THE year began in the country and ended with the purchase of a new sound system that has one of those streaming things to take me into a whole new world – and a turntable that has already taken me back to a much-loved old one.
Here are some highlights…
Stephen Pigram, Caves House, Yallingup
Accompanied by his brother Alan and master guitar maker Scott Wise, Pigram was a long way from home and as cold as buggery at this beautiful down south venue in February. The Broome boys rugged up and presented lots of gems including the brilliant Roadtrain and selections from Stephen Pigram’s newish solo CD Wanderer.
Uriah Heep, Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley
If I’d known only one original member of the band was in the current line-up I wouldn’t have bought tickets. That would have been a mistake. New singer Bernie Shaw will clock up 30 years in the band next year so he knows the words. Original keyboardist Ken Hensley provided a distinctive sound in the old days but new boy Phil Lanzon will also have his 30th anniversary as a Heep in 2016. This was a ripping show highlighted by some outrageous guitar solos from the solo original Mick Box. The highlight for me was Gypsy – it’s as good as any song from the heavy bands of the 1970s.
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
We found out from social media that the country veterans and band had endured a horror trip to Perth, including far too much time on flights near a bloke with what Crowell described as a ‘death rattle cough’. They opened with Return of the Grievous Angel and put on a big, brilliant and generous show that must have left them spent. Great mix of songs, hot band and plenty from the brilliant 2015 CD The Traveling Kind.
Bob Dylan and The Band, The Basement Tapes Complete
Six discs and plenty of time on the road and free in the country to listen. Highlights include Wild Wolf – a song Dylan discarded, the construction of You Ain’t Goin Nowhere and a the whole sense of fun.
Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan
By coincidence the 50th anniversary of the recording of Like A Rolling Stone and me finishing the Greil Marcus book Like A Rolling Stone Bob Dylan at the Crossroads came about within days. Much of my time in 2015 was spent listening to this song – it also led me to read Backstage Passes & Backslapping Bastards by Al Kooper who somehow snuck into the Like A Rolling Stone sessions and added a vital ingredient. Never miss the snare shot start – if you do, start it again.
Ruby Boots, Fremantle Town Hall
I first heard Ms Boots while driving on the Bussell Highway between Busselton and Dunsborough. This is no long and lonesome highway but it sure felt like country when Wrap Me in a Fever came on ABC Regional Radio. I saw her for the first time at a Hush concert at Fremantle Town Hall. The rule at a Hush concert is for the audience to shut up during songs – sure suits a silent type like me. Funny though for a big mouth like Ruby Boots – she nearly knocked us out of our front row seats. Saw her again at Ellington Jazz Club – world class and the world knows it.
Shane Nicholson, Ellington Jazz Club, Perth
With support from Ruby Boots this was a great night. It took country to get me to the jazz club but it’s a very civilised venue and the sound was excellent. Nicholson was in top form and even made use of the resident grand piano.
Midnight Bus, Betty McQuade
On Radio National’s The Inside Sleeve recently Paul Gough interviewed David H Pepperwell one of the authors (with Colin Talbot) of 100 Greatest Australian Singles of the 60s. I enjoyed all the songs they played but it was Betty McQuade’s 1961 reading of John D Loudermilk’s Midnight Bus that got me. The original is an pretty good folk song. McQuade and the Thunderbirds gave it real tension. I’ve played it nearly as much as Like a Rolling Stone.
Special mentions: Mick Thomas (Navy Club, Fremantle); Leaf Crown (The Station Bar, Busselton), Suzannah Espe (Fremantle Arts Centre) and on CD From the Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill by Simone Felice and Tomorrow Is My Turn by Rhiannon Giddens.