In The Pines Goes A’ Wandering


For those of you who have been following the radio show and blog for a little while and have begun to wonder where I have disappeared to, let me tell you it’s been a busy couple of months. I have packed up my life (read: sequin dresses and record collection) and moved to Nashville, Tennessee.

It is exciting and intoxicating and just a little bit scary to be living on the other side of the world, in Music City, a place that has been home to just about every one of heroes at some point in their careers.

While I am no longer presenting In The Pines on FBI Radio, you will occasionally hear me on ABC Radio talking about Americana music (follow twitter for the scheduled, it’s haphazard!) and I’m also writing for Rhythms Magazine, an excellent blues and roots specialty rag. In between, I’m thrifting like a mo-fo, singing songs and learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road. EEP! As I am not doing the show, I won’t really be updating this blog. But I would love, love, love it if you followed my new blog (music, travel, existential crisis memoir) I Dream A Highway.

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Mid-week Mixtape: Piers Twomey

This week’s mixtape has been lovingly put together by Sydney songwriter Piers Twomey. Piers’ sophisticated new album of modern folk – Strange Advice – has seen him likened to Kings Of Convenience and Grand Salvo. He has performed alongside Preston School of Industry, Ben Sollee, Krystle Warren, Dappled Cities and Jack Ladder. This week, as well as sharing these lovely songs with us, Piers is performing at ‘Don’t Think Twice’ a new folk music night presented by Timber & Steel from 6pm on Sunday at the Annandale Hotel.

Go along to the gig and check him out! And check out Piers’ brand new video for ‘Mountain Song’, which has just been updloaded here.

Bill Callahan – The Wind and the Dove

I think listening a lot to Bill, who was once Smog, has taught me not to be overly self-conscious about whether I sing “correctly”. His lovely, deep, rich voice is just perfect to my ears, though I imagine some first-time listeners would find his deadpan delivery a little lacking. This song is a quiet, personal, complex and unassuming little “relationship” number from Bill’s Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle album from a few years ago. I think it slipped under the radar a little bit to be honest, but most Bill fans I’ve come across cherish the album with its curious folk and soft-rock with string section production! The man is certainly adored far and wide, and I do think he’s one of the greatest living songwriters. What about this line from the same album?

Love is the king of the beasts
and when it gets hungry
it must kill to eat.

Genius.

Ryan Adams – She Wants To Play Hearts

First off, I’m not really the hugest Ryan Adams fan (sorry to those who are!) But, at a friend’s house a few years ago, this song sort of stopped me in my tracks. It makes me feel nostalgic, and reminds me of listening to those warm Don Maclean ballads when I was a kid from my parent’s record collection. Somehow, it reminds me of Don’s version of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ – one of the all time songs, I think it’s the tempo… anyway. I love the bare minimum arrangement and super intimate but very unaffected vocal and the way his natural vibrato rings out the emotion from every note. I think I like my Ryan Adams heartbroken and confused. So thank you Ryan – even if just for this song.

Red House Painters – Have You Forgotten

OK, well, more wistfulness here. I only heard this a year or two back, but it reminds me of living in New England in America as a teenager for three years with my family, with that weird new-person isolation, the huge seasonal changes, beautiful forests, eventually making close friends, crushes and kisses… and
all that kind of normal stuff. Mark Kozelek’s voice is just one of those instantly haunting and heart- aching things – no pretensions, it just is. Like many of Mark’s songs, this seems to be very nostalgic as he looks back on the simplicity of his own childhood and remembers Spring and October autumns and the
magic of looking out the window at “frozen farmhouse landscapes” at Christmas time. But I think there is something even stronger here, something to do with the purest kind of love and something about healing. Who is he speaking to when he asks “When you’re older your heart turns to ice… have you forgotten how to love yourself?” My guess is the question is directed straight at himself.

