When I was young, growing up in the suburbs of Perth, everyone kept chooks.
Our chooks were not just kept for eggs and to be butchered bloodied beasts on the table. They provided me with emotional solace after family arguments and childhood chastisement. There was no kiss and make up in our family. It was always: “Go and see the chooks boy!” And frankly I liked it that way.
As I grew up I turned to cans of “Bush Chook ” to solve my emotional problems.
Tonight at the Albany Entertainment Centre Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks offer their own musical solutions to the emotional dilemmas of suburban life.
But who and what are this Jack and his chooks?
When Jack takes to the Kalyenup Studio stage he has the voice of an impresario and the swagger of a jewel thief. And why not? The previous night Jack and the Chooks had almost stolen the WAMI awards grand prize, by coming runners up for the song of the year with Half Frozen Beer. (HFB also won the country song of the year).
Jack rambles into It’s So Pretty Out Here with guitar, harmonica, whistling teeth and the ghost of Woody Guthrie. The Chooks begin to layer waves of syncopated musical chaos over Jack. They back off to give him breathing space then put the hammer down again. There are hints of the discordant lead guitar of Roland S Howard and the keyboard of Ray Manzarek. It’s the sort of song you never want to end. Heady stuff indeed.
Hector Morlet trades his keys for a piano accordion to introduce Rosemary Mushrooms. Jack and the Chooks are now boulevardiers. Deep Water finds Jack drowning but the Chooks wrap the stage in a warm velvet curtain of sound and save the drowning soul. Tonight the music is so tight they could save any drowning Southern Ocean sailor.
Jack feigns ignorance when acknowledging the country music award for Half Frozen Beer: “I thought we were getting the contraband award.”
They are now raconteurs. However the judges did get it right and the award was highly deserved. One of the highlights of the night is Jacks duets with both George Gare and Elise Hiatt.
They encore with a cover of Rabbit Island’s Some Days Are Harder Days. The original is so stripped back it would sit well on Springsteen’s LP Nebraska for kids. The Chooks give their cover full welly. The rhythm section of Jack Annear and Chet Morgan are a driving force. In their hands they elevate the song to the status of a bitter sweet rock classic about cup cakes. The harmonising of George and Elise bring amazing depth and poignancy to Jacks vocals. One can only hope they carry through with their threat to record this for RTRFM’s Slightly Odway .
Impresarios, raconteurs, boulevardiers and jewel thieves one and all.
Everyone loves chooks.