2018 CD FEATURE
CATHERINE BRITT & THE COLD-COLD HEARTS (LOST HIGHWAY-UNIVERSAL).
CATHERINE MINES RED DIRT AND TRUE BRITT GRIT
“Something's stirring deep inside/ a feeling I know well/ something deep down in my bones/ a sign easy to tell/ I need that certain feeling/ so we hitch our little home/ and out towards the western skies/ once again we roam.” - Red Dirt - Catherine Britt.
Novocastrian singer-songwriter Catherine Britt has boomeranged from storms of life on her anthemic earthy seventh album recorded in her bucolic Beverley Hillbillies studio, outback in the her backyard.
It's a true testament of her resilience that she wrote all songs after recovering from breast cancer diagnosed when she was just 30.
Now, three years down the Lost Highway , she has reaped riches from her post-operative journeys to the heart of our nation.
The young mother illustrated entrée song Red Dirt with a vivid video shot at Silverton near Broken Hill.
Many scenes were filmed in the Silverton hotel that Catherine and her husband James Beverley run for a month each year - they also host Silverton Sunset Music Festival.
“The festival was fantastic and we're already planning next year's event at the start of March,” Catherine revealed.
The video was directed by Brock Daubert & James Fox, produced by Duncan Toombs and featured in the Series #35 premiere of Nu Country TV on August 4.
Britt revealed the song and video were an ode to driving toward the outback skies, leaving the city in the rearview mirror - one of the core themes of the album rooted in personal challenges and power of love and family.
The video captures the nomadic life at sunset from the nearby Mundi Mundi lookout.
“You can't really get bad shots out there,” Britt explained of the vista.
“That lookout is famous; you go out there, and it's so flat, you can see the curvature of the earth. It has the most amazing sunsets you'll ever see. This one was just perfect.”
Her band and son's name Hank were inspired by country legend Hank Williams who died at 29 on New Year's Day, 1953, in the back of a Cadillac en route to a concert in Canton , Ohio.
“It made sense and it felt right and what a great name for a band,” Britt said of the song and artist who was her embryonic influence.
“I love it.”
It's a far cry from when Bill discovered Catherine when she was just 14 and left for Nashville at 17 to record and write with some major artists of the growth genre including Pistol Annies pal Ashley Monroe.
Her 1999 EP In the Pines was followed by 2002 debut album Dusty Smiles and Heartbreak Cures.
“I came up with this idea three years ago on our honeymoon while we were travelling in our camper in WA,” explained Britt - mother of Hank now nine months old.
“I didn't know what to do next after Boneshaker but I knew I didn't want to do the overseas thing again and that I wanted to do something more organic and at home. I thought of building the studio and doing it ourselves. I've always wanted to do one of those artist and band projects like Ryan Adams & The Cardinals and Emmylou Harris & The Hot Band . It's still the artist but they have this band of mates behind them. When I was writing the album I was going back to when I was a kid and rediscovering that music that I grew up on. I thought about who would get that and pull it off and these guys were perfect. When you're making a record and going out on the road it's really important that there's a good vibe and you're all on the same page.”
THE RIVER & THE GUM
“Just a wayfarer drifting in the wind/ so young and wild and fancy free/ the red soil is where his life begins/ and some would say it was meant to be/ born here on the dry river banks/ never seen a drop of rain/ when the season brought a summer storm/ he'd never been so afraid.” The River & The Gum - Catherine Britt-Melody Moko.
Britt honoured her husband James with passionate paean Met My Match - a sequel of sorts to You And Me Against The World on sixth album Boneshaker.
“I wrote this song as a love song for my fiancé James,” Britt revealed at the time.
“When I got the idea to feature Steve Earle on the album I was trying to think which song I could record with him and I needed to write one when I thought about this song. I sent it to him wondering what he would think of singing a ballad love song duet with me, but to my surprise he loved it and joined me on the track. James is very happy that Steve Earle sings his love song!”
Met My Match follows equally soul bearing Too Hot To Just Quit on her new disc.
And she combined with Adelaide born-latter day Novocastrian and NSW Central Coast chanteuse and tour partner Melody Moko for their timely treatise on inland drought - The River & The Gum.
Moko followed Britt to Nashville for writing and performing and returned here to record debut album The Wreckage with Britt's co-producer Muchow.
So it's not surprising they personalised the suffering of a re-generated river bank gum tree subjected to the twin terror of drought and floods.
It's a perfect segue into Troubled Kind where Britt heads on a hedonistic journey north west to Daly Waters and Mataranka to reunite with old friends and escape societal servitude before returning to her coastal home and harbour.
Mataranka, population about 400, south of Katherine in the Northern Territory , is where Britt, husband and son Hank, made a pit-stop while towing their caravan.
“We're living exactly the way we want to live, with the caravan, travelling around and just seeing Australia ,” Britt revealed in an interview to promote her album.
“And travel anyway - what the hell am I paying my mortgage for, honestly? This way, we can all be together as a family. It just makes sense to me.
“We're just so happy, meeting so many amazing people and seeing such incredible places. Right now, there are natural hot springs among all these palm trees 200 metres from my caravan. This is my life? Really?”
Britt also tears tunes from her back pages in Where You Gonna Go and Young In The Wrong Ways .
The singer reveals the perils of chasing fame on the pursuers pride and inevitable ravages of time on the human psyche and body in the former and plunge into pleasure at the expense of health in the latter.
Britt may have channeled Octogenarian Shotgun Willie Nelson with a heartfelt homily on her mortality in I'm Not Ready.
It's a sibling song of sort of Willie's prophetic classic Still Not Dead Yet but Britt has two collaborators here - coastal neighbours Brooke McClymont and singing spouse Adam Eckersley.
“I wanted to co-write this song because it was easier for me to do it that way,” Britt explained.
“For me sharing is therapeutic, and if it also increased awareness and understanding of cancer, then that's really positive.”
“Working down in coalmine/ dreaming of the sunshine/ laying your whole lie on the line/ it's so dark in a coalmine/ no-one ever asked him what he wanted/ so for 35 years now he's been haunted/ following in his daddy's footsteps, just a coalminers son/ shoveling coal by night on the Lake Liddell run.” - Coalmine - Catherine Britt-Bill Chambers.
After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and recording memorable song F U Cancer with peers such as Beccy Cole and Lyn Bowtell the singer was cleared of breast cancer.
“The moment I did get sick, and got better, we decided to hit the road,” she says.
“It hasn't changed since then, and now we're probably not going home. We've rented the house out, so we have no option.”
“I'm feeling a little bit like I've gone back to my roots, and where it all began. All the things I love about music, that's what this project was for me.”
Her Coalmine collaboration with mentor Chambers has major differences from earlier subterranean struggles magnified by Kentucky coalminers' daughters Loretta Lynn and Patty Loveless.
This narrative is about a local Lake Liddell coalminer's son who spends 35 years toiling beneath the ground like his sire.
And, of course, Chambers input makes it a sparse saga with chunky chain gang instrumentation.
It's likely to add to her five Golden Guitar Awards, CMA Global Artist Of The Year award in 2010 and six ARIA Award nominations for Best Country Album.
And, when she is ready she can boomerang to the international stage - a platform she shared with peers Sir Elton John, Kasey Chambers, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Kenny Chesney, Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Chris Isaak, Keith Urban, Don McLean and her late Texan songwriting partner Guy Clark.