The Strokes – Hard To Explain

Alright enough melancholy! When it’s time to jump around – this is one of my favourite ways to do it. The way this somewhat bratty track effortlessly cruises along busting out a simple beat, slinky guitar riffs and crazy good vocal melodies like that’s the easiest thing in the world to do… well, it just blows me away. Of course Julian Casablancas is an alluring gentleman and that helps; his lazy voice drips graceful cool without even trying, and that high vocal he hits a couple of times (“was an honest man!”) in the song plus the “I don’t see it that way” hook, well it makes the whole thing 3:48 of guitar pop perfection. I once heard a really great 50’s style rockabilly guitarist exclaim, “This isn’t music!” about the lo-fi sounding ‘Hard To Explain’. When he was a kid, I’m sure his parents said the same thing about Little Richard.

Grand Salvo – Bend In The River

No rest for the wicked, so it’s back to the broken and bruised! Australia’s own Paddy Mann, aka Grand Salvo is a huge favourite of mine. When I first started listening to his albums – again on a vocal level – I was stunned by the simplicity and the softness of his delivery. Of course Paddy is a stunning lyricist, story-teller and musician, and uniquely Australian too – I actually think of him as a bush poet who loves acoustic and orchestral instruments. His arrangements and melodies seem perfectly formed to me, like if it were somehow up to me, I wouldn’t touch a thing, I’d keep everything exactly as it is. I saw a short interview online today where Paddy described his music with a smile as, “slightly depressing folk music” which is spot on I guess. This song from one of his earlier albums I included as it was the first Grand Salvo song I ever heard – and it affected me greatly. Seek it out and give it a go – it’s hopelessly beautiful, sad and romantic.

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Mid-week Mixtape Redux: Jack Carty

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One of the great delights of hosting a radio program like In The Pines is that I get to talk with a lot of musicians about their craft, as well as find out what songs/ artists/ albums make them tick. As a lifelong sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Song Disorder (that would be – the repeated listening to one song over and over and over and over, so as to get inside and know it and breathe it) I am fascinated to learn the songs that other songwriters have an enduring affection for. With that in mind, I’m reviving a long forgotten but much loved section of the blog that asks songwriters to write about five of their favourite tunes: The Mid-week Mixtape. 
 
Our first contributor is an impressive young troubadour from Sydney, Australia: Jack Carty. He writes beautiful,  thoughtful folk songs with the slightest hint of country thrown in for good measure. His latest album, Break Your Own Heart is, literally, a heartbreaker. 
 
Here is Jack performing the album’s title track:
 
 
And here is the mix he kindly put together for In The Pines this week. Cue heartbreak (again). 
 
The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! – Sufjan Stevens
 
I can’t even remember how I found out about Sufjan Stevens. But it was sometime in 2008 or early 2009 and I remember listening to the album Illinois every time I could for the next year solid. I love the instrumentation and the epic scope of the arrangements. It’s bombastic but still classy and so full of feeling. I don’t think there is anywhere on the record that this is is better exhibited than right here… Gotta love the counterpoint.
 
 
Left & Leaving – The Weakerthans.
I first heard this song on a live album recorded at The Burton Cummings Theatre in their home town of Winnepeg, Manitoba. It has one of the most biting lyrics I have ever heard and John K Samson’s voice always sounds really sincere to me. He uses amazing imagery to describe his inner and outer environment in a really engaging and moving way. It’s so sad, but so resigned… “I wait in four/four time, count yellow highway lines, that you’re relying on to lead you home” – that line has swum around in my head for days at a time.
 
 
Gillian Welch – Wrecking Ball
I love pretty much everything Gillian Welch does. This track has so much attitude (from the sloppily played drums and fuzzbox guitars to the scratchy fiddle soloing in the right channel throughout its entirety) that it would be cool even if it didn’t have one of the best journey(wo)man lyrics I ever heard. She makes it sound easy, like she isn’t even trying, it’d almost be frustrating if it wasn’t so good.
 
