Music Review: Wagons – Rumble Shake & Tumble

When I first saw The Proposition, the 2005 Australia-based Western about an outlaw (Guy Pearce) forced to kill his older brother, I was taken by what Vincent Vega (to mix movie metaphors) is the “little differences.” The narrative was familiar and there were cultural parallels (at least cinematic)  between late nineteenth century Australia and the American West and Southwest.

This is the feeling I get when listening to the Australian roots-rock band Wagons recent fourth release Rumble, Shake & Tumble. There are elements of the familiar that are then twisted and elevated to strange and inspired places. the album kicks off with Downlow,a tale of clandestine romance done in as a jangly Tom Petty-style number complete with scorching lead and 80’s-era humming synths. I Blew It is thumping rockabilly tune that has Henry Wagons careening his baritone growling a lost-love lament. Moon Into The Sun is a front-porch ditty that shimmers with pedal-steel and hillbilly Buddhist pronouncements like  “Everybody’s as happy as they want to be.”

Willie Nelson is a slinky-stomp ode to the Texas Yoda, well to the idea of him anyway since there’s really no details in the song relating the the legendary icon. It’s more testament to great music and a reason to jam. Love Is Burning channels fellow Aussie (and script writer for the aforementioned movie, The Proposition.) Nick Cave and is smoldering with lust and menace like a ,well, a Nick Cave song.  My Daydream is a spacey country-tinged number that sound like a collaboration of Gram Parsons and David Bowie ( Singer Henry Wagons’ voice even sound eerily like the Thin White Duke at times.) Save Me is a Civil War-style and honky-tonk mash-up telling a tale of dispare and redemption

Henry Wagons  drummers/bassists Mark Dawson and Si Francis, guitarists Chad Mason and Richard Blaze, and keyboardist Matthew Hassett made a big noise at the 2011 SXSW a nd it’s easy to hear why. Rumble, Shake and Tumble  is a study in American music from an Australian bands perspective. the album will have you coming back again and again to peel back layer after layer of influence and nuance served with an edgy modern twist.

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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQN3-Ik7znM[/youtube]

Album Review – The Wildes – Ballad of a Young Married Man (Release Date 3/09)

Ever since seeing the darkly striking Australian western The Proposition I’ve been fascinated with the similarities between the Land Down Under and the American South and West of the nineteenth century, both good (confronting a wild frontier to achieve independence and establish a society) and bad  (attacking and displacing an indigenous people.) Now due to The Wildes, an Americana/alt.country band from Victoria, Australia, I am now just as fascinated with roots music as interpreted in the land of Oz.

Some of the cuts on Ballad of a Young Married Man take an old-testament page from fellow countryman Nick Cave (and script writer for the aforementioned movie The Proposition). The title song, “Jack the Blacksmith,” “Nothing” and the tribal drum-beat brooder “Slap-Back Mary” could have all come from Cave if was inclined to pen country-hued songs.

The chugging “Streets of My Hometown” carries the DNA of Steve Earle’s Hometown Blues and the sweetly melancholic Sue-Ellen” sounds like a lost Waterboys cut. “If I’ve Done You Wrong” is a organ backed barroom weeper that basks in its unrepentant spirit and the wonderfully reflective “Loverman” is a rustic beauty. The bonus track Broken Blossoms is a piano and banjo bawler that I imagine could have been penned by that trash can troubadour Tom Waits. The Wildes cover a wide expanse of Americana dirt roads and wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, but their interpretation on these styles are uniquely their own.

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Sweet Teresa.mp3