I am sitting here with Carol typing for me; recovering from what seems to have been a Tree Funnel Web Spider bite...Yes that's right! It was 'somewhere in the car!!!' An old vintage truck we use for the stage at The Macquarie Arms Hotel in Windsor, to be precise. Making the final preparations for the show I reached through a gap in the tray to place a speaker lead and....whack....It is a very distinctive feeling when it happens. I knew I was in trouble straight away with my hands, tongue and lips tingling or numb with minutes. (For overseas Readers The Australian funnel Web Spider is one of the most lethal in the world and an antivenin was only developed in recent years) The pub supplied some staff to quickly pack the P.A. and an hour later I was in Katoomba Hospital Casualty Ward; wondering if there was some sort of cosmic arachnid revenge for the song "It's Somewhere in the Car"
On a brighter note, A live version of that particular song is part of 'The Naked Poets' album which was released at The Gympie Muster in August and which now seems set to be the most remarkable and unexpected success story in Shoestring Record's long career.
The last minute idea in Tamworth in January to record 5 of the sellout nights of the show on..... wait for it.... a Sony mini disc recorder straight out of the Mackie desk with only a few extra audience mikes has proved to be one of the best "what if..." ideas ever.
The original concept was to give ourselves a record of the show which is, in the main, pretty organic and grows across the 7 nights of the Festival. The total cost of the recording process was just the cost of the discs, but the outcome was so surprisingly good that, by March we had decided to begin the mammoth task of compiling and mastering a CD from those mini discs for public release.
'The Naked Poets' are Marco Gliori, Murray Hartin, Shirley Friend, Bobby Miller and Ray Essery and myself, and is a Monty Python-like mix of 5 Bush Poets and a Songwriter into a comedy troupe of sorts. and has been a part of my Tamworth activities for some years now.What no one expected was the public response in the wake of the CD's release at The Gympie Muster in August or the 'runs' on the ABC shops and centers wherever The Poets performed interviews on air. Since there were six of us, all in different parts of the country the exposure was just about national. Follow-up sales from already sold album began a 'snowball' effect and Sony Custom is now in it's third reprint. A big thanks to Gerard Andrews at Sony Custom for responding so quickly.
What has all this done for my reputation as any kind of serious writer? Well, thankfully there have been some saving graces.
Not the least of which is that The Road To Damascus ...anything but a comedy song was last night placed in the Finals of The 2000 APRA Country Song Of The Year in The Tamworth Golden Guitars. Whether or not it makes the final five will be known next week.
That alone is a big thrill and a boost for the already successful 'Through The Cracks' album which was released three days too late to be entered in last years awards.
I would have thought that the release would now have been far too long ago to gain much profile in the awards this year, but constant airplay by Ian Macnamara and John Nutting (nationally) and by Danny De Le Rossi (Qld) Neil Meany (NSW) and a myriad of community Broadcasters has kept a few of the tracks in the public eye; a fact for I which truly grateful.
The show with Reg Poole at Tamworth RSL got such a good response that we went almost an hour overtime at the end by request of the management. A new Song 'Blame It on the Baby Boomers' came out of some conversations with the older members of the crowd that Night and has been a bit of a road hit since then.
Arriving in Gympie we found that Karen Lynne Frencham, South Coast singer/songwriter, and my singing partner for much of the past year had been nominated for Best New Rising Star and Album of the Year in Mildura Independent Awards which meant that we be going into that festival with a substantially higher profile and would be performing at The Awards ceremony. Karen, who was in Britain at the time was scheduled to fly in from London almost direct to Moree for The Bullarah Bush Expo...talk about Culture shock!!!!!
Although the rain that swamped The Gympie Muster did follow me south, it failed to rain out any of our performances. The Bullarah Bush Expo was, of course a lot of fun again this year and by the time we got to Moree Karen's single 'Grandma Used to Say' had made No.8 on the national country charts with a bullet so that was a plus right throughout the tour.
We have been writing together extensively for most of the year, but what I didn't know was that she had entered a couple of our songs (without my knowing) in The Central Queensland Songwriting Awards. One, "Arrogance", took out the gospel section and "The Rush", cleaned up in the three main categories. It won Best Contemporary Country Song, Best Country Song and was selected by Greame Connors as The Queensland Song Of The Year.
It was a real surprise to be phoned in Balranald and told I had won a competition I hadn't even entered. "The Rush" features on a new duets album called 'Six Days In December ' which Karen and I have just completed recording with Rod Coe as producer. It will be released in Tamworth, hopefully our shows at The Longyard if all goes well.
The SA /VIC leg of the tour allowed us some time for some bush camping ( which is the real reason we do this job) and although the festivals were really enjoyable, It's probable that the very best concerts we performed last quarter were played to an audience of wombats , kangaroos and assorted critters in some of the most beautiful places in the world. They were lit only by golden orange glow of a campfire and the silver light of the southern stars.
