Elementary Carnival Blues Adam Young Stanley/MGM
On initial exposure, Elementary Carnival Blues may be heard as an extended love song to outback Australia, the kind that hasn’t been delivered with such conviction since Slim Dusty backed Old Purple into the garage that last time.
It doesn’t contain stories so much as varied musical emotions but they lovingly and knowingly seem to capture the flies in your eyes, the dust in your throat and the deep, deep longing in your heart with titles such as Breeza and Queen of the Plains. Then, after you factor in the knowledge that Adam Young was raised in Canada and his home country is referenced in a couple of songs, including Wolfe Island Blues, the wide open spaces create different images in your mind but the effect remains the same. This is music that artfully leaves room for the listener to add time, place and their own personal detail.
Set aside the geography and allow Young to take you on a 10-track journey. This one-time member of rock outfits Daisygrinders and Big Heavy Stuff has turned things down considerably and forged an album of rocking country that’s loaded with agreeable tunes, always interesting picking and solid support from hand-picked guests.
Slim’s guitarist Jeff Mercer is heard on a couple of tracks while Emma Swift makes her presence felt most while soaring on the closer Racing Trains. Songwriter Jason Walker adds guitar and pedal steel on several tracks and rising talent on the local Americana scene Katie Brianna is heard to great effect on two duets. The pair blend beautifully on the dreamlike The New West and offer an appropriate weariness on end-of-theroad tale Bluer Skies.
Young displays his influences quite obviously and boldly (Uncle Tupelo, REM, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Springsteen readily come to mind) and it’s no surprise that with such solid inspiration Young will place such emphasis on classic songwriting. The arrangements are as varied as could be expected from an album that was three years in the making and up to 20 years in the writing.
Young may not quite have found his own voice yet but that does not diminish the pleasure to be found in his broad musical palette. And how could you not love an album that contains the line, “Oh Breeza, you call me”? Listen closely and you can almost hear JJ Cale chuckling.