Thursday 31 December 2015

Light Another Fire - Review by Dale Dengate of Jason & Chloe Roweth's latest CD

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Once again Jason & Chloe have produced another excellent CD, which is available through their website, or from them at Festivals & concerts.

Chloe & Jason at John Dengate memorial concert, BMC
(Photo Sharyn Mattern)

Introduction from their website, where you will also find lyrics of all the tracks.
The spirit of Henry Lawson and John Dengate form the backbone of this album - no other two writers have given us sharper tools. In particular, we'd like to dedicate this album to our mate, the late John Dengate, whose words make up a third of the record. The album is part of our ongoing effort to catch and carry forward what has been passed to us. We have attempted to make John's words our own, and also sink his work into the wider tradition. The Lawson / Dengate and Paterson / Dengate medleys came instinctively and quickly - one in performance, and one in a dream - and they are distillations of our intention for the wider album. 

The words of Lawson and Dengate capture an Australia that’s now seldom explored on radio or television, and largely ignored by the major newspapers as it flies counter to the mysterious world of our elected "representatives". While this has no doubt been the case for generations, it seems to us that this other republic of Australia fades from the public consciousness by the year. Yet it is there still - in our home, village, and wherever our wide Australian travels take us. It is in the open hearts and hands of our mates.
This album is part celebration of this hidden republic, and part call to action on its behalf. It is our personal statement against what seems to us a catastrophic failure of leadership in this country, offered up in the never ending struggle for social justice. The songs show that particularly Australian combination of humour, anger and a sense of bush justice that is not perfect, but ideal in our hearts. Importantly, the next biggest contributor to the record is the great Anon. These are the songs of the front bar, the kitchen, the football teams, the shearers' huts, the rail and road, the campfires of the bolters and bushrangers, the trenches... It is corrugated iron music - music with the hair still on it! This is campfire sedition.

Review by Dale Dengate

By dedicating this CD to Henry Lawson and John Dengate, Chloe and Jason Roweth acknowledge the Australian traditions that have influenced their selection of works for this CD.
This dedication would have moved John beyond words; indeed, the songs brought both laughter and tears to my eyes as I listened. Jason and Chloe seemed to have selected many of my favourite songs and tunes which evoke so many memories. Over twenty other Australian song writers are also represented on this CD.
Jason’s voice has gained strength and character over the years and Chloe’s always inspiring voice is even richer, so both bring a delightful interpretation to many songs.
I think it is important that they have made the songs their own so that in those written by John Dengate they have not tried to sound like John in his performances. Actually his presentation and words sometimes changed as the times and situations in a living culture changed. In some cases they have brought new life to John’s words and listening to their music is delightful.
They both play a number of traditional instruments and at times are joined by Bill Browne on percussion and Baz Cooper on accordion and piano. One could write more about the music but suffice to say you could enjoy the CD on this level too.
The CD starts with Lawson’s Freedom on the Wallaby, a stirring and provocative song. This rebel chorus was sung with gusto at Bush Music Club meetings in the 1960s but John and I last sang it together at Gay Scott’s funeral early in 2013. Jason has added John’s last written verse of defiance: we go on disobeying to Lawson’s words for a very strong start to the CD.
The next introductory tune for John Hospodaryk’s words about the stark life in the Female Factory was the Croppy Boy often used for the Convict Maid.  It recalls memories of times when most folk singers had it in her repertoire but Chloe’s singing surpasses the best renditions with very different words from the moralistic sentiments. There is also a delightful version of Sally Sloane’s traditional singing of Lovely Molly as well as Molly Darling which is a sweet sentimental sing-a-long song from 1871.
When I first heard The Man who Struck O’Hara I thought of the ‘bogan slogan’ PM we had recently booted and thought: good to hear that ‘he won’t be back’! Times change as I’ve already commented, and a number of people find Chad Morgan hasn’t stood the test of time, but I have always laughed at the wry humour in his comments about characters and life’s situations in country songs. This has similarities to The Shit Flung on the Floor – by Invitation Only which refers to a Binalong incident in 1913, which involved the class issues of the day.
There is an amazing amount of history in the selection of songs which one doesn’t get from the standard history of Australia books, Indeed, one could write pages on that aspect of the CD alone.
I think songs about public transport and train trips will be even more relevant as the city of Sydney copes with an overhaul of city transport systems. The only way to cope is to maintain a sense of humour, but definitely do not ‘lie down on the tracks.'
This selection gives an unique insight into quality of Australian songs and the variety of tunes. The cover with its campfire dark exterior and wattle-golden interior gives a symbolic meaning to the contents, and the initial stiffness loosens with use.
This double album CD deserves strong promotion and is ideal for Christmas gifts, especially for those who ask where have the Australian traditional and protest songs gone!  
Light Another Fire is available for purchase / download online from the Roweth’s website

Cost is $40 plus postage. *************************************************************************************************

Interview with Jack (Hoop-iron) Lee & Joe Cashmere by Russel Ward, Sydney Morning Herald, 1953

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Jacky (Hoop-iron) Lee was the first source of old songs brought to John Meredith's attention.

