Forte Magazine September,
If you reckon you know
exactly what to expect here, think again. Sure, there’s the distinctive
harmonica and vocal authority, sardonic wit and heart. But between earthy
blues and tear-stained folk, Smith refines and re-defines his legendary
status. Like Rick Rubin’s Johnny Cash recordings, Unknown Country grabs
the listener by the collar and says, “I’ve been around. I’ve made
mistakes. I know a thing or two but I’m prepared to learn some more.”
With vocals to the fore, tiny cracks in the patina only add to the
immediacy and integrity of Smith’s musings.
Not that it’s all kisses
and tears. The cover suggests the old-school recording style with
‘dynamic range’ means ‘PLAY IT LOUD’. Guitarist Matt Walker (co-writer
and producer) worked intimately with Smith teasing out sublime portraits
of rebels, rascals and people next door. ‘In the Ring’ is all sweat and
adrenalin; as jarring as a left hook. ‘Smashman’ rocks out on behalf of
tow-truck drivers. ‘Jack Napoleon’ celebrates the rebellion of an
exploited Tasmanian aborigine in the 1840s with Garth Hudson (The Band) on
accordion. ‘Mary the Larrikin’ tells of a barmaid’s friendship with
educated, opium-addled Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne. The drowsy organ
drone and crystalline vocals are otherworldly.
The narrator breathes
bluesy southern menace into ‘The Devil and The Boy’ about Elvis and The
Colonel. With barbs aimed at Johnny and Dubya, ‘God May Not Be With Us’
recalls a Dingoes hook and easy rhythm. The frank and haunting title
track draws from Smith what ‘Hurt’ bled from Johnny Cash. Guitarists are
Smith (also banjo), Walker (lap steel) and Shannon Bourne. Typical of
Smith’s eclecticism, Asian-flavoured strings intersperse Lawson-esque
lyrics. Guests include Grant Cummerford (bass), engineer Dave Manton
(keys) and Andy Rigby (Celtic harp). Laurie Ernst’s drums march straight
from a New Orleans ‘second line’ as Smith reclaims his mojo on ‘Buddy
Bolden’. Inspired and inspiring.
The Australian Sept 12,
THE overlay of Unknown Country presents Broderick Smith staring into the
distance; his eyes set to gravitas; his expression stamped with evaluative
determination. The cover art shows the artist walking through rugged
territory dappled with faint sunlight and dark shade. The visuals are fair
warning that Unknown Country is troubled terrain.
The roots-sparse music resonates with emotional turbulence. The
atmospheres are set by blues lap steel player and producer Matt Walker,
with apt support from (among others) guitarist Shannon Bourne and The
Band's organ player Garth Hudson. But Smith's compelling song narrations
guide the journey.
He evokes the after-taste of black dog depression on Bad Star. He breathes
life into Australia's colonial past on Jack Napoleon From Cape Grim and
Mary the Larrikin.
On I'm The Same as You he evokes weary grief for those caught in the Bali
bombing and Iraq war. The Devil and the Boy is a boisterous enactment of
the story of Elvis Presley and manager Colonel Tom Parker. Buddy Bolden is
grunge homage to New Orleans blues.
As the title track warns, "only the small fire of one's wits and sense of
self-preservation offers a flicker of salvation". Smith's vocals range
from an empathetic croon to the shout of an avenging angel.
Unknown Country is a stunning musical achievement that demands and rewards
concentrated and repeated listening.
Broderick Smith -
www.ourbrisbane.com Sept 12, 2009
In the early 70’s ABC
Television featured a rock music show called GTK that ran for ten minutes
leading up to the soapie Bellbird. This was where you got a
nightly fix of acts like Thorpie and Daddy Cool performing live in the
studio their own rendition of the GTK theme as well as original material.
It was on one of these episodes that I first encountered Broderick Smith,
singing up a storm, blowing some bitchin’ blues harmonica and breaking
into an irreverent orangutan dance that mightily impressed the teenagers
of the neighbourhood. Broderick went on to lead The Dingoes, arguably one
of the greatest bands to emerge from Melbourne at the time.
Unknown Country is
Smith’s tenth solo album and carries on The Dingoes tradition of melding
rhythm & blues with Australian colonial music. It’s deep, dark, rustic and
gritty though not short on intricacy and at times very tender. The song
list is a patchwork quilt of historical themes, personal reflection and
contemporary issues doused with lyrics that would stand alone as potent
poetry without the music. It comes across as an honest, totally
uncompromised original work so bereft of familiar turns that I initially
found it difficult to find a place to land depending on my mood. On a
continuum with Australian Idol at one end this would be light years away
at the remotest point in the universe. It’s challenging stuff that boots
you out of your easy chair and puts you outside the proverbial square.
The opening and title track
Unknown Country is immediately ethereal and beautiful showcases
Broderick’s voice; an unanticipated entre.
