Billy Bragg has been out of my thoughts for a while now. I missed his  ‘Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me’ tour back in October last year. The tours main focus was to celebrate the legacy of Woody Guthrie. A major influence on Bragg, a shared road of folk and protest.

Americana can often seem to be the last refuge of the scoundrel. Artists with roots in rockier realms with nothing left suddenly remember how much they love the slide guitar. But this is not the case with Braggs latest.  This seems so natural for him, a heartfelt affinity with this ilk. On Tooth & Nail Billy is looking better than he ever has, a silver fox maturity, even his voice has changed in accent and octaves, his emotion and delivery sturdyBragg. A downbeat weary passion strolls through every song. The words and arrangements keeping the listener focused and moved. Tales of romance, honesty and defeat.

January Song opens with a beautiful heart, a sadness “I’m so tightly wound in tension, feel just like a guitar string. Waiting to reveal emotions, touch me and you’ll hear me sing” moving into dabs of  questioning “politicians selling freedom, bumper sticker 50 cents, ask him what he wants to be free from, answer don’t make any sense.”

No One Knows Nothing Anymore gives us our first taste of slide, lyrics a modern setting for ancient questions of life are gorgeously realised.  It’s psychedelic ending swirls gently with neon tumbleweeds. Handyman Blues gets a laugh, jug band steps and strings gives us a witty look at the struggle and justification of the artist trying to make a living with his gift of song.

Hearing Bragg tackle the man of the hour, Woody Guthrie’s I Ain’t Got No Home, is perfect. A reverence, simple acoustic with a shiver of cymbal rumbles in the dust and dirt. The songs continue to mosey on. Swallow My Pride choked tears of love and forgiveness, Do Unto Others and Over You grow into a more swinging lament. Goodbye Goodbye should make this years greatest funeral songs top ten list – but you can’t dismiss too offhand as it soars above in a sorrowful contentedness. Bragg moves into Boss territory with There Will Be A Reckoning  three more tracks finish this 12 track homage. Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Better Day ends this songbook of soul and journey perfectly. Bragg has given us  porch songs to stare into sky and horizons, lay back into its filtered sunlight and be still. I’m glad I found this piece of Billy Bragg’s life story to add to my collection.


Music Music Reviews Uncategorized


Abbe May

Kiss My Apocalypse

Abbe MayPulsing with the flow of blood, a heartbeat. Abbe May’s latest release pumps through your arteries into a smooth, moody distortion, weaving through a poetic patwa on Tantric Romantic. Suburban meanderings take on a lustful exotic yearning. “Love zombie with a taste for love not evil”…and the guitar wails with pain and want.

What an evocative opening to Abbe’s latest release. Interwoven with micro sounds and real meat on the bones.  My curiosity and excitement was peaked back in December when I had the pleasure of a sneak earful, of Kiss My Apocalypse, on her last tour in Sydney.  Abbe showcased and teased us with what she had sonically conjured and we were left in awe.

This CD is a side step away from her previous route of guitar and kick-it-in-the guts rhythms. Her style has taken on a delicious bizarro pop edge. Perth Girls moves with the sway of a belly dance and delves into a complicated competitive relationship.The strength of T R O U B L E was seductive enough on its first listen, the need to revisit its intensity and drama is well founded. This track is the ‘siren’s song’ for me…the whole album is mesmeric. You can’t help but stare and surrender. I love her playfulness with vocals. At times they have such another worldliness, an urgency and surreal dreamlike intensity.

So special to have at this album’s centre the masterpiece that is Karmageddon. This song has as underbelly that is so personal it burns your cheeks red. This is where the Abbe May experience spikes – it’s hypnotic electronic echoes back a trancelike breath.

Things start to flow down the mountain. Want Want Want accompanies a slower tempo and sits on  a pedestal to highlight Abbe’s unique vocal arrangements, a perfect chance as a listener to regain composure after such a thrilling track.

FUCK/LOVE – another micro with it’s backward David Lynch-ion vocals – is an aural link to the raw operatic rat tat tat of Sex Tourettes. This song simply burns with menace and drama.  Napalm Baby is a sweet guitar under a heavy drumbeat – indulgent but grows. The printed words show a symmetry to Abbe May’s lyrics. It is poetry. It is electronic. It is brilliant. Abbe May reminds me of no one but herself and this makes Kiss My Apocalypse a stand out this year.