 
Elliott Smith – Pitseleh
I love the way this song is simultaneously filled with so much sadness and so much love. It drips with doubt, loneliness, pain and an honest, quiet, beautiful affection. I have always loved the way Elliott seems to play the guitar like you would a piano, with a heavy emphasis on a constantly moving and repeated “bass line”  underneath delicate ornamentations on the higher strings. It seems to lend a timeless, almost baroque feel to an already gorgeously timeless and moving sentiment. This song has helped me through a lot.
 
 
Bright Eyes – Classic Cars
Connor Oberst’s ultra poetic turn of phrase, Mike Mogis’ guitar flourishes, a rad bass line, Hammond organ, honky-tonk piano, a great story, some questionable backing vocals and most of all those buildups in the chorus! The first time I heard this I listened to it 5 times in a row, the opening stanza of the opening verse had me hooked. It is delicate, angry, political, upbeat and incredibly deep all at once. It’s a classic, man.
 

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Celebrating the life and music Jimmy Little

Last night on In The Pines we paid tribute to the legendary Australian musician Jimmy Little. Born in 1937, Jimmy Little had an incredible career spanning more than five decades. He loved Jim Reeves and Nat King Cole. He had charm, drive and the most heartbreaking falsetto you ever heard. His first great success was the 1963 single ‘Royal Telephone’ a gospel number that sold more than 75 thousand copies, making him the first indigenous Australian to have a Top 10 hit. His most popular album Messenger reached no. 26 on the ARIA Albums Chart in 1999.

When Jimmy Little died earlier this year, I asked his friend, collaborator and Messenger producer, Brendan Gallagher if he would curate a special program to celebrate Jimmy’s life and share with FBi listeners some of the finer moments of his extensive career. BG took great care in putting together an extensive playlist that spanned Jimmy’s entire career from early recordings going back as far 1956 right through to unreleased material from the Messenger recordings. Program highlights included re-mastered covers of the Paul Kelly masterpiece ‘Randwick Bells’ and an unreleased version of The Triffids’ classic ‘Wide Open Road’.

A huge thank you to everyone who tuned in to the show last night and shared their appreciation for Jimmy Little’s music with us via facebook and twitter. For those who missed it, I’m delighted to say that FBi has streaming on demand and you haven’t missed out. The program is available for streaming here, starting about three minutes in.

And last but not least, here is a clip of Jimmy Little adding his magic to The Go-Betweens’ ‘Cattle and Cane’.

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In The Pines: A Whole Lotta Catching Up To Do

ImageSweet, sweet neglected blog, how I’ve missed you! I know, I know, I have been terribly absent this year, despite the fact that the show has continued to air every week on FBi 94.5. Now that we have hit June (without a single post…eek…) I am making a mid-year resolution to get back to writing more, so here is the first of (hopefully) many posts about new music and program highlights.

First things first, in case you didn’t know – FBi now has STREAMING ON DEMAND. 

This means that you can listen to In The Pines whenever you want. It’s a huge and exciting step forward for the station. You can listen to the program here. Without forcing you to make an extended trek through the archives, let me tell you it’s been a super busy year. Our international studio guests have included Nashville legend Jim Lauderdale, Canadian harmonisers Madison Violet and UK five-piece AHAB. Ex-pat guests Audrey Auld and Fiona McBain (Ollabelle) have also joined the show, with Ms Auld contributing to an incredible International Womens’ Day special. We have also been joined by local artists Suzy Connolly, The Falls, Jack Carty and Liz Martin. All of these shows are there in the archives. Go check ‘em out.

Secondly, In The Pines has a facebook page. 

If social networking/ procrastinating is your thing, join us on Zuckerbook. The In The Pines page is regularly updated with the latest info on program special guests, touring artists and retro videos I obsess over and feel the need to share (More vintage Linda Ronstadt anyone?)

Thirdly, tomorrow night’s show is going to be AMAZING. 

