There was arguably no better time to be a music fan in Australia than the late 70s, the 80s, and the early 90s. Pub rock was at its peak, with bands like Cold Chisel, The Angels, Men at Work, Australian Crawl, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Mental as Anything, Rose Tattoo, and stacks more playing around the traps. That heady period is celebrated in the upcoming album The Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock, Volume 2.

Despite this being the second Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock release, the series has lost no steam. There are 4 CDs here all jam-packed with killer cuts from the period. In addition to the songs you get new cover artwork by Ian McCausland, detailed liner notes (remember when you read through liner notes?), and some great images.

Travel back to a time when our pubs hosted some of the finest acts you’d find anywhere with The Glory Days of Aussie Pub Rock, which will hit all good music stores on February 24.

Image used with permission from Warner Music Australia

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As you’re reading this review, I’m relaxing on Kangaroo Island. I’m in a far more chilled out mood than I was when I wrote this, because I’ve been cruising down the East Coast for five days now. There’s something about taking a cruise, where I have nothing to do and an obliging crew of staff keen to take care of me, that just helps the stresses of the everyday melt away. I imagine Tom Busby and Jeremy Marou were in a similar mindset, albeit probably without the premium beverage package, when they recorded Postcards from the Shell House.

The Shell House that Busby Marou’s third album refers to is an old building on Great Keppel Island. The duo used to play songs there sitting around a campfire early in their careers, so it’s only fitting that they return to their roots and to the Shell House on this recording.

The duo doesn’t veer too far from their usual path with this recording. If you loved the cruisy acoustic folk-pop of their first two releases, this will be right up your alley. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve heard it all before.

While the duo is typically upbeat, some songs play in the shadows. There’s a real sadness and longing to the opening track “Best Part of Me.” I heard wistfulness in “Every Last Day in Between” that really tugged on the heartstrings.

“Paint This Land” has a stirring, epic quality to it. I can imagine it becoming the signature song for Australia Day. It just has that right amount of gravitas without feeling overly grandiose. The duo is collaborating this time around too. We’re used to Nat Dunn playing in the electronic space, but her appearance on the dreamy “Sleep On It” is one of the album’s highlights.

Postcards from the Shell House delivers easy, breezy, good vibes with just a hint of melancholy. It’s another solid release from this accomplished Queensland duo.

Postcards from the Shell House drops on February 17.

Image used with permission from Warner Music Australia

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The Clouds were such a force in the ‘90s, fronted by the vocal talents of Jodi Phillis and Patricia Young. But they went their separate ways after releasing just three top 50 albums.

When they reformed in 2014 to tour the nation, fans all wondered whether it was about nostalgia or the desire to create something new. Now we have the answer.

On February 14, The Clouds will release the EP Zaffre, the first new material from the band in 20 years. The awesome lead single “Mabel’s Bookshop” gives you a tiny taste of what’s in store.

The Clouds will launch the EP at Newtown Social Club on 31 March 2017. If you’ve had withdrawals Sydney, it’s time to get your fix.

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The Overland is the result of years spent writing, recording, and performing for Greg Steps & The Not for Prophets. That might seem like a long time to develop an EP, but these musicians have made sure every song counts.

“Trying to Wake the Dead” is the perfect introduction to the music Greg Steps & The Not for Prophets make together. I was reminded of the music of James Taylor and David Gray as I listened. Those are big shoes, but there’s something so similar and rare in today’s musical landscape about the great storyteller quality in Greg’s voice and the classic blend of an acoustic guitar, piano, mandolin, and fiddle.

I found myself getting sucked into the story of “Railway Man,” that traveller so far from home. The following song, “Famous Last Words” gave me another story to identify with. Listening to it made me wonder why more songwriters don’t tell stories with their songs.

“Half a World Away” is my favourite song on the EP, a stripped back folk song that builds to such an honest, raw crescendo. “Early Hours of Morning” is a beautiful way to end The Overland. I love the harmonies and the delicate calm of this one.

The Overland makes such a strong impression in five songs. It has a timeless quality that’s so appealing. Greg Steps and the Not for Prophets will launch it with a show at the Wesley Anne in Melbourne on February 24. It will be available from that date on iTunes, Bandcamp, and selected music stores.

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I can’t say I’ve ever wished to be 40 before, but I find myself longing for the big 4-0 after hearing about a new dance party for Baby Boomers. The Voice alum Steve Clisby and globally recognised DJ Stephen Ferris are behind the event, dubbed 40up, which is exclusively for those over 40.

