Review by Tony Smith
If this CD makes anything clear, it is that ‘St Elmo’ is an excellent guitarist.
The sleeve notes contain scant information and no other name is given for the mysterious artist who plays ‘all instruments’.
Backing vocals are by Luke Pike and several other Pikes are credited with technical assistance.
While St Elmo might have used the modern technique of multi-tracking to combine the various instruments, on the sleeve notes a photo of a radio valve is captioned ‘Inspiration for St Elmo’s ears’.
There is a suggestion here that St Elmo is a ‘retro’ artist, recreating a bygone era.
That era is almost certainly rhythm and blues from the USA c.1960-70.
Of the fourteen tracks St Elmo describes only one – ‘Crowin’ Rooster Blues’ – as ‘traditional’.
The remaining ‘songs’ are by St Elmo himself, and there is no doubt that the lyrics are original.
The song titles show a distinctly Australian approach and in some cases, the lyrics anchor them firmly in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
Like all artists performing in a ‘genre’ however, St Elmo’s tunes speak a language that will be immediately recognisable to fans of the blues style.
Many of the riffs here are musical clichés as familiar as the opening bars of a Beethoven symphony.
The opening track ‘No Rainfall in Australia’ establishes immediately that St Elmo is an excellent guitarist.
He sings in a clear voice of drought, hot winds and bushfires.
Some of the riffs are reminiscent of jazz guitar great Charlie Byrd, but it is primarily a blues number complete with walking bass.
‘Going to Coober Pedy’ is a typical ‘road song’.
St Elmo would be at home performing this one in Parkes during Elvis week.
In ‘Broken Valley’ St Elmo’s expressive guitar style is decidedly Claptonlike. His timing on this track is exceptional.
When the jivers hear the ‘Blackheath Boogie’, they will dance excitedly in their hooped skirts and short white socks.
‘Ghost of the Past’ is a lament, haunted by memory of a lost love. Here St Elmo channels BB King, smoothing his way between the blues and the looser soul genre.
This track is followed by ‘Siftin’ Sand’ which tells of missed chances.
‘Swamp Song’ is a blues piece that lopes along at a lazy pace, reminiscent of the Stones wailing out ‘Little Red Rooster’.
In ‘Rock This Mama’, the opening phrase ‘I got a girl’ sets the story unmistakably while ‘Peaceful Kinda Place’ is a classic - a quiet, reflective blues.
The title track ‘Fire in the Sky’ closes the CD.
The phenomenon of St Elmo’s fire appears along the rigging of sailing ships. It is a warning to mariners that disaster lies ahead. It is unclear exactly what St Elmo wants to warn us about in these 14 tracks, but he does remind us that any form of music that uses amplified guitars owes a great deal to the pioneers of the blues.
This product was added to our catalog on Sunday 14 December, 2014.