Extract from John Meredith's obituary, published by Mark Gregory here

In 1952, Hilda Lane, daughter of the firebrand William Lane, assisted an old man, blind and tapping his way, down the steps of North Sydney railway station. The old man was Jack Lee, "Hoopiron" to his friends. Hilda discovered that Hoopiron knew some old bush songs, songs of a sort supposedly lost to living memory. She invited two fellow members of Sydney's People's Choir over to her flat to meet him. One of these Choir members was John Meredith. Thus began Meredith's journey of discovery of Australian folk song, a journey which was to last nearly fifty years and yield for Australia a priceless heritage few imagined, and many denied, existed. 

Interview with the Jack Lee & others in National Library Oral History collection -
Colin Lee, Charlie Griffiths, Jack Lee, Gus Tange and the Bushwhackers interviewed by John Meredith for John Meredith folklore field recordings, 1953-1961 [sound recording]

  • Colin Lee plays the accordion: Bless 'em all
  • Charlie Griffiths recites: Myall King (Off the grass)
  • Jack Lee sings: The maid and the magpie
  • Broken down squatter
  • Jack Lee and his sister sing: The old rustic bridge by the mill
  • Colin Lee sings: Paper cooking
  • I'll hang that picture
  • Charlie Griffiths recites: The tragedy
  • Colin Lee plays the accordion: The broken down squatter
  • The Bushwhackers perform: Click go the shears
  • Where's your licence
  • Nine miles from Gundagai
  • Gus Tange sings: Yarrawonga
  • Wodonga, home town of mine
  • Bunch of Golden Wattle
  • Old sun-downer
  • Old Australian homestead.

    Thanks to Warren Fahey for supplying a copy of the original clipping & the NLA for digitising the newspaper as part of their TROVE collection.

Final thanks to Mark Gregory for posting the article here

Saturday 12th September 1953.


Songs From The Old Man Plain


The author of this article, Russel Ward, is at present working on
a scholarship at the Australian National University, tracing the
relationship between Australian folk-ballads and our social history.

"None of that 'Mr. Lee' stuff, sonny," the old man said as we shook hands. "I was never 'Mr. Lee.' Hoop-iron Jacky, they call me."

Jack Lee is 77 and has been blind for many years. He lives with his sister in one of Sydney's western suburbs. Although there is little to distinguish his home from the other houses in the street, Hoop-Iron Jacky really belongs to another time and place.

He was born on the Old Man Plain in 1876, at Booligal, on the lower Lachlan. As a young man he worked on stations scattered all over the Riverina and beyond. His conversation brings to life the vanished era of, bul- lockies, shearers, stockmen and sundowners—the Australia immortalised by Joseph Furphy in "Such Is Life."

"You had lo make your own fun then," he says. "No picture shows or wireless - or concerts either, unless, you made them for yourselves."

He remembers many of the old bush ballads collected and published by Banjo Paterson in 1905 - and others that Paterson missed.

"But I've forgotten a lot more," he laments. "I remember one time I was working at Nimidgee, out from Mount Hope, I sang four songs every night for a fortnight, and never sang the same one twice.
"Everyone used to sing. One chap would sing the verses and the whole mob would come in on the coalbox (chorus). One night we kept going till 2 o'clock in the morning, and anyone who went to his bunk would be pulled out again when his turn came around.

"I remember a bloke called Bill Tully was shearing there. He made up a song that was very popular. It was called 'The Backblock Shearer'." And the old Riverina man sang it to the tune of "The Wearing o' the Green":
I'm only a back-block shearer, as easily can be seen,
I've shorn in most of the famous sheds on the plains of the Riverine:
I've shorn in most of the famous sheds, I've saw big tallies done,
But somehow or other, I can't tell why, I never became a gun.

