Saturday 10 Sept 2005
Singing along in rural Australia
This fascinating volume is probably the first book to pull together succinctly the appropriate parts of the musical spectrum that concentrate on folk and country (particularly in Australia) and deal with the surrounding aspects of contemporary acoustic music that cross the borders between these.
Add a touch of singer-songwriter and you’ve got quite a genre.
The book begins with a
look at the evolution of the Woodford Folk Festival in
This thoughtful and
fascinating book brings together the music cultures of all the new Australians,
and those who were here long ago. The evolving Australian side of it has a huge
part in it, of course. The music
that has come here with the new chums has been adapted, incorporated — as have
the people who have come from overseas, and still come. This book takes us
through all of this. In a way this new culture has crept up on
There are interesting
side tracks in the story, as well. For example, the way in which the
“Australian rural, working aesthetic” is seen as such a positive thing — the
settler “can do” outlook. The Australian “left” discovered it in the 1950s —
Ben Hall, The Wild Colonial Boy, Moreton Bay, songs of oppression at the hands
of the employers, and the honest battlers who struggled on the land. Collectors
found songs that fed this agenda. But there was also the “soft” side of it as
well — Burl Ives singing Click Go The Shears, for example — and the
idealised bush. Theatre pitched in` with
A more global context came in the latter years of the millennium. World Music found a world stage and the Australian contribution was strong and had broad appeal through bands like the Bushwhackers. In fact this book, with its broad range and rich associations, is dealing with a huge area in Australian music. While it whets the appetite, it will inevitably leave one looking for more. And there is much more to be tapped.
But this is a wise and inclusive start. It has opened up many avenues in the tangled but uplifting quest to gather and preserve and to create more on the basis of what has been found. An incredibly rich harvest of music, song, history and truth.
Singing Australian A History of Folk and Country Music, by Graeme Smith (Pluto Press, $35).