Regular followers of Counting The Beat will know that I'm not averse to slipping the odd country number into the mix. Liking country music kind of took me by surprise. A few years back I would sooner have poked my eyes out with a rusty fork than listen to anything with a twang. Something happened though and now there are country albums in my all-time top 10.
Every year the New Zealand country music community celebrates and recognises their best at the Gold Guitar Awards. However, just about every year the interesting and innovative is overlooked in favour of cliched, big hats and checked shirt country. Take, for example, 2007. A great, thoughtful, lyrically powerful self titled album by the Warren Love Band sadly, but predictably lost out to the Topp Twins whose album Flowergirls and Cowgirls actually came out in 2005.
This year, however, a song I actually like has taken an award at the Gold Guitars. Jess Chambers (pictured above) won APRA best country song with 'Stringing Me Along' which comes from The Woolshed Sessions album which Jess participated in along with the likes of Lee Prebble and Age Pryor. The Woolshed Sessions is a nice album with a laid-back folky feel that means it gets played on National Radio and enough members of the super-cool Wellington music scene to also get airtime on the bnet stations. Jess's self titled album with the firefly Orchestra is also a great listen and you can hear a live performance recorded for National Radio (stream). There's a video for 'Stringing Me Along' on the video page along with a couple of others by, or featuring, Jess Chambers.
Also featured on the podcast are a couple of other kiwi country favourites that won't turn your brain to mush. 'Already Broken' is the title track from a 1999 album by Wellington band Pit Pony, a vehicle for the songs of Steven Hinderwell. It's a good album with nice touches of mandolin, banjo and lap stell along with vocals from Catherine George and Steve Roche along with a guest spot from Shihad's Jon Toogood. You may still be able to pick up a copy at Slowboat Records in Wellington.
The Shot Band are another Wellington group but they play a more rocky bar-room brand of country. In fact their first E.P. was titled Songs About Drinking and Dying. The band also released a self titled album in 2005, but have gone quiet since proposing a tour in 2008 that didn't come off. There's a 2006 performance recorded by National Radio here (stream) and a clip for the opening track from that album, 'My Lord' on the video page.
To finish I've got a classic from 1974 - Dawn Garmson with her song 'New Zealand needs a Country Hall of Fame' - yodels and all.
Download the Counting The Beat - Country Music podcast
Don't miss the next episode of Counting The Beat: Counting The Beat Podcast RSS