Hurrah, my boys, my shears are set, I feel both fit and well:
To-morrow you'll 'find me at my pen when the gaffer rings the bell,
With Hayden's patent thumb-guards fixed, and both my blades pulled back,
To-morrow I go, with a sardine blow, for the century or the sack! 

I asked him to stop at this point for a translation. He was tolerant of my ignorance and explained that "gaffer" was one of many nicknames for the boss of the shed. A "blow" was a single stroke of the shears, and "sardine blow" was a cramped, nibbling style of shearing. "The bloke was a mug, you see." Then he continued:

I've opened up the wind-pipe straight, I've opened behind the ear;
I've practised all the possible styles in which a man can shear.
I've studied all the cuts and drives of the famous men I've met,
But I've never succeeded in plastering up them three little figures yet.

As the boss walked down this morning, I saw him stare at me,
For I'd mastered Moran's great shoulder-cut, as he could plainly see.
But I've another surprise for him that will give his nerves a shock;
To-morrow I'll show him I'll have mastered Pierce's rangtang block. 

The singer broke off to explain that, of course, "block" should be "blow," but Bill Tully had made it "block" for the sake of the rhyme. Then he finished the song with another stanza, and all that he could remember of the last one:

And if I succeed as I expect to do, next year. I intend to shear
At the Wagga Demonstration, that's held there every year:
And there I'll lower the colours, the colours of Mitchell and Co.;
Instead of Deeming, you will hear of Widgeegoweera Joe.

'Twas in the old shed at Coorong where first I flashed a blade,
But now the years have vanished along with the cheques that I've made . . . 

Mitchell, it seems, was a famous big-gun shearer, and Deeming a notorious murderer who cemented the bodies of his wife and four children into the floor of his house in England. He murdered another wife in Melbourne, and had reached the stage of buying the cement for the third in Sydney, when he was arrested and hanged in May, 1892.

I asked Jack Lee if he knew any Kelly songs. They were once very popular, he said, but he could, recall only fragments. "We used to call them 'treason songs,' " he explained. "You weren't allowed to sing them in a public place. Or convict songs. One chap I knew was fined, but I wasn't. When the police told me to stop, I stopped. . . . I don't remember them much now.

"But I recommend you to see my old mate, Joe Cashmere - Mr. Joseph Cashmere, of Sylvania. He may remember some songs that I've forgotten."

AND he did. Mr. Cashmere, who used to write for the "Albury Banner," and later for such papers as the "Bulletin" and the "Worker," is another Booligal boy. He is 81.

He began by recounting a true story to illustrate how much singing and versifying used to be an accepted part of daily life on the western plains.

Paddy the Flat and Scotty the Wrinkler were humping their blueys across the Old Man Plain near Hay (he said). It was mid-summer. Both were well-known characters in the Riverina and along the Darling, at the turn of the century, Scotty being a remittance man much reduced by drink.
The mailman came along in his buggy, and they asked him for a ride to the nearest pub; but there was room for only one passenger. They were thinking of tossing for it, when it was suggested that each man should produce some extempore verses. The mailman was to be judge and give a ride to the winner.

Scotty declaimed:
On the hill there stands a mill,
If it's not gone, it'll be there still. 

Paddy won with: 
Please, Mr. Mailman, don't be unkind
Pick up poor Paddy and leave Scotty behind! 

Joe Cashmere confirmed his mate's story of "treason songs." He also declared that an indigenous bush dance was once banned by the police. "We used to call it The Bullock Drivers' Schottische'," he said. "I often saw it stopped in woolshed or township dances. They used to say it was vulgar." He chuckled. "I don't know what they'd have said about some of these modern dances."

Once at Booligal he saw a policeman stop a man who was singing a convict-song. "There were only three places on the Old Man Plain, they used to say, Hay, Hell and Booligal; but Booligal was the worst." He recalled only a few lines:

Blow ye winds, high ho,
A-roving I shall go:
I'll stay no more on English shore
To hear your music play.
I'm off by the morning train
to cross the Old Man Plain,
I'm taking a trip in Government ship
Ten thousand miles away! 

This song has been recorded elsewhere in variant versions, but another convict ballad, of which Mr. Cashmere could remember only eight lines, is less well- known:

It was early one morning before the break of day,
There came a cruel turn-key and unto us did say:
"Rise up you seven convicts, I warn you one and a'
It is to-day you sail away from Caledonia."

Farewell unto my sweetheart, she said to me good-bye,
She said to me "Good-bye, my man," as in the cell I lie,
"No more we'll roam together, down the old Bromula,
The rolling seas divide us from Caledonia." 