One of the most memorable was a particular night at a place called Lake Crosbie at The Pink Lakes National Park. Karen and I were camped on the verge of a pink crystaline beach which is nothing short of a natural wonder. Formed by a crystallized salt crust that covers a pink algal bloom which has somehow managed to flourish in the highly saline conditions, the beach forms a transparent pink crystal promenade along which you can walk for miles. At Sunset the sight was unforgettable . Karen and I sang around the fire until well after midnight.
In Melbourne, I fulfilled a personal ambition by playing at The Legendary Dan O'Connell Hotel, in Canning Street, Carlton where The Bushwackers started all those years ago .
The Big News from Melbourne is that another legend; The Troubadour which was Melbourne's Premier Folk Venue is now back in business after a 16 year break. Among the Folkies who used to regularly appear there in their early careers were Eric Bogle, Mike McClellan and Doug Ashdown. They are all included in the reopening celebrations along with Steve Young from the US, Jane Saunders, Brent Parlane and Greg Champion. Following Melbourne, negotiations are under way for me to perform there in Feb Watch the WEB!
The Vise Tour was another great success this year and included a night in Wagga where Greg Champion, Andrew Clermont , Grant Luhrs, and myself drank a few bottles of the amber ale and Aussie Red and woke up to find ourselves with a new song, "Freedom In her Eyes" which features on the new album.
But if going away is frantic... coming home is always more frantic. Arriving home to a hectic round of weddings (See Home and Hearth) and the new recordings I was dressed, coiffed, snipped, groomed and generally told where to stand by the women in my life who had these events orchestrated to the last detail.
No wonder that funnel web bit me. He figured I needed a break. I am looking forward to a longer one over Christmas.
As usual some apologies. The Adelaide show at Morpeth Vale was sold out well in advance of our arrival in South Australia and was our only Adelaide show. We apologise to those who missed out. We hope to return to Adelaide next year. For the folks that turned up to the show at Westharbour Rugby Club on Friday, 3rd Dec. this show had been incorrectly advertised and has been rescheduled for Friday 11th February, 2000
Coming events - our regular Christmas Harbour Cruise leaves Pyrmont Bay Wharf (please note the change of departure It is located behind the Australian Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour ) at 11.45am on Saturday 18th December. Tickets are $20 each and may be purchased on the wharf. Join Karen, Marty and I for a preview of the new album.
New Year's Eve - I'm pleased to announce, that I have managed to avoid the city of Sydney altogether for this event and even more pleased to announce that I will be working with Wongawilli and the Colonial Dancers in a family celebration in the grounds of The Oakdale Workers Club, Oakdale. Oakdale is a small mining community midway between Picton and Penrith, tucked in close to the mountain range in a lovely rural area. It came to prominence this year with the closure of the mine and a large retrenchment of the town's workforce.
The town decided to run a New Year's Eve celebration, somewhat as an act of defiance against their fate but with the intervention of the Federal Government, all miners have now received full redundancies and so this party will be celebratory indeed. We invite you and your family to join us, in what I'm sure will be a far more civilised alternative to the crush of the city. There will be 2 fireworks displays one at 8.30pm for the children and one at 12.00 for those who are still awake and intent on celebrating the end of the millennium (a year too soon.....some people can't count but what the hell we can do it all again next year.)For those who wish to join us, Carol and I will be recovering at The Travelers Rest Hotel/Motel in the Hunter Valley with Gary Steel and Pam Drysdale and Len Knight. We will be assisting, Jan and Jorg Gartelmann in the demolition of their remaining cases of 1998 Shiraz.
Home and Hearth.
The end of November brought two big social events for our family, including the marriage of our second son Peter, who will be well known to country fans over the past few years as drummer for both the Bushwhackers and The Dead Ringer Band, to his drum teacher's daughter Rebecca Zappia. Carol and I were thrilled and the wedding was a feast of music at both the church and the reception, where Peter and his long time mentor, Jess, went head to head on the reception band's kit Guest appearances by Gary Steel, Rebecca Henty, .............made the event one to be remembered. Peter is now touring as Pearl Drums main clinician in Australia.
Karen Lynne rounded off her successful tour of the UK, country music festivals in time to join me on the South Australian leg of the tour. As if that was not enough she spent much of the time in the truck on the phone organising her own wedding to long time fiancee and bluegrass luminary, Martin Louis. That event held in the beautiful Everglades Gardens in Leura attracted the Bluegrass Fraternity across Australia and the receptions featured appearances by Ian Simpson, ................ Martin and Karen performed some traditional standards and extended bluegrass solos were the order of the day. It was seriously a case of I knew the bride before she used to hootananny.
Jpegs of both weddings will be available on the site soon.
Our sympathies are with those in our community affected by such terrible loss but The Glenbrook train disaster left our family feeling we had been dealt the ultimate 'get out jail free' card. The commuter train which rammed The Indian Pacific was the one that our eldest son, Matthew, and Meghan's boyfriend Ryan regularly take to work in the city. But, with university in recess, Ryan was away on break and Matthew, for some reason, woke early and decided in a fit of enthusiasm to take the early train to work. We are very grateful for that although there were a lot of frantic calls to the city after the news broke that the trains had collided.
All the best
Pat and Carol