2017 CD REVIEW
GULF FAMILY FATAL FLIGHT
“They say his wings tipped the trees/ he fought survival crashing limbs and leaves/ the beacon sounds of his last flight/ the search went on and on into the night/ whatever happened that fateful day/ no one knows and no one can say/ here they found not one angel but two/ they fly forever now into the blue.” - Fly High - Kalesti Butler-Val Butler.
It's no surprise the Gulf of Carpentaria family cattle station way out west of Cairns was a fertile song source for Kalesti Butler's acclaimed second CD Airborne.
“I was born and raised on a cattle property in Queensland 's Gulf of Carpentaria on the Gilbert River,” Kalesti revealed.
“The property was called Blanncourt Station and it's located half way between Georgetown and Croydon. We had our own helicopter and pilots, jillaroos and ringers. As kids it was always about finding interesting things - like looking for treasures, digging for gold. And there were motor bikes and horse riding and the freedom to do whatever we wanted.”
But not all memories were joyous for the bush belle who tore pages from a tragedy tableau here.
“Over the last couple of years a lot's happened to me personally,” explained Kalesti about musical influences of four generations of her family.
“My grandmother died, my grandfather died, my dad died, my uncle and his son died. And I split up with my ex. We were together for eight years and had two kids. So there were a lot of things to write songs about.”
Val's brother Eddie and nephew Sandy were working in the Gulf maintaining roads and machinery used to fix the roads.
Eddie flew himself and Sandy in and out of the Gulf as air travel was more efficient because of the distance to remote areas.
During a routine inspection trip in September 2013, Eddie and Sandy were killed when their plane crashed on take-off.
“My uncle Eddie owned the hotel in Croydon in Queensland ,” Kalesti revealed.
“He'd sit up there on the bar and play guitar - he'd entertain the night away. If you rock up to that pub, even now, because of the type of environment he created they're at last six guitars and people jamming. If I turned up there would be no way in hell I would be able to leave without singing a song.”
Val is sole writer on the evocative Love Me Now .
Robert Mackay produced Butler 's album at the Pacific International Studio in Hervey Bay on the Queensland coast.
Mackay plays baritone and electric guitars, Mark Moulynox adds banjo, Dobro and pedal steel, Dave Francis is on acoustic guitar and drummer Marty Smith picks up the tempo.
2015 Mildura country music festival peer Michael Bryers suggested that she record with Mackay.
“I love a challenge and achieving my dreams, I will be stepping out of my comfort zone,” she said before the sessions.
“I feel like there's something on the album for everybody. I've got a country rock song, some story songs, a heritage song and then I've got some more truthful, personal songs on there.”
The 2011 CMAA Academy Of Country Music graduate and 2014 Star Maker Top 10 finalist kicks off with rollicking You're Not The One - inspired by an eight year ruptured romance.
Kalesti wrote it with Roger Corbett and Kathy Dobson at fellow singer John Krsulja's Dag Sheep Station Writer's Retreat at Nundle near Tamworth .
“I was going through a time in my life where I was trying the dating thing again, getting back on my feet,” recalled Butler who lives at Emerald, west of Rockhampton.
“And some of the guys just weren't cutting it.”
She wrote the haunting love lament The Secret's In My Eyes and vibrant finale Pump with her mum Val at the 2012 Mildura spring country music festival.
The latter was born as mother and daughter were discussing song titles, concepts and ideas when Kalesti spotted an old fuel bowser.
This prompted the song as the ladies created a heroine jillaroo whose job was checking the water pumps around the property.
Kalesti massaged the message with accessible yodelling as a bonus.
RIDE COWBOY – PATERNAL PAEAN
“Sitting in the moonlight stoking the lowlight smoking/ watching the night fall keeping his soul warm waiting/ troubles coming on a force a hurricane/ in the silence there's a chill/ fever in the night in his bones and in his bed/ Oh spirits take him now so he can get on up that hill.” - Ride Cowboy - Kalesti Butler-Felicity Urquhart.
When Kalesti spoke to him on the phone from a half-way pit stop she had no idea “have fun in Tamworth ” would be some of his final words.
“We wrote that before he passed away so it was easier to write back then because I don't think I could have written it now,” she confessed.
She also explores clever outback metaphors, replete with her first sightings of kangaroos and emus on the road to Camooweal, in Coat Of Arms written with Anita Ree.
Butler energises the spirited Just Down The Hall also written at Dag Sheep Station Writer's Retreat in 2016.
Kevin Bennett and Lola Brinton wrote it about the death of an indigenous woman while giving birth on the steps of a hospital.
“I was in the room just down the hall and have carried this story in my heart for many years always wanting to make it a memorial to the young mother who died that night,” Brinton revealed.
Lola was so moved by her personal experience, laying in her hospital bed and hearing the woman left outside to give birth on the doorstep that she was compelled to write this song.
She captured the full impact of the tragic story of remembering hearing the elders singing the spirit of the Aboriginal woman home.
The song is now accompanied by a video to be shown on Nu Country TV.
Kalesti unleashes a tidal wave of passion in her dynamic delivery of Cronulla singer-songwriter-school teacher Luke O'Shea's The Way That I Loved You
It's a perfect segue into the macabre humour of Goodwills singer Bob Wilson's Dead Man's Shirt where a woman wears an op shop shirt on a date as part of the grieving process.
Garry Koehler provides backing vocals.
Ironically, the title track was written by American folk-rock singer songwriter Rain Perry.
Kalesti was in tears after Mackay suggested she listen to it.
But her instant connection to the lyrics and enjoyment singing it and making it her own ensured it was included.
It's a long journey from Butler 's stage debut aged three at Charters Towers Country Music Festival and Queensland Champion of Champions crown at nine to nationally acclaimed troubadour.
But she's written every chapter in her pathos primed pathway.
The depth of Airborne ensures it lives up to its name and soars through the stratosphere.