Earlier this year, Australian music lost a true legend: Jimmy Little. This Tuesday I have invited Jimmy’s friend and collaborator Brendan Gallagher (Karma County) to share stories and the musical history of Jimmy’s life from late 1950s onwards. Jimmy Little was the first indigenous Australian to have a number one single, 1963′s ‘Royal Telephone’. He was a wonderful singer, inspirational musician and was also an ambassador for Aboriginal culture and health. In The Pines tomorrow night will be dedicated entirely to celebrating his life and contribution to Australian music. Tune in.

xxx Emma xxx

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From The Vault: Country Music Confessionals

Next year marks my 10th anniversary with what has become a full blown love affair with twang music. It started as a crush, I swear. I’m currently working on a long form piece about the albums that came out in 2002 that sent me down the wayward path towards three chords and the truth, but in the meantime, here is something I first published as a response to the Kasey Chambers album ‘Barricades and Brickwalls’ when I was editing Sydney University’s student paper Honi Soit. I later re-worked it into this format (as in, I edited out the album review and wrote strictly memoir) for the lovely gals at Frankie magazine.

Obviously I’ve come a long way since the article was first published, in terms of what I’m listening to and loving and other things as well. Writing this from the United States (where I am hastily typing in a pink cashmere sweater and my underwear) it should be noted that the music that I love would only really be described as Americana here (check it, it’s in the dictionary) though in Australia we still have so far to come in terms of creating a definitive definition and so I have kept the ‘country’ in. Happy reading.

COUNTRY MUSIC CONFESSIONAL:

Flannel shirts, failed romance, heartache, heartbreak and sad, sad songs. I might live to regret putting this in print, but I have a confession to make… I like country music.

I know it isn’t fashionable. Country is just about the daggiest style of music an otherwise self-respecting young woman could have chosen to embrace. It’s tragic – like being a 24 year-old collector of Tupperware or VIP customer at Copperart. It’s the soundtrack of choice for dingy American diners and dimly lit highway truck stops. It doesn’t have the brazen rebelliousness of punk, or the art school precociousness of indie rock or the forthright sexuality of pop. The genre is defined by the nasal twang of the singer and slow walking swagger of the band. It’s country music – it’s about loneliness, loss, and line dancing. And I like it.

My music tastes have not always been this way. I have not always been a fan. I used to be one of those cynical cool kids who thought that country music, littered with hideously sequined Tammy Wynette clones and silver bearded Kenny Rogers types, was not for me. Sure I liked the bedazzlar, stone-wash denim and spiral perms as much as any child of the eighties, but I was never going to listen to Dolly Parton. No amount of Billy Ray Cyrus mulletude could make me trade ballet for boot scooting. For me, country music was always considered tacky and trashy. Even my parents – whose tastes included a passion for Australiana decor and home-made Jenny Kee knitwear – had the good sense to be fans of other musical genres.

As a kid, I spent most my childhood living in small rural areas, so most people make the assumption that it must have been the seventeen years I spent in towns without traffic lights that secured a love for country music. This is not the case. In my formative years I was a full-fledged pop fan with the Kylie Minogue cassingles and the ra-ra skirt to prove it. Growing up, the only hints of the country enthusiast within was a fairly well rehearsed cover version of the Alannah Myles song “Black Velvet” and a one time yodeling gig in my primary school eisteddfod where, armed with a hot head of freshly crimped hair and some seriously disturbing white patent leather cowboy boots, my attention seeking soul got the better of my good taste. Now, these are the embarrassing details of decidedly naff childhood, but they could belong to any performative ten-year old growing up in the early nineties.

No, this love for country music is something relatively new – something that didn’t hit me until my early twenties, when I started listening to the moderately successful new generation of artists now widely referred to under the sub-genre of “alternative country”. In the alt-country world performers like Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy and Lucinda Williams wooed their audiences with harrowing harmonicas and harmonies and tales of eternal heartbreak. They labelled themselves “country” but were a dark contrast to the more popular country stars like Shania Twain or Keith Urban. Archetypal alt-country bands like Wilco and Whiskeytown represented a seedier side to country – less spray tanned, less gaudy, more Neil Young than Nashville factory line.