There’ll be live music, DJ sets, and vintage music videos from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Think Barry White, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool and the Gang, and the incomparable Prince.

“This is how you exercise your right to be over 40 and still party, without worrying about the millennials getting in the way,” laughed Clisby, the all-time favorite artist from reality show, The Voice Australia. “We’ve taken the dinner, dance show concept and turned it on its head. People are always telling me that the thing they love most about my gigs is the chance to get up and dance like they used to – to the music they love. Now there’s a show especially for them.”

It all happens at the Basement in Sydney on March 3. 40up tickets are on sale now.

Image used with permission from SGC Media

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After a few stressful days, I was looking for music to soothe my soul. I found it in The Leaving, the sophomore release from Melbourne singer-songwriter Rough River.

Her name suggests a performer much tougher than she appears to be. Her voice is rich and smooth, comforting, and her songs show a vulnerability that’s so endearing. The presser calls Rough River a folk-alternative country performer, a description which goes some way towards explaining the diversity of this release. “Sea Air and City Lights” has an ethereal, mystical quality, thanks to its gentle instrumentation and Rough River’s angelic voice. “Band of String” has an unashamedly old-school country vibe, and those country roots are also explored in a sublime cover of “Tennessee Waltz.” While elements of gospel can be heard in the album’s closing track “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Whatever sound she’s exploring, there’s a sadness and longing that ties the tracks together. Songs like “What You Did,” “Sweet Saccharin,” and “We All Want” pack a real emotional punch, with simple melodies that let the lyrics shine through.

The Leaving is such a special album. It shows a performer coming into her own and being unafraid to show herself. Every song is wonderful in its own right, but together they are breathtaking.

The Leaving hits stores on February 17.

Image used with permission from Dusky Tracks

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Port Macquarie is nearly four hours from my place. It’s a lovely part of the world, but it takes something special to get me to make the journey. But the combination of an irresistible Red Hot Summer line-up and a catch-up with my friend Lisa (who hails from Brissie, so had a much longer journey than me) was too good to pass up.

Ben Hazelwood helped make the already warm crowd that little bit warmer. They don’t call these shows Red Hot Summer for nothing! I knew his name rang a bell, but was surprised to read that he was on the first season of The Voice. As I saw photos I remembered a performer who was talented but a little bland, a world away from this sexy rock god that graced the stage. He had just the right amount of drama and theatrics to pull me in, and his voice has matured so much in just a few years. I thoroughly enjoyed his set and made a mental note to check out more of his compelling originals.

From new discoveries to old favourites, Taxiride were up next. I knew a whole lot of hardcore Taxiride fans when I was in my late teens, but I can only recall catching them once. Watching them on the stage, I felt a little regret that I didn’t see more of them in the ’90s. They’re every bit as good as they once were, if you were wondering, with some of the tightest harmonies you’ll ever hear and a back catalogue that’s bigger than you might expect. I found myself singing along with every song and clapping heartily for them, enjoying myself thoroughly despite the rain that would plague the rest of the evening.
I’ve never really been a Shannon Noll fan. His music is easy to listen to, but it always felt a little Triple M by the numbers for me. However, seeing him live I have a brand new appreciation for Nollsy. He’s such a showman, the quintessential Aussie larrikin with a great collection of songs that make people smile. Simple. I turned to my husband and said watching Nollsy belt out The Choirboys’ “Run to Paradise” may just be the most Australian thing I’ve ever seen at a gig. And even though he’s probably sung “What About Me?” more times than I’ve had hot dinners, he still put all his heart and soul into it. I was also not so secretly thrilled to see him decked out in double denim, with jeans and a sleeveless vest. I’m not sure he could have chosen a more perfect outfit!

Jon Stevens stood in for an ailing Daryl Braithwaite. I must admit, it took me a little while to warm up to him. In a show like this, you have such a short time with the fans. And let’s face it, as a fill-in act, they’re probably not your fans. So to start slow to a bunch of songs most of us didn’t know seemed an odd choice. All was forgiven once the hits started coming through. As well as the Noiseworks standards there was “Disappear,” an INXS track which reminded me of the very first time I saw Jon, fronting the seminal Aussie rock band. He also paid tribute to Dazza with a stirring cover of “The Horses.” By “Hot Chilli Woman” we were all in ecstasy right along with him.

James Reyne was the act I was most looking forward to, and as always, he didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen him play so many times, but mostly in an acoustic setting. So to hear him electric with a full band was bags of fun. His set was flawless, delivering all of the songs anyone could hope for, from his days with Australian Crawl to his solo successes. What a talent.

