I’ve always admired Anthony Callea’s voice but I didn’t become a fan until he released his album Ladies and Gentlemen: The Songs of George Michael a few years ago. I loved George’s originals, but I found myself hearing the songs in a new way with Anthony’s release. So I was excited to see him tackling covers again on his latest album Backbone.

It’d be unfair to call this simply an album of covers though. Perhaps the term concept album would be more accurate. This collection is all about getting to the essence of each song, stripping away the bells and whistles of production and discovering its bare bones.

The approach brings out the beauty and depth in songs that once seemed like throwaway fluff, like Britney Spears’ “Sometimes” and Bananarama’s “Love in the First Degree.” The overproduction is gone, replaced for the most part with piano, Anthony’s voice, some backing vocals to support it, and those lyrics that are better than we all remembered them.

This album isn’t just about guilty pleasures, although they’re well represented. Other songs like “Man in the Mirror” and “We Belong” were already strong on their release. However, his versions do magnify the impact of the lyrics which sees them strike a little closer to the heart. Queen set the bar very high with another true classic, “Somebody to Love,” but the acapella version included here is one of the Backbone’s highlights. Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” is another standout. The subtle sax line in is a delicious throwback to the original, although the stripped back delivery makes it brand new.

The only original song, the title track “Backbone,” is beautiful and honest. However, it seems a little out of place on this concept album, not because it’s not a cover but because it has a fuller sound that doesn’t quite gel with the other more organically treated tracks. Just a fraction more restraint would have made all the difference.

One slight mistep doesn’t make Backbone any less enjoyable though. For pop music lovers like me, it’s a real gem that breathes new life into so many songs that have a special place in my heart. With a focus on lyrics and feeling, in many cases Anthony has improved on the originals. When we’re talking about songs so beloved, that’s no small feat.

Backbone hits stores on September 16. Anthony will support its release with the following shows.

23 September 2016 – Revesby Workers Club, Revesby
24 September 2016 – The Cube, Campbelltown
30 September 2016 – The Palms at Crown, Melbourne

The funky fellas from Kingfisha will release their second album Offered it Up, tomorrow. Featuring the single “Left It,” the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Piece of the Puzzle showcases the Brisbane party band’s signature modern twist on classic reggae sounds.

Kingfisha’s music has taken them to places as far flung as Reunion Island and Swaziland, but they’ll be back on home soil to celebrate the album’s release with a string of shows kicking off in Cairns later this month.

30 September 2016 – The Jack, Cairns
1 October 2016 – Wallaby Creek Festival, Rossville
7 October 2016 – Torquay Hotel, Torquay
8 October 2016 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
15 October 2016 – Newtown Social Club
21 October 2016 – Transit Bar, Canberra
22 October 2016 – Dragon Dreaming Festival, Lake Burrinjuck
23 October 2016 – Swagger Festival, Wandiligong
5 November 2016 – Imperial Hotel, Sunshine Coast
11 November 2016 – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba
12 November 2016 – The Shark bar, Gold Coast
18 November 2016 – Settlers Inn, Margaret River
19 November 2016 – Indi Bar, Scarborough
20 November 2016 – Mojos, Fremantle
3 December 2016 – The Triffid, Brisbane
4 December 2016 – Hotel Brunswick, Brunswick Heads

Image used with permission from Remedy Music

Ayla speaks directly to my angsty inner teen with her latest track “Like the Other Kids.” It’s such a poignant song about being different and the feelings that can stir, expressed beautifully by the Sunshine Coast songstress. I’ve enjoyed her other material but this has blown me away.

Ayla will launch the single the following shows along the East Coast next month.

2 October 2016 – Caloundra Music Festival, Caloundra
7 October 2016 – Studio 188, Ipswich
8 October 2016 – The Zoo, Brisbane
21 October 2016 – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
22 October 2016 – The Penny Black, Melbourne

After a hiatus from the live scene lasting more than a year, Sydney pop-rockers Breakaway are back with a brand new single, aptly titled “Restart.” This is the band’s first new material in two years, but it’s a welcome return to form.

The track charts new territory for the band, with retro synth sounds adding depth to their signature pop-rock vibe. Everything’s a little more evolved and more mature.

Breakaway promises the upcoming gigs will give fans the chance to hear new songs from the forthcoming debut album first. With a mix of all ages and under 18s events, everyone can join in the fun. Tickets are available now from Breakaway’s website.

24 September 2016 – The Lair, Sydney (Licensed/All Ages)
8 October 2016 – Milk Bar, Brisbane (18+)
9 October 2016 – Foundry Records, Brisbane (All Ages)
14 October 2016 – Wrangler Studios, Melbourne (All Ages)
15 October 2016 – Workers Club, Melbourne (18+)
16 October 2016 – Enigma Bar, Adelaide (Licensed/All Ages)

Caiti Baker seems to be one of those artists that defies genre. The press release accompanying her debut single “Heavy on My Heart” calls her a soul/hip hop act, but there’s a strong spirit of blues and gospel running through the tune. It’s gorgeously rhythmic, with handclaps and brass flourishes driving things along. The clip, featuring old Super 8 footage of Caiti’s folks, is also really special.

With influences ranging from Big Mama Thornton to Missy Elliot, Caiti Baker is making the kind of music we don’t hear enough of it. If you want more, make sure you catch her at one of her single launch shows.

3 September 2016 – No. 5 Church St, Bellingen
4 September 2016 – Pacific Hotel, Yamba
17 September 2016 – Headland Café, Valla Beach
18 September 2016 – Flow Bar, Old Bar
2 October 2016 – Caloundra Music Festival, Caloundra
5 October 2016 – Elements Bar, Coffs Harbour
7 October 2016 – Stag & Hunter, Newcastle
8 October 2016 – Six Strings Brewery, Central Coast

Kav Temperley continues his musical evolution with the release of his first solo EP, Hope St, on September 9. The EP features the brand new single “Dancin’,” a quirky romantic number that’s put a big smile on my face.

Kav says the EP is as honest as he gets.

“It’s terrifying! But it’s also liberating. There was no censoring – no towing a particular line,” he explained. “I suppose you could say Hope St is me burying my 20s and elegantly dancing into my late 30s. It’s about finding a new way.”

Hope St is actually the first of four EPs Kav has in the works.

“They all form a complete narrative,” he explained. “They take us full cycle. I wanted to present these songs in a unique format, in a different paradigm – it was an artistic challenge. Each EP tells a different part of the same story – each is a part of the whole.”

The lead single from Hope St, “Dancin’” features guest vocals from Lucy Peach who will join Kav at all but the Brisbane Festival show. Catch them both at the following venues.

3 September 2016 – FAC Gallery Sessions, Fremantle
11 September 2016 – Brisbane Festival, Brisbane
15 September 2016 – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh
16 September 2016 – The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine
17 September 2016 – The Basement, Sydney
18 September 2016 – Front Bar, Canberra
23 September 2016 – Jimmy’s Den, Perth
24 September 2016 – Clancy’s Fish Pub, Dunsborough

Hayes Carll will visit Australia in October for two intimate shows in the major capitals.

The Texas native might not be a household name in this country, but he was nominated for a Grammy for best country song this year. His warm vocals tell moving stories from America’s South.
“The Magic Kid,” one of the songs from his new album Lovers and Leavers, gives you an insight into what this talented country-folk artist is all about.

See Hayes Carll at the following Australian shows.

14 October 2016 – Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne
16 October 2016 – Factory Theatre, Sydney

The Delta Riggs’ brand new album Active Galactic hits stores today. Featuring the funky single “Never Seen This Before,” the album is a collection of songs guaranteed to get any party started. It was recorded in just nine days to capture the spontaneous energy of these tunes.

The Gold Coast musos will bring their new songs and some old favourites to venues all around the country over the coming months. Catch them at the following pubs and clubs.

23 September 2016 – Prince of Wales, Bunbury
24 September 2016 – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth
29 September 2016 – The Whalers Hotel, Warranambool
30 September 2016 – The Gov, Adelaide
1 October 2016 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat
3 October 2016 – SSA Club, Albury
6 October 2016 – Kay St, Traralgon
7 October 2016 – The Grand Hotel, Mornington
8 October 2016 – Westernport Hotel, Phillip Island
19 October 2016 – Academy Night Club, Canberra
21 October 2016 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
22 October 2016 – Torquay Hotel, Torquay
27 October 2016 – Wollongong Uni, Wollongong
28 October 2016 – The Metro Theatre, Sydney
29 October 2016 – Banana Field Music and Arts Festival, Coffs Harbour
4 November 2016 – The Entrance Leagues Club, Bateau Bay
5 November 2016 – Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale
10 November 2016 – The Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay
11 November 2016 – The Triffid, Brisbane
12 November 2016 – SOLBAR, Sunshine Coast

When you’ve got guys like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Gibbons singing your praises, you know you’re doing things right. Australia will get the chance to see why the music industry is raving about Ana Popovic when she brings her Trilogy tour to Australia next month.

These intimate shows will showcase Ana’s blend of funk, soul, and blues. Her killer vocals are only matched by her guitar prowess. Born in Belgrade but now based in Memphis, Ana worked with Grammy Award winners Warren Riker and Tom Hambridge on Trilogy, her most ambitious album to date.

Hear songs from this album and others when Ana touches down in Australia next month. Tickets are on sale from the venues.

17 September 2016 – Mitchell Creek Rock N Blues Fest, Kandanga
18 September 2016 – Beaches Hotel Thirroul
21 September 2016 – The Basement Sydney
23 September 2016 – Corner Hotel Melbourne

Stop what you’re doing a take a little moment to watch the video for Tom Lee-Richards’ new single “Madness.” This is the sort of song and clip that deserve much more than the background for your workday or household chores. It demands your attention.

This song is so beautifully executed, delicate and tender, like nothing I’ve heard in some time. I love the way Tom’s velvety voice combines with that of fellow Kiwi Monique Shelford. The clip, which takes an unflinching look at life on the streets for Australia’s homeless, is also a masterstroke.

Tom Lee-Richards will take his very special songs to the people of the East Coast with a series of intimate shows next month.

4 September 2016 – The Gasometer, Melbourne
9 September 2016 – Ulverstone Live at the Wharf, Ulverstone
10 September 2016 – The Otis Room, Burnie
11 September 2016 – The Homestead, Hobart
16 September 2016 – Smiths Alternative, Canberra
17 September 2016 – Church on the Hill, Bendigo
21 September 2016 – Folkswagen, Sydney
22 September 2016 – Pier on Clarence, Port Macquarie
23 September 2016 – Treehouse, Byron Bay
24 September 2016 – 5 Church St, Bellingen
29 September 2016 – Milk Factory, Brisbane
1 October 2016 – Mandela Organic Arts Cafe, Mermaid Beach