2017 CD REVIEW
RAISED BY EAGLES
I MUST BE SOMEWHERE (ABC).
WOLVES, SHEEP AND SHAPE
“There's wolves in the woods when the sheep get together/ hounds in your head but now I got your measure/ nothing in the distance I don't already know/ you're only ever angry or down/ you're never easy to be around/ been too long out in the weather/ we've been trying to fix this forever and ever.” - Shape & Line - Luke Sinclair.
Yes, it's too big a temptation to avoid wolves and sheep when the band is named after the progeny of another predator.
So let's mix our metaphors when we examine the first single and entrée song from Raised By Eagles third album I Must Ne Somewhere.
Singer-songwriter guitarist Luke Sinclair rounded up kings and queens from the animal kingdom to illustrate escaping from a relationship that became more an obligation than a passion in Shape & Line.
It sets the tone for fellow songwriter Nick O'Mara's gospel flavored Every Night he describes as a meditation on deliverance and corruption with modern interpretations of good and bad.
O'Mara massages his message with a vast array of guitars, replete with steel and resonator - one of three tunes here utilizing his vocals.
Sinclair's spiritualty sprint about trying to connect in the after-life with a recently deceased soul-mate in I Must Be Somewhere is more oblique than Shotgun Willie Nelson's classic Roll Me Up And Smoke When I Die or his sardonic I Woke Up Today Still Not Dead.
But this is a younger writer whose bloodline features more football field triumphs than jogging with fellow earthlings.
This could be an appropriate time to recall how the mayor of Christchurch was left waiting in the lobby of Willie's digs on his 1981 Australasian tour for a pre-arranged mutual goodwill canter while the Red Headed Stranger chose a joint of the vegetarian variety to ease him into the south island slopes.
Yes, as tour chauffeur and chronicler, I was left to explain to the mayor that his jogging partner was receiving last minute riding instructions from a Little River Band guitarist.
But, as always, I digress but it seems a poignant prelude to another O'Mara tune Nowhere You Wanna Run that he describes as a country rock stomper that he wrote on a five string nylon guitar many moons ago in a caravan park.
O'Mara says his slide solo instrumentation was inspired by watching Ry Cooder play a “frankensteined” Stratocaster - a hybrid Fender-Hawaiian lap steel - on the band's 2015 Nashville odyssey.
The song theme, says O'Mara, is about the perils of indecision.
But not the indecision about pre-emptive strikes on homegrown terrorists here in the unlucky radio country.
EVEN EAGLES GET THE GOLD RUSH BLUES
“A handshake deal by a roulette wheel and a crooked smile/ between you and me and the deep blue sea/ they sold us out by the mile/ it's the last, the last deal gone through/ leave's you and me with the gold rush blues.” - Gold Rush Blues - Nick O'Mara.
That obviously has a universal appeal - it includes music, literature, sport, love and career.
Check out the hapless hombres strewn across old Hank's lost highway.
O'Mara's writing peaks in the melancholic Gold Rush Blues - a time tested testament to the wanton destruction of towns and people by greed and exploitation when the money dries up and finds liquidity in greener fields of plenty.
Just look at a map of Australia with the aftermath of the historic gold rushes in country Victoria, the modern coal and iron ore boom turning to dust in Queensland and Western Australia and, of course, the pyramid and Ponzi sellers fostered by land and city sharks.
Cynics might also see a parallel with the other Eagles - the west coast football team's crippled cousins or even the Californian musical Eagles .
Maybe there's also relevance in hit and run attacks on the heart.
But, as always, Sinclair makes the most of hindsight in the album finale By Now by revealing it's about regret and redemption and a dreamer's destruction of the beauty of simplicity.
“That song kind of freaked me out a little bit, because it's the last song we decided to put on the record, and it came up nothing like we've done before,” Sinclair revealed.
“It didn't sound like us to me, so I was pretty reluctant to give into it, but it's now one of my favourite songs on the record.”
OK that's the plot from the creative writing axis of Sinclair and O'Mara whose quartet released previous album Diamonds In The Bloodstream in 2015.
But, like a fertile feline footy team homily, it's not all Dangerfield and Selwood.
Bassist Luke Richardson and drummer Johnny Gibson give their team-mates run out of the backline with added vocals and then there's the production and coaching by Shane O'Mara at his Yikesville studio in Yarraville.
Once again tasteful tutelage ensures that every nuance and vocal is front and centre in the mix and dynamic delivery ensures the scoreboard is a salient signpost to the Eagles sonic span.
There may be no premiership flag but strong chances of rewards in annual awards.