And so I became a fan. And the more I listened to alt-country, the more I grew to accept other types of country. And the more I came to accept country music as a whole genre, the more I realised I had crossed a neon lit, barn dancing, gin swilling point of no return, signified by a proposed road trip to the Tamworth music festival and the needless ownership of three pairs of cowboy boots.

Perhaps it is because I now live in the city and the music is a nostalgic reminder of home – a place of open landscapes and dusty paddocks and tumbleweeds. Perhaps it is because I am steadfastly heading towards my mid-twenties and my taste has been blurred by the onset of premature wrinkles and a career crisis. Perhaps. I know on some level I could try to justify my love, try to defend the genre from accusations of hillbilliness, try to make it worthy, trendy, ironically cool. But I know in my heart, I cannot and do not want to. It’s country music – it’s music that by very definition is quintessentially uncool. And even though I am often embarrassed to admit it – I have to write it down… I like it.

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Tammy Wynette’s Wheels: Getting Around Nashville, Tennessee

They say you need a car to get around Nashville. It’s sprawling suburban wonderland is just too sparse to go catching buses all the time. And getting cabs every day is hassle. A car. It’s the practical, sensible, economically efficient thing to do.

The thing is, I’ve never been a practical, sensible or economically efficient kind of gal. I have some life skills, sure. I can musical gargle. I have wiki-like knowledge of the back stories of my favourite singers. I am fluent in Sagittarian. And I can sniff out a thrift store within 200 metres. But I can’t drive.

And so, every lovely night of this three-week stint in Music City, after I’ve wrestled with my suitcase long enough to find something suitably bedazzled, after I’ve bronzed up and put on enough mascara to rival the lashes of Bambi, after I’ve almost suffocated on a near toxic mix of hair spray, dry shampoo and Coco Chanel Mademoiselle, I call my driver to come and pick me up and take me out on the town.

I know this is a little bit ridiculous. But then, so am I. And dare I say it, befriending the one cabbie and getting them to drive you around is actually a lot more practical than relying on Nashville’s non-committal taxi service.

Sometimes we don’t have to drive very far. If I’m going to The Station Inn, it’s a flat five dollars. It’s ten dollars to the Bluebird. On last night’s trip to the aptly named Loveless Cafe, which is about 20 miles from my humble apartment in East Nashville, he turned the metre off and only charged me 30 bucks.

Adam is my cab driver’s name. He came to Nashville from Sudan 15 years ago. He is knowledgable, reliable, friendly, and as I have told him many times, what we’d describe in Australia as “a bloody champion”.

Having a driver is fun and it does allow me to do what I do best: watch music and drink. But… and there’s always a but… all this reliance on being chauffeured around is, of course, hugely at odds with my infamous, emasculating, throw-me-another-adjective independent streak and yet another reminder that I really need to get my license. A mere 55 days or five million, five hundred and forty-four thousand heartbeats away from my 30th birthday, it just might be about time.

So this next year, I’m going to learn to drive. And next time I come to Nashville, I will rent a car. A completely over-the-top, inappropriate and impractical car, and I will drive around on the wrong side of the road like a True Blue American.

In the meantime, for my last three days in this beautiful city, I will continue to be driven around. And I’m cool with that. And… if I don’t learn to drive by the next time I’m in Tennessee, some research today has yielded a positive alternative option.

For sale description, as listed on craigslist, today’s date:

TAMMY WYNETTE 77 LINCOLN – $8950

TAMMY WYNETTE’S PERSONAL 1977 LINCOLN LIMO. ALL ORIGINAL, 460 V8, AUTOMATIC FULLY LOADED AN PERSONALIZED FOR TAMMY WYNETTE. GLASS SLIDING WINDOW BETWEEN DRIVER AND REAR PASSENGER AREA. HAVE ORIGINAL TITLE AND TAG RECEIPT. THIS VEHICLE IS IN EXCELLENT CONDITION AND HAS BEEN GARAGE KEPT UNTIL RECENTLY. PLEASE CALL 205-516-2909

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