|Dimensions||21 × 15 × 1.5 cm|
Boomerang Bay is the latest album from PENNY DAVIES & ROGER ILOTT, it is their 19th offering in a long career which began in a little 4-track backyard studio in Balmain, NSW, in 1982.
After recording three LP’s for themselves and a host of other releases for other folk artists, in 1987 the duo moved to Storm King Dam, Queensland, and rebuilt the studio. This is where they have written and recorded ever since. This album is gentle and very acoustic. Talking about the theme of the album, Penny says, “It’s about walking backwards into the future. We can see clearly only the past and we glimpse the future only vaguely over our shoulders as we walk. Everything we are and will be is informed by what we have already seen and done – the album is like a postcard from our past.”
The music of this album embraces the magic land of childhood and a world filled with treasures washed up on the shore or floating free. It explores the paths that call our restless spirits and the joy we feel when the lives of animals touch ours.
The songs don’t ignore reality – several of the songs highlight the devastation of many of our coastal and rural areas by over-development and the legacy of “progress”, and emphasise the state of the oceans and the land that could leave future generations of children bereft of the essential places which nurture both body and soul.
But whether the moon is full or dark, the night sky is full of stars and dreams. In this country the land is rich in spiritual resonance. The shifting colours of the tropics, the hidden fire of northern sunsets, and the powerful cleansing tropical rain are all there to heal us – along with music, which provides a soundtrack to our lives and helps us formulate our philosophies and values.
Penny and Roger are joined by Lee Williams (bass) and Jordan Davies-Ilott (drums) – and the mood is very acoustic with soaring pedal steel, warm, intimate vocals and glistening harmonies.
I would hope that most readers of Trad & Now would be familiar with the work of Davies & Ilott, and that you would have at least one of their recordings in your collection. They are perhaps the most prolific recording folk duo in Australia as their career has spanned 30 years.
This album is a laidback relaxed affair. It sounds more country than folk to me, mainly because of the use of pedal steel on several songs. There are two themes that runs through the album: water and environmental issues. The songs that deal with water themes include the title track, “Cabarita Waves’, and “Lake in Maine” (with its haunting button accordion sounding counter melody). The songