Spin doc­tor

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Iain Shedden

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

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