John Farnham was the man so many people of Port Macquarie came to see, as is evidence by how quickly the general admission area filled once his set began. It’s a shame that Westport Park doesn’t slope, because any parts that I could see from my comfy camp chair were on the big screens rather than the stage as people gathered in front. John Farnham’s voice is undeniable though. His set brought us hit after hit from his solo career and even his time in Little River Band. “Burn For You” was a poignant highlight, although it would have been nice if the yobbos in front of me could have quit laughing as they hoisted women onto their shoulders and taken a moment to be quiet and listen. It’s all about respect guys, for both the artists and the people around you who want to get lost in the music. My husband and I had to stand for “The Voice” because, well, it seemed unAustralian not to. During it my husband turned to me and said “No Lauren, this is the most Australian thing we’ve ever witnessed as a concert.” As we all sang out the chorus is was hard to disagree. As John came back for an encore I wondered what could be left in his repertoire. Where do you go after “The Voice”? It seems you visit the back catalogue of another legendary Aussie act, AC/DC. “It’s a Long Way to the Top” was the ideal end for this celebration of Aussie talent. I just wondered though, why not make use of the bagpipers you’ve already brought for “The Voice”? It seemed a strange choice.

Before I go, I should make mention of how well run the day was. The staff were exceptional. The personable MC made those moments between acts fly by. While the food and drink vendors didn’t deliver anything too flash, the food was hot and the lines were short. The bar queues didn’t even seem too intimidating, although the decision not to serve wine was a strange one. Special props to the Lions Club who diligently collected our rubbish throughout the day. It’s got to be such a thankless job, but it made the place feel so much nicer.

Port Macquarie is a long way to go for any concert, but the Red Hot Summer tour was definitely worth the trip.

Image source: own photos

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Aussie talent James Chatburn is impressing all the right people at the moment. He’s just dropped his first single of the year, “Omens,” after he was invited by influential Los Angeles label Soulection to be part of their 6th birthday “Promise Once More” compilation.

The song is just stunning. The music’s layered beautifully and James’ voice is right on point. It’s like nothing I can remember hearing, in the best possible way. What a special track.

Apparently James is planning to release a bunch more music this year, so listen out for it!

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I’m not sure whether seeing a concert sponsored by Apia is an indication of my advancing years, but I’m hanging out for this year’s Good Times shows.

I like to think it’s more to do with the awesome line-up of Aussie talent assembled. We’ve got The Black Sorrows with Vika and Linda Bull, Colin Hay, Deborah Conway, and Mental as Anything. Just take a moment to ponder how many amazing songs these local artists have produced!

I also love that this tour doesn’t just stay in the capital cities. It’s a good thing too, because I’m already booked in for the I Love the ‘90s show the night of the Sydney gig! Along with my hometown of Newcastle, you can enjoy a Good Time with some of Australia’s most enduring talents at the following shows. General sale tickets are available from Monday 6 February at 10 am.

17 May 2017 – Darwin Entertainment Centre, Darwin
19 May 2017 – Adelaide Entertainment Centre (Theatre Mode), Adelaide
20 May 2017 – Perth Concert Hall, Perth
21 May 2017 – Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre, Bunbury (4pm matinee)
26 May 2017 – Hamer Hall, Melbourne
27 May 2017 – Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
28 May 2017 – Costa Hall @ Geelong Performing Arts Centre, Geelong
31 May 2017 – Civic Theatre, Newcastle
1 June 2017 – Empire Theatre, Toowoomba
2 June 2017 – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane
3 June 2017 – Twin Towns Services Club, Tweed Heads
9 June 2017 – Enmore Theatre, Enmore
10 June 2017 – Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul
11 June 2017 – Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra
16 June 2017 – Princess Theatre, Launceston
17 June 2017 – Wrest Point Entertainment Centre, Hobart

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Nussy is back with an exciting new single “Hard as Diamonds.” I am really digging her brand of edgy synth pop. And that voice of hers is so compelling.

“Hard As Diamonds is about a person who has become jaded and built up walls to protect themselves from being hurt,” Nussy explained in the press release. “It’s about trying to unlock the beauty that is still evident within their soul.”

The Victorian talent will perform a string of shows this month and through to March to promote the new single. Catch Nussy at the following venues.

18 February 2016 – Gaytimes Festival, Lake Mountain Alpine Resort
25 February 2016 – Howler, Melbourne
16 March 2017 – Marley Bar, Sydney (FREE)
17 March 2017 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (FREE)

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