8 Ball Aitken
THE upside to 8 Ball Aitken’s hard slog in scratching to make a living as a truly independent musician this past decade is that he hasn’t had to please anybody but himself. Along the way, the now US-based Aitken has taken his most obvious influences, including the swampy blues of Tony Joe White and the country side of Neil Young, and forged something with album No 7 that stands as his own. At last he has made a recording that matches the energy and sense of fun of his live performances.
The lanky redhead may have taken the long way and his own sweet time but finally he has arrived. Recorded in Nashville and Brisbane,
Southern Hemisphere is filled with rocking country blues and Aitken has created songs strong enough to hang on their playful titles and rousing choruses. He can deliver a punchline with a sure touch, no doubt the result of singing for his supper night after night. (She’s going to
Mexico and) I’m Going to Jail is a story song about an unwitting bank robber that continues to deliver the laughs play after play. It also landed Aitken with the No 1 spot on the Country Tracks chart. Politics of a One Man Band and A
Gig is a Gig (“The sign behind the bar told me the world isn’t fair, it said, ‘Men no shirt, no service, Women, no shirt, free beer’ ”) keeps his larrikin spirit alive. Add to that some twisted sci fi ( Destroying
the World), a gorgeous ballad ( My Tank’s On Empty) and Old Hickory, a blistering guitar instrumental that finds the rowdy, rough edges of Aitken’s picking being beautifully complemented by the more refined touch of Troy Cassar-Daley, and you have the release that observers hoped Aitken had in him.