Scores of such cautionary convict-ballads were sung and peddled as broadsides in the cities of Britain during the first half of the 19th century, but it is particularly interesting to find this one surviving among outback bush workers 50 or 60 years later.

Taken with the reports of these two survivors from a past age it suggests, perhaps, that the influence of the convict tradition on our national ethos was more persistent than is usually supposed.


Bush Music Club mentioned in Australian Woman's Weekly in October 1956

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Thanks to Warren Fahey for a scan of the original clipping & to the National library for digitising all copies of the Weekly from 1933 to 1982.

Alan Scott, Secretary of BMC wrote to Dorothy Drain, Editor of the Australian Woman's Weekly replying to an observation she had made in a precious issue, and his reply was published in the 24th October issue. He also sent her a copy of the latest Singabout 1(3) Winter 1956.

Editorial of Singabout 1(3) Winter 1956

here's the whole page


Posters in the Hut, Part 2 - More History on our walls

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Since we started renovating & moved furniture we have found more posters
(photos Sandra Nixon)
1. front room
2.  The back wall
3.  Posters found behind the piano
4.  Posters found beside the piano.

5.  Behind the pink cupboards in the centre of the back room





14.  Behind the old wardrobe
15.  This poster was part of an education pack on Bush Music
18.  Beside the old wardrobe
19. Conservator Ray Gurney examining posters

20.    Conservator Ray Gurney examining posters
22.  Mike taking archival photos of the posters

(photos Sandra Nixon)

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Extracts from Singabout - the early songwriters - Stan Wakefield (1906 - 1962)

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The Bush Music Club published many new songs & poems in Singabout, Journal of Australian Folk Song between 1956 and 1967. This series lists the works of these writers and provides biographical information where possible.

Singabout Vol 4(4), 1962  Len Fox was the Poet of the Miners Union.

Newsletter, February 1962

Alan Scott & Janet Wakefield, 1980s (Maher Collection)


Stan Wakefield

Songs of Australia words and music by Stan Wakefield, edited by John Meredith for the Bush Music Club.  Southern Music Publishing, Sydney, 1966. Bush Music Club Series no. 2.


The Rueful Rabbit words & music by Stan Wakefield 1(1)

The Rabbiter Words and music by Stan Wakefield, Singabout 1(2)
Songs of Australia
A song for children by Stan Wakefield 1(3)

Shining Moon A song for children, words & music by Stan Wakefield 2(1)

Wallaby Liz words & music by Stan Wakefield 2(3)

The Dogwood Itch words & music by Stan Wakefield 2(4)

The Kookaburra Laughed - words & music by Stan Wakefield 3(1)

Pelican Joe - words & music by Stan Wakefield 3(4)

The Stock Route Again - words & music by Stan Wakefield 3(4)

When Regan Sat on His Spurs - adapted from an old bush yarn by Stan Wakefield 4(1)


Extracts from Singabout - the early songwriters - John Meredith (1920-2001)

Click on pictures for full-screen image

The Bush Music Club published many new songs & poems in Singabout, Journal of Australian Folk Song between 1956 and 1967. This series lists the works of these writers and provides biographical information where possible.

Folklore collector, photographer, writer, performer, John Meredith: a tribute,
compiling editor, Kevin Bradley, published by National Library of Australia, 2006.

(Rob Willis photo)
A few comments on John Meredith by Chris Woodland
  Talk given at BMC's 2012 National Folk Festival Themed Workshop on BMC's First 10 years.

(Merro & Woody at National Library 1993, photo from Woodland collection)

Memorial article by Bob Bolton  John Meredith, The Bush Music Club & The Australian Folk Song Revival (1950’s)

John Meredith presents (then unpublished) material from his researches of Frank the Poet - Francis McNamara at PACT folk in 1972  (Bob Bolton photo)
The Cornpicker's Lament  Words; John Meredith    (Air - Lady Munro)
(note)  Lady Munro is an unprintable ballad recently collected from a shearer to the tune of a variant of Roisin the Beaux. (SIngabout,1(2), Autumn 1956)

Bogged at Little Billabong
by Graham Ascott & John Meredith (tune - Lazy Harry's) (Singabout 1(4), Spring 1956)

- words & music by John Meredith (Singabout, 4(1)October 1960)

The Little Sparrow - music John Meredith   words - Launcelot Harrison (Singabout 5(2), October 1964)