Music Reviews

Inner City Sounds


Blackie lights up the corner of The Midnight Special




Sunday April 21, 2013

Dig It Up! is NOT for everybody ‘ explains our host, bon vivant and lead singer of  the Hoodoo Gurus – Dave Faulkner …’and it’s abundance and variety is best appreciated by those with educated palates‘. Yes, yes…our inner city cool egos have been perfectly massaged for buying tickets and may one add, worth every strong Australian dollar. Which, on reflection, must be the seduction and drive for many visiting overseas legends to our capital cities of late. No railway wall is left  bare, as midnight renegades paste posters and tape telegraph poles with the next internationals. An autumnal Sydney arvo had us late risers struggling with our duvees, donning the dark glasses, flaunting our T-Shirt cred (original faded Plimsouls circa 1980 spotted) and venturing to Enmore for a music festival with a difference.

The street was filling with hardcore survivors, faces beaming with past sins talking reverently of venues long gone demolished, facades kept, insides gutted. A unique experience to walk from venue to venue to see various acts was a fun and inspired jaunt along the footpath. Enmore’s big sister – Newtown’s King Street  – has been slowly oozing itself further downtown,  its tendrils of edgy chic licking the boarded and bored shopfronts, a new lease and a new era.

Dark & intimate bars  like The Midnight Special beckon – imagine a small drinking room near the canals of Amsterdam, with their foot in Americana but located in Sydney. This haven of local beer & classic cocktails was the perfect venue to sit on the floor and dream along to the mind and pixie pop acoustic brilliance of Hard Ons‘ guitarist Blackie. The room vacuumed in pin dropping silence, all ears and eyes fixed. At the same venue, one could claim  prime position to witness Radio Birdman icon Deniz Tek strip down Love Kills and make the chosen few drop their jaws at the sheer thrill of being a participant in such a privileged locked door.

Deniz Tek

Deniz Tek

I suppose that is the only downside to this event. The smaller venues so packed, that doors had to be closed. Punters turned away. Fortunately, there was always something else to check out and plenty on the main stage, so we only felt a little sorry for the faces squished against the tinted glass, crying to get in.This ain’t your ordinary ‘summer of love’ outdoor heat of the larger festivals. Dig It Up! is spliced up between small venues and pubs that line the terraces then culminating in the mother ship – one of the few last bastions of the musically damned – the Enmore Theatre .

We scurry like rats in and out of lanes and doorways, welcomed into the rooms like long lost brothers, polite cameraderie abounds as we squeeze into better vantage points. No chance of ruining that lily white glow as you sneak down to the The Sly Fox and catch a few offerings.  The Frowning ClownsThe Frowning Clouds – a five piece of youth from Geelong – ripped the conceited smirks straight off the ancient ones, the recognisable seasoned muso’s from a scene past.  Young faces chanelling a sixties Detroit punk sensibility reminiscent of the more than obscure Grosse Point garage strums of the Index, a band who’s history is well worth exploring ( and so are the frowning ones,  immediately likeable with their skewiff guitar and off kilter beats.

The Frowning Clouds

The Frowning Clouds

The Enmore Theatre housed the main bands, and the feature of these gigs would have to be the guitar – well it is ‘The Hoodoo Gurus Invitational’ and this sophomore year they would be playing the whole of their 1985 epic album Mars Needs Guitars, and we certainly had them here today, plugged and unplugged. Tumbleweed flipped us all out, rock hair as long, vocals familiar and physiques as strong as ever. It was good to see these Wollongong lads back.

Richie Lewis danced like the unwanted guest at a wedding

Richie Lewis danced like the unwanted guest at a wedding

The Nerves legend Peter Case and his band took over and after headed down solo to The Midnight Special for his own acoustic set of blues and country, interspersed with enthralling musings

Peter case

Peter Case chills with the locals

Dig It Up 225

Steve Diggle & Pete Shelly

Buzzcocks came out kicking and screaming, hundreds of old bastards watched perpetually nodding  and dancing as faves were shot out into the crowd.

Flaming Groovies 2Flamin’ Groovies‘  ‘Shake Some Action ‘ threatened to crack the floorboards when a thousand feet jumped and when Blue Oyster Cult hit the stage, Midnigh Specialthe lights shimmied with aliens, all eyes on Buck Dharma’s fingers as he effortlessly stroked and dazzled us. So the biggest thanks would have to go out to the Hoodoo boys who’s set – ended a big day brilliantly, so many bands! It Was impossible to see them all.But such is life. Now in it’s second year, the invitational will surely become a sought after event, secretly though I kinda want to keep it to myself – it’s cooler that way.Midnight Spec Inside