The Devil And The Boy
tells of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley couched in carnival imagery
with a shimmering Mississippi harp intro. In a previous life Colonel Tom
was a side show operator with a troop of dancing chickens who boot-scooted
with the aid of a controlled hotplate hence the priceless line ‘a dancing
chicken on a hot plate, a golden voice for all times’.
Buddy Bolden pays
homage to the original spark of New Orleans jazz and affects such an
authentic vibe you can almost taste the gumbo. This track introduces a
disarmingly filthy but funky electric guitar sound that eventually works
to test the flow of the album although its lowdown use on this track is to
From I’m The Same As
You there’s a swing into the grass roots and colonial. Jack
Napoleon bounces along on an ancient banjo telling the story of
a 19th century Tasmanian aboriginal activist and featuring none other than
The Band’s Garth Hudson on accordion – now that’s rustic.
Mary The Larrikin
is a sensuous and majestic ode to Joe Byrne of the Kelly Gang.
God May Not Be With Us
raises the contemporary moral issues surrounding American and Australian
collusion in the Iraq conflict.
Unfortunately the pastoral
mood emerging from this set of songs is smashed to pieces by the non-sequitir
The Ring with its puking, dissonant and abrasive guitar. The
topic is the pain and loneliness of the boxer so a hit below the belt is
apt but at the expense of breaking the spell and continuity set by the
album thus far. This is an odd contrast to the hypnotic, crystalline
acoustic work that is one of the most endearing facets of the album.
Overall this should appeal
to those who get off on the darker recesses of Bob, Neil or Van and
deserves to be rewarded with similar respect. With repeated plays there’s
a payoff as it starts to invade you. And who knows, a visit to Kelly
Country with this on in the background might just invoke something
By Julian Endsleigh
The Age Gig Guide Sept 11th,
BRODERICK Smith was
recognised for being one of the first Australian songwriters to imbue his
songs with a sense of heritage when the Dingoes were recently inducted
into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Smith is still making vital music. His rich,
soulful voice and harmonica playing have been enhanced by a young band led
by guitar-slingers Matt Walker and Shannon Bourne and The Band's
keyboardist Garth Hudson, on this sparse and soulful album that taps into
blues, folk and country. His 10th solo album is as diverse as you'd
imagine from a well-read songwriter as interested in boxing as
sixth-century Chinese poetry. Characters include Elvis Presley and his
manager, Colonel Tom Parker; New Orleans jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden;
Aboriginal freedom fighter Jack Napoleon; Kelly Gang member Joe Byrne; and
a local tow-truck driver as he explores the Iraq war, the Bali bombings
and the existential search for meaning in life. "Come and take a walk into
my soul," Smith invites the listener on Walk into my Soul.
Afterwards you'll feel as reinvigorated and connected to the land as after
a mountain stroll.
BRODERICK SMITH –
Posted: Tuesday, 15 September 2009
This silvery old devil may
be familiar to readers as the voice of The Dingoes – a once hip pub rock
outfit from Melbourne who have recently been inducted into the Aria Hall
of Fame. In his middle age, Broderick Smith has avoided the softer road of
the adult contemporary singer, and forged his own weather-beaten path into
darker folk rock waters. For this moody, dense record, he’s teamed up with
Melbourne blues whiz-kid Matt Walker to co-write, produce and
orchestrate, an inspired cocktail of talent that recalls the artistic
freshness of the Rick Rubin / Neil Diamond series. Walker’s spare, unusual
melodies and fragmented guitar work are instantly recognizable, and a
perfect match for Smith’s cognac-infused lyrical wisdom. The subtle
instrumentation and odd, creaking sounds throughout give the listener the
impression that they are taking a journey with Smith, indeed through an
unknown country. His voice – amazingly resonant and smooth for an older
rocker, commands these songs with authority and startling dynamics, from
the haunted, harmonium-infused title track to the blistering spook-rocker
The Ring. Most effective is the ponderous and darkly beautiful
Mary The Larrikin. Thanks in equal part to Walker’s involvement
and Smith’s own refusal to settle into cozy songwriting waters, this is a disturbing
and satisfying record and should sit high on Smith’s mantle as one of his
20 September, 2009
Click here for Dave Dawson's review of Unknown Country
14 September, 2009
Broderick Smith has been
homing in on this unique territory for nearly 50 years. He staked his
first claims with seminal Melbourne blues/ roots outfits Carson and The
Dingoes. Not that his journey began there by any means. But in a sense,
Unknown Country is where it was always heading.
Smith's masterful voice is but one key ingredient to his tenth solo album.
His longstanding lap steel accomplice and co-writer Matt Walker to his
right, guitarist Shannon The Assassin Bourne to his left, Unknown
Country brings a new combination of passion, depth and texture to
Australian roots music.
Drummer Laurie Ernst is another veteran of Smith's floating combo, The
Guild. American keyboard player Garth Hudson (The Band) is an older
colleague, going back to the Dingoes late 70s residency in San Francisco.
Bassist Grant Cummerford, Celtic harp player Andrew Rigby and engineer/
keyboard player David Manton complete a lean, empathetic line-up.