SPIN Doctor is still adjusting to normal life days after returning from the annual pilgrimage to the home of Australian country music, Tamworth, in the heart of NSW. Tamworth Country Music Festival, now in its fifth decade, has its critics and it may be that once or twice a harsh word has found its way into this column.
And yet there is something oddly compelling about Tamworth in all its glory. Where else, for example, could you get up every morning at 7.30 in order to hear bush poetry in the pub down the road? (Not that I did.) Where in the world could you find such a large gathering of musicians playing in theatres, pubs and shop doorways for 10 days in a row? Probably nowhere.
The trouble — or perhaps the beauty — with this is that despite the abundance of acts and venues, you really have to make a concerted search to find something new that is really, really good.
In doing so along the main drag, Peel Street, you take your life, or at least your taste, in your hands. For every busker who ought to be on a bigger stage there are 10 more who you feel ought to be at home, doing what they do in private. Sifting through the bland to find the sublime is, however, what makes Tamworth worthwhile in my view. And this year I got to ask Tony Abbott if he liked country music, which is when he said ‘‘no, but I like Duncan’’ or words to that effect. It’s those little moments that keep you coming back for more.
One of the big discussions at the festival, which I addressed in The Australian on Monday, was the dearth of new Australian country talent and how what talent there is can make an impact through commercial radio. A seminar on the topic produced a lively debate, with contributions from the commercial radio sector’s David Burton and Wendy Gee. Not everyone was on the same page, however. Tim Holland, head of ABC Music, spent a good 10 minutes explaining how the success of one song, Hell Yeah, on radio and TV had done wonders for his act Mcalister Kemp, who went on to sell 10,000 copies of the album All Kind of Tough, a huge amount in country music terms.
His enthusiasm was shortlived, however. Minutes later the panellist next to him, Golden Guitar winner Adam Harvey, said he had bumped into Mcalister Kemp recently and the duo was bemoaning the fact that they were both broke.
The Chambers clan were doing the rounds in Tamworth, too, with Kasey doing her own show, as did her dad Bill, while mum Di and Kasey’s brother Nash joined them in a 20th-anniversary reunion of their family outfit, the Dead Ringer Band. It’s Bill who has been busiest of late, though. Aside from his own shows, playing with Kasey and releasing a live DVD recorded in Tamworth last year, the talented multi-instrumentalist and producer has just returned from Austin, Texas, where he produced the new album by Aussie singer Catherine Britt. It’s out in a few months. spindoc@ theaustralian.com.au