Hip To Be Country (April 2014)

The question “what is country?” pops up almost weekly in my world, with nearly everybody (and I don’t just mean fans of the genre) willing to put forward an opinion. Last week I was performing at the CMC Rocks the Hunter festival, where the question seemed more pertinent than ever.

It’s a brilliant festival – surely one of the best organised and presented – across any genre and, in theory, its lineup had “something for everybody”. Yet still there were murmurs amongst the capacity crowd, (and even in the backstage area) to the tune of “that’s not country music”.

It seemed some of those jibes were squarely aimed at somebody us Peninsula folks can truly call “one of our own” – none other than Aussie Crawl front-man and iconic Australian songwriter James Reyne who, aside from an early 90s collaboration with country poster-boy-of-the-times James Blundell, appeared to have little connection to the country music world. For me, however, Reyne’s appearance at the festival solidified my view that whilst country music is hard to define, the basic country ingredients are always found in any great music. Listening to his songs on the mainstage at CMC reminded me what an extraordinary songwriter James is – few Australians have ever matched his storytelling ability, general lyricism and pop-sensibility. We on the Peninsula are proud to call James Reyne a local – and I’m proud to call him “country”. Kudos to the Country Music Channel for booking him and putting great Australian music on the stage.

Whilst I’m handing out praise to festivals, I should send some in the direction of the Kingston Harvest Festival. Once again, the folks at the City of Kingston are bringing an eclectic selection of country music our way (Carrum – to be precise, at The Roy Dore reserve).  It joins the Peninsula Music Festival (formerly Red Hill Country Music Festival) as one of the premier events for country, bluegrass and rockabilly in the area.  For further info on the festival, see my interview with Mustered Courage’s Julian Abrahams below.

If you’re one of those country fans that prefer to get your kicks indoors, there’s plenty going on in the next couple of months, so long as you’re prepared to venture up the line towards the city (or at least to Oakleigh, to the Caravan Music Club). Tex Perkins, one of our finest purveyors of dark country, performs at The Caravan on April 5, while the above-mentioned James Reyne will be there on April 13. Tickets are available from www.caravanmusic.com.au

Revolver in Prahran continues to build its country credentials over the next few months, with shows from Adam Eckersley Band, Buffalo Tales and Jasmine Rae all scheduled for the month of April. Check out http://tickets.revolverupstairs.com.au for further details.

Lachlan Bryan is primarily a singer/songwriter. His third album Black Coffee is out now. He also moonlights as a gifted observer and music journalist, writing monthly for PEARL on all things folk/country/bluegrass.