Aussie Blue

Notes about the album

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Aussie Blue marked Gary Shearston's return to Australia from his years of 'exile', mostly spent in Britain, including the fruitful period in London in the mid-70's which produced Dingo and The Greatest Stone On Earth...

Gary returned to Sydney in 1988 and decided it was time to come home for good. While folk club audiences obliged him to re-learn old favourites from his large repertoire of the '60's, Gary was soon pursuing a new musical project.

Aussie Blue is a celebration of homecoming, but not a celebration given voice in jingoism and trite sentimentality. There's a bit of a 'warts and all' sense to his recollections of Australia past and invocations of Australia's future. Reviewers have compared this approach favourably to Australia's best-known jingoist songwriter, John Williamson, and the more internationally known cabaret-style songwriter Peter Allen (coincidentally from Tenterfield, the same district of country New South Wales as Shearston).

The title and opening track on the album ranges across the distance and diversity of Australia, setting the scene for more personal reminiscences such as Shopping On A Saturday, perhaps the best-known song on the album since it won the prestigious country music industry award, the Tamworth Songwriters' Association's Bush Ballad Of The Year (1990).

The album also contains songs from Shearston's time overseas, and some very personal reflections. Crafty Old Captain recalls a nearly-fatal yachting incident when he was caught in a storm off the coast of Cornwall. The Holy Spirit Of Redemptive Love is a reminder of the spiritual threads woven through much of Gary Shearston's songwriting, and a foretaste of the direction he was to take soon after in becoming ordained within the Anglican Church.

The album includes contributions from a prestigious list of session musicians under the accomplished direction of producers Alistair Jones and Rod Coe. For impartial assessment of their achievements, however, read on...

(SH)

 

Press Reviews

Bruce Elder (Sydney Morning Herald)

Gary Shearston has always been heir to the (Henry) Lawson tradition. A long time radical... it seems entirely appropriate that he should put Lawson's expatriate lament, A Voice From The City, to music to give voice to his long years in exile.

It is equally appropriate that, like Lawson, he should see the bush as a world of hardship and suffering leavened only by the romanticism of nostalgia or distance...

(In the title track, Aussie Blue) Shearston... dramatically demonstrates the difference between clever sloganeering and intelligent lyric writing. Aussie Blue is a series of superbly constructed images of Australia which range across time and space from convict Tasmania, through east-coast summer beach culture, to gold and opal prospecting.

The result is a collage of images, some painful, some nostalgic, some light-hearted, which evoke the diversity and complexity of Australia.

Bryan Patterson, (Sunday Age, Melbourne) 11/89

A haunting collection of marvellous compositions that demand a hearing. Despite his years away, Shearston has not lost touch with the broad Australian images that inspire most of his work.

 

 

 


Mike McClellan (Sunday Telegraph, Sydney) (8 Oct 89)

It is an album rich in imagery, from the wonderfully evocative Shopping On A Saturday which delicately sketches his boyhood, to the broad impressionistic canvas of Aussie Blue. As primarily a lyricist, his is a vision of Australia unencumbered by romantic sentimentality. It is a world all too real and yet infinitely more appealing.

But this is an album you should not expect to like immediately. Shearston's flat, nasal vocal style will take a little getting used to, and his simple folk-derived melodies may at first seem repetitive.

But within that repetition you will begin to understand the subtle power in Shearston's songs.

That power is nowhere better demonstrated than in The Dream Will Never Die. Shearston builds the death of a swagman into an extended metaphor lamenting the loss of innocence and the past that is no longer relevant to a rapidly changing Australia.

Aussie Blue will stand comparison with the best work of any writer in the traditional folk-country field. It should be required listening for anyone who professes to understand what it means to be Australian.

Paul Watson (The Age, Melbourne) 25/10/89
(concert review)

Shearston's) attributes as a songwriter really came to light... in the songs from his new Aussie Blue album.

Shearston and his six-string guitar spoke eloquently enough of patriotic concerns, without any of the mawkish sentimentality of (Peter Allen's) I Still Call Australia Home.

For me, the highlight... was Shopping On A Saturday, a lively and apparently straightforward reminiscence from Shearston's own childhood with an underlying romance that must rank with anything written by an Australian since (Henry) Lawson or Banjo Paterson.

Paul Watson (The Age, Melbourne) 10/11/89

Really good Australian records are few and far between, especially once you leave the pop music industry behind. But this release by Gary Shearston must rank with the best records of the decade.

It is filled with warmth, humour, and concern, but contains none of the schmaltz we have come to expect from some home-grown songwriters.

Shearston's subjects range from country fun to city parody, taking in some of his overseas experiences along the way.

The title track, The Dream Will Never Die, and Shopping On A Saturday are great songs that would sit proudly with the best.

You might have trouble finding this record, but persevere, it will be worth it.

Bruce Elder (Rolling Stone) 12/89

There's a moving version of Henry Lawson's lament A Voice From The City. A marvellous evocation of country life circa 1945 on Shopping On A Saturday, a couple of tantalisingly beautiful songs about the ties that bind Australia and Ireland, and the definitive statement on the urban lunacy which informs life for aging members of the Balmain intelligentsia...

This is the album of a middle-aged radical who has mellowed . There is little anger, a lot of reflectiveness, a certain element of regret for things left undone and intentions unrealised, and a sense of reconciliation and gentleness.

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