Of Wheels and Wires

Of Wheels and Wires Originally Released Oct 1996 as Larrikin LRF 467 Through Festival Records Australia

Re released 1999 as Shoestring SR-14

Primarily, 'Of Wheels and Wires' is an album of worksongs. If 'Laughter Like a Shield' (Larrikin LRF 294) was about the things that we, as Australians, believe; then this album is about the things that we actually do; about the ways in which we choose to spend the precious years of our working lives. Written between 1994 and 1996, the songs were based on interviews with transport workers, writers, timbermillers, dancers, officeworkers, farmers, nurses and others. They focus on the way in which work may give, or fail to give, meaning and dignity to our existence.

The images within the songs were selected to deal thematically with the linear nature of Time and the seasonal cycles of Life and Work that overlay it. The star wheel of the universe, spoken of in 'The Colours of the Cross' and the 'Cable and the Wheel', is mirrored, in microcosm, by the turning of the engine pulley; the spinning of the sawmill blade and the moving hands of a wristwatch; elements that surround us in our daily lives. The passage of Time is reflected in the recurring linear elements; the run of the ferry cable, the span of the tightrope wire and the arrow straight line of a beckoning country highway. Lines and circles, clocks and cables, wheels and wires; it is by such as these that our working lives are lived.

Rarities Dept: Original Extra Notes edited from CD cover due to space considerations

On songwriting : I have often been asked in the last seven years how I define myself as a writer. Labels like Country, Folk, Acoustic Rock, Australiana and Pub Cult have all been thrown at me with equal inaccuracy; as if musical style was actually of any real importance. I don't think I have ever been as confused about this as others seem to be, for in the end I have always viewed myself as a writer of stories; a journalist of sorts. Unlike most songwriters, who look to the wellspring of their own creative spirit for their inspiration, it has become my lot to look beyond it, into the lives of others. The motivation, I suspect, is both social and personal.

Social, in that I have attempted to construct a jigsaw puzzle of the value systems that pervade contemporary Australia and; personal, in so much as each of these stories represent a Voss-like journey through my own spirit; a journal of my continuing search for some kind of judgment on the chaos of the world that surrounds me. Humour, pathos, fear, hatred, greed and love. The style of each song is the musical canvas on which each tale is told; and it's stylistic genesis seems to me, to be always inherent within the nature of the tale. 'Bully Boys' (from Skooldaze) could never have been anything else but a rock song. 'Somewhere in the Car' (from Laughter Like A Shield) could only have been Australiana and 'The Honky Tonk From Hell' just had to be a Bootscooter!

What seems to matter in the end to me is authenticity. I have been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism over that assertion. People whose experience of modern Australian society has been brutal, unjust and negative have been scathing about songs such as 'If A Man is a Man', 'Molly and Me', 'The Blessing' and 'The Spirit of The Southern Shore.' People whose experience and hopes have been accurately reflected by these songs have been equally upset by the appearance of 'Kelly Option', 'The Battler', 'The Ballad of Robert Askin', 'Bad Pennies' and 'Do It Easy'. I can do little about that. Like most bearers of good or ill tidings, I suppose from time to time I will be held accountable for the news I bring.

To return to the problem of musical placement, Eric Watson, a man I deeply respect, once said that Country music had three main facets. an acoustic base; a narrative form and a direct connection with the experience and concerns of rural people. By that definition Graeme Connors' 'Let the Canefields Burn' is great country and 'Achy Breaky Heart' is a load of shit. I like the definition. I have always loved great country and detested with a passion the worst of it. It is the genre with which I feel most comfortable, and the one which I feel has the most to offer in an age of lowest common denominator mass production entertainment; but like anything else for Australians, it is not sacrosanct; and where the story leads elsewhere, so then must the style follow. This applies equally to accent, approach, rhythm, instrumentation and all the other colourations that define style. Make of it what you will, this album represents Volume 3 of The Local Rag; a further glimpse into the way other Australians lead their lives and and as to where the next album might lead me, that is, as ever, uncertain. Musically or geographically; it has never been the destination that has been important to me, only the journey. Only ever the journey.

Pat Drummond - October. 1995


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