I guess I’d always had Johnny pegged as a typical Australian ‘70s conservative country artist, but I’d clearly never listened. Not only has the man a great voice but he can nail the cover of his choice (check out the great version of John D Loudermilk’s ‘Midnite Bus’ we also included on the 2CD version – I wanted that on there as a nod to Betty McQuade’s early 60s hit version, which turned the obscure Loudermilk b-side into an Aussie icon of a tune; later also covered to great effect by Sydney rockdogs X). He’s also capable of writing a song. And ‘Glory Glory’ is a GREAT song. As Clinton states in the cd liner notes, it works as something of a precursor to Paul Kelly’s ‘From St Kilda to King’s Cross’ – I’d add that it’s every bit the equal of that as a song and a record. Brisbane should adopt this as some sort of official anthem.
Lee Conway ‘I Just Didn’t Hear’
Another big name on the ‘70s Aussie country scene, Lee was always known for being an uncanny Johnny Cash sound-alike. I only recently discovered that he was hip to Lee Hazelwood too – he released a version of ‘Sand’ as a single. And this track, with its amazingly spooky production effects, obviously shows a Hazelwood influence too. It’s a very cool record, and at the core of it is a great great song, written by Lee himself… Lee’s still playing up on the Gold Coast - someone could make a great new record with this guy.
Anne Kirkpatrick ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’
*There’s nothing on YouTube for this but above is a great video from ’78
Slim Dusty’s daughter – Australian Country Royalty. Unfairly typecast, in my mind at least, as mainstream Australian country because of that. But Anne covered Gram Parsons and Gene Clark on her first album in ’74 – she was every bit Australia’s Emmylou Harris or Linda Ronstadt. That was a mindblowing revelation to me. This Gene Clark Byrds cover from ‘76, featuring Kerryn Tolhurst of Country Radio & the Dingoes, is fantastic, and correctly contextualises her as Australian COUNTRY-ROCK royalty. Check out her recent 2CD set ‘Annethology’ for more great stuff, and her ’93 album ‘Game of Love’ for her perfect reading of Paul Kelly’s ‘Cradle of Love’.
Country Radio ‘Gypsy Queen’
Greg Quill was one of the founders of Australian country-rock, and his song ‘Gypsy Queen’ (co-written by Country Radio bandmate Kerry Tolhurst, who later formed the Dingoes) opens our compilation, as it should. I remembered the song dimly from my childhood – one heard it’s not easily forgotten - and I remain bewildered as to why it’s not one of those ubiquitous and iconic Australian songs like ‘Friday On My Mind’ or ‘Because I Love’. Anyway, I had the great pleasure of making contact with Greg as this compilation was originally coming together, and was gratified that he was excited by the idea of it, and we began talking about a compilation of his ‘70s recordings, with and without his legendary band Country Radio. Sadly Greg passed away unexpectedly as our work on this compilation was nearing its end, which have the original release of it on CD great poignancy for a lot of people. And yes, that compilation of Greg’s work is still coming.
The Flying Circus ‘Silvertown Girl’
Another track not on YouTube, but above is another good one from these guys.
One of Australia’s famous pop bands of the late ‘60s and early 70s, Flying Circus are best known for a couple of odd bubblegummy hit singles, but their first album contained a couple of faithful Byrds covers and they followed that EP up with a collection of hardcore country covers. The Byrds and country influences continued forth across their next 3 albums, all of which are strong. ‘Silvertown Girl’ nails a great Byrds-like sound. Brain Cadd reckons these guys led the way here when it came to country-rock.
The Autodrifters ‘ The Birth of The Ute’
Again, not on YouTube unfortunately, but above is another track from these guys
The Autodrifters were the brainchild of Peter Lillie, long-forgotten and only recently deceased icon of the Melbourne inner city counter-cultural theatre and roots music underground, and formative figure of the so-called ‘Carlton’ scene, which itself will be the subject of another compilation soon. Lillie had come out of the Pelaco Brothers – the band from which the Sports and Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons also both came – and pursued his warped and amusing vision of subversive truck-driving music with the Autodrifters. ‘The Birth of the Ute’ was later recorded by Daddy Cool and, rumour has it Slim Dusty (Slim’s version was never released), but here we present the original in all its boxy lo-fi glory.
And a Peter Lillie tribute page can be found HERE
Be sure to get along to your favourite record store this Saturday (April 19) for your chance to score a copy of both Boogie! compilations (The original and Silver Roads) on super high quality 180 gram vinyl as well as other essential listening in the shape of A Different Kind Of Blues, Cosmic Country & Heavy Soul on the same high quality double LP wax… Don’t snooze!