Roots

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

The River Flows Nick Charles Black Mar­ket Mu­sic

Aside from con­firm­ing Nick Charles as one of Aus­tralia’s most ac­com­plished acous­tic gui­tar pick­ers and play­ers per se, The River Flows —a taste­ful and thought­fully se­quenced mix of folk, coun­try and blues orig­i­nals and two cov­ers — is the finest al­bum in a ca­reer that has yielded eight solo re­leases and three duo albums (with Alex Burns). Per­form­ing on six and 12-string Aussie-made Ma­tons, a re­so­phonic rhythm gui­tar and man­dolin, the Mel­bur­nian re­ceives sup­port from Pete Fidler (do­bro and elec­tric lap steel), with as­sis­tance from Louis Gill (elec­tric and dou­ble bass) and Paul Jonas (vi­o­lin and vo­cal backup).

Charles’s left and right-hand work is clean and fluid, es­pe­cially on eight self-com­po­si­tions, the pick of which — Pene­lope, Watch­ing Billy Play the Blues and a piece gen­u­flect­ing to Doc and Rosa Lee Watson — are as melod­i­cally strong as any­thing he has cre­ated in a dec­o­rated three decades’ ca­reer that has yielded nu­mer­ous awards, scored a record deal with a pres­ti­gious US la­bel and earned tour­ing spots with lu­mi­nar­ies in­clud­ing BB King, Taj Ma­hal, Ralph McTell and Guy Clarke. Cov­ers of a tra­di­tional rag (the only solo fin­ger-picked track) and Bob Dy­lan’s Buck­ets of Rain un­der­line the artist’s skill as an in­ter­preter. Singing-wise, Charles has never sounded more be­guil­ing. Ex­ud­ing the pure sounds and am­bi­ence of his fas­tid­i­ous old­school ap­proach to record­ing, The River Flows is an au­ral treat.

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