MAY 19 – 2018.
POWERCORP AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL
DARREN COGGAN-BLACK SORROWS-JOHN WILLIAMSON-MICHELLE GARDINER
NO DRUM – NO CATS
CFA, SES, Food Bank, Case, VFF, Deni Ute Muster, Royal Agricultural Show , Vixens volunteers and a myriad of organic country produce stalls were welcome islands in the mainstream of inner suburbia.
This reviewer passed on the wood chopping, whip cracking, camel rides and face painting for a good reason.
Former Essendon coach and multi-media game promoter Kevin Sheedy was lugging and hugging babies and kissing buxom belles while perfecting his Pied Piper performance with telephonic trysts of selfies on demand.
Sheeds was a promotional prince with few peers despite cultural commotion across the ocean as Chicago gospel preacher Michael Curry ignited the spring wedding of a Pommy bloke and a Yank belle with the soundtrack featuring a choir reviving the Ben E King classic Stand By Me.
Luckily, young Harry put the ring on Miss Markle - not Agatha Christie's spinster Miss Marple or German gal Angela Merkel.
But there appeared to menacing Midsomer murders mist descending on this picturesque park.
And, it wasn't just Quambatook refugee John Williamson turning his strine into a dark art form by backing Essendon in the annual clash.
No blame could be attached to Melbourne singer Michelle Gardiner who reprised her 2017 entrée role of kicking the dew off the grass with guitarist Steve O'Hern.
This year Michelle added drummer Nathan Brincau in a trio and revived Oklahoma oriole Carrie Underwood's hit Last Name for early arrivals.
She then chose Some Days You Gotta Dance from expatriate Australasian superstar Keith Urban's pre solo fame era and his hook heavy hit To Love Somebody .
Gardiner also gave exposure to the biggest country artist of the decade - Kentucky Coalminer's son Chris Stapleton - by performing Say Something , his duet hit with Justin Timberlake.
She name checked headliners The Black Sorrows before performing She Talks To Angels - by the Black Crows .
Gardiner, mother of two, also performed “another song I stole from the radio” for her dancing kids before closing with Shania Twain's If You Are Not In It For Love, I'm Outta Here .
But Gardiner was not out of here.
Kevin Sheedy relieved himself of baby lugging and hugging duties to give congratulatory kisses to the artist who announced she would attend the Melbourne concert by Twain - a Lyme disease and divorce survivor.
DARREN COGGAN – FROM WAGGA WAGGA TO YARRA-YARRA
Singer-songwriter actor Darren Coggan perfected a five minute changeover to announce he made the trip from the banks of the Murrumbidgee at Wagga Wagga to debut in the green, green grass of this park near the Yarra.
So it was no surprise he chose The Bidgee from his sixth album The Wide Horizon as his entrée.
“The Bidgee was home to me in the land that has been in the Wiradjuri for thousands of years,” the singer announced.
Soon it was time to head north to reincarnate the late Peter Allan classic Tenterfield Saddler before honouring Adelaide refugee Paul Kelly, “an Essendon supporter,” with his hit Leaps And Bounds.
Coggan also honoured his farming family with his original song Hughie - a tale that personalised the paternal plight of a protracted drought that forced his dad to sell their Riverina family farm to pay off the bank loan and precluded a fourth generation farming the once fertile plains.
Darren added his mum and dad had travelled south across the Murray for this concert and revealed Hughie was one of 11 original songs on The Wide Horizon that was now “plummeting down the charts.”
It was a nice segue into James Reyne- Australian Crawl tune Reckless - the only revamped tune on his new album.
Coggan, 45 and father of two, then emulated Gardiner as he introduced another of his originals - A Beautiful Ride.
“I wrote this next song to my kids for a Christmas present, they thought they were going to get a skateboard,” the singer quipped.
For familiarity fans he explained his role as Cat Stevens in his popular musical Peace Train had launched his next song Wild World .
Trivia buffs may recall that the same song was recorded by Warrnambool dentist's son and Wild Cherries and Hit & Run lead singer Dan Robinson as the Fourth House in 1970 .
Robinson, now an Anglesea luthier, replaced Mike Brady as the chosen vocalist and was paid a flat $50 for the session by Fable producer Ron Tudor.
Coggan then dedicated another Cat Stevens song Father And Son to his folks who would soon be on the road again back to Wagga Wagga.
