In the Days When the World was Wide The Darling Downs Fuse ★★★★
MUSIC’S middle ages are proving to be fertile and rewarding (for the listener at least) for at least one pair of Australian alternative figures. Died Pretty’s Ron S. Peno and the Scientists’ Kim Salmon have just released their third album as the Darling Downs and it is a work of remarkable, if somewhat craggy, beauty. The pair met when their bands were big in Sydney and hooked up just over 10 years ago in Melbourne to record the first of the DD collaborations. The first two releases were celebrated but this one lifts the ante considerably. Peno took the name from a collection of Henry Lawson stories given to him by his brother when he was a schoolboy and it’s a telling starting point. The pair have found a distinctly Australian place with this recording. Songwriter collaborations can produce, at their worst, a your song-my song recording that doesn’t hang together, but In the
Days When the World Was Wide is seamless and considerably more than the sum of its parts. There’s magic that happens when Peno and Salmon get together, but when it comes to recording there’s a clear division: Ron sings everything and Kim plays everything (guitar, banjo, bass). Track one, Saved, clucks out of the chook shed before Peno’s elegant vocals and urgent pop stylings establish that this ain’t no hillbilly thing — additional piano from Julitha Ryan and some great bass playing contribute to this brief but brilliant pop-country-soul song. Forever Night and I Don’t Care are delicate and yearning; Wish You Were Her is an Exile on Main St stomp; and Between the Forest and the Trees serves up strange acoustic power pop with a wonderful groove. Hell, it’s all good and verging on an Australian classic.