Sunday, January 2, 2011

Start the Decade Right

And so we begin another year.  And what better way to take the first few steps than with the assuring orotund vocals of two old favorites?  Before that strange tag ‘alt Country’ was coined and before American imperium let loose a mess of global intractabilities these two records were making people smile. 

Mark C. Halstead is a Melbourne based singer who after years of learning his chops in punk outfits up and down Australia’s east coast, made his one and only album, Before and After Love (1994).  It tickled the fancy of critics but sold miserably. And yet it is as pearly a slice of immaculately delivered urban country music as you’d like to hear.  Self penned songs laced with humor and love sit along side covers, like the Talking Heads Heaven, that add new depths to the original.  You should have this album if for no other reason than to realize that Australia has more to offer Country music than Keith Urban.

Track Listing:
   1.     Whiskers in the Sink
         2.     Welcome Stranger
         3.     Tell Me
         4.     Change Partners
         5.     The Way It Is
         6.     (I Don’t Know How to Say) Goodbye
         7.     Heaven
         8.     Before and After Love
         9.     In Defence of My Heart
        10. Hearts and Diamonds   
        11. Here Comes

Kris Kristofferson’s second album The Silver-Tongued Devil and I (1971) is a nice complement to Before and After Love. Kristofferson’s sawdust voice seems an earlier version of Halstead’s baritone. And though more raw Kristofferson’s lyrics explore territory familiar to the Australian (lost friends, substance abuse, growing up).  Kristofferson, a Rhodes scholar who chose to work as a janitor in Nashville in hopes of selling his songs, delivers a mighty collection of songs several of which have become ‘standards’ (Lovin’ Her Was Easier; When I Loved Her) and cult favorites (The Pilgrim-Chapter 33; Epitaph).

Track Listing:
        1.     The Silver-Tongued Devil and I
        2.     Jody and the Kid  
        3.     Billy Dee
        4.     Good Christian Soldier
        5.     Breakdown (A Long Way From Home)
        6.     Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do)
        7.     The Taker
        8.     When I Loved Her
        9.     The Pilgrim-Chapter 33
      10.  Epitaph (Black and Blue)

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