His fitting finale was The Wide Horizon that he augmented with a dance mix of Down Under that was launched by former Melbourne band Men At Work at the nearby Cricketers Arms Hotel in Punt Road .
BLACK SORROWS CREATE GRIEF FOR STRAY CATS
Coggan was a hard act to follow so your reviewer decided to support the rural produce merchants by sampling home cooked delicacies while he searched for a distant Damian Drum.
The food was tasty and provided the energy needed to kick a mini Powercor football into my psyche and travelling bag.
Sadly, my errant wandering prevented me hearing the early songs by Quambatook refugee John Williamson.
But I recognised the strine strained Mallee Boy, True Blue and Girt By Sea propelled by an accent that had not been softened by secondary education at Scotch College in leafy Hawthorn.
I also knew I would hear Williamson's droll delivery of Waltzing Matilda on centre field, not the John Fogerty song, before the big game.
In hindsight, when Williamson revealed he hoped Essendon would win, I realised it was a not so secret ruse to lure the Cats players into a late afternoon slumber.
Artistically, I had a nocturnal date to watch fellow dairy farmer's son and latter day Scotch College media-arts teacher and house master Michael Waugh, perform his heartfelt fraternal song Little C Word from his second album The Asphalt & The Oval on Nu Country TV.
Waugh's vocal delivery and wry word play on a song that referenced football and cancer remission, seemed more accessible to this country boy.
The tempo lifted when the honourable Danielle Green MP gave a short explanation of the festival's raison d'etre before introducing the Black Sorrows .
“I moved from Warrnambool to Mildura at 16 and was immediately warmly welcomed by country community spirit of football and netball teams,” Danielle revealed in a salient speech.
“This is the first time I have shared a stage with the Black Sorrows .”
But it was not the first time she has supported country music.
Green visited the post-Black Saturday Whittlesea country music recovery festival and bought the Vinnies After The Fire CD featuring Long Beach, California born latter day NSW coast singer-songwriter Kevin Welch's song Marysville and others including fellow home town hombre Shane Howard.
HARLEY & ROSE
The Black Sorrows may be perceived as a roots rock act by country purists but won a Tamworth Golden Guitar in 1991 for their classic Harley & Rose .
Multi-cultural lead singer Joe Camilleri, third of 10 children, was born in Malta and moved here with his family at the age of two.
And his track record with bands diverse as the King Bees, Adderley Smith Blues Band, The Pelaco Brothers, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, The Revelators and Black Sorrows , earns him an unclaimed title as a poster person for post war immigration.
His musical longevity, celebrated on his 70 th birthday two days after this gig, also meant he was generous to band members including long time guitarist Jeff Burstin and new keyboard player John McCormack.
Joe's sextet kicked off with his fifth album title track Hold On To Me and reached Harley & Rose as their third song as Kevin Sheedy hand-balled the baby in his arms to mama and planted kisses on show opener Gardiner's rosy cheeks.
“This is just an old fashioned love song, I was wearing a hat back then,” Joe joked as a hat-less Sheedy, aptly clad in a bomber jacket, led a conga line of selfie seekers through the front of stage hay bales.
“Jeff and I were in a band called Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons ,” Joe added as he introduced The Shape I'm In with his multi-coloured psychedelic sax riding high on his shoulder.
The singer shared band members' dynamic dexterity and ecumenical team preferences with fans as they brought their show to a stunning climax with another 1988 hit Chained To The Wheel and Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl from 10 th album One Mo Time in 2004.
Joe's final words were appropriately “go football.”
I received the message loud and clear.
With no sign of Damian Drum, who once sang the Beat Farmers biblical belter Gun Sale At The Church on the Geelong players' bus in his 63 game career, it was time to head back upstairs to the 50 year members enclosure.
Maybe Drum still had nightmares about his three year career as Fremantle coach from 2001 and feared being recalled into Ross Lyon's den.
So I declined the kind knee rug offer to fellow elders in the evening chill as I sensed disaster on the horizon when John Williamson sang Waltzing Matilda .
But, like other bush born and bred survivors, I was appreciative of the pre-game CFA Volunteers Guard of Honour on the hallowed turf.
They may not have enabled a Geelong victory but they protected homesteads, humans, livestock, plant, machinery, farms, fences and townsfolk from natural disasters and arsonists free on bail and parole creating havoc at the drop of a match.
Soon the billabong jumbucks would escape the suburban Swaggies and chase the felines suffering cat-scratch fever until they headed west on Highway One to boomerang against Carlton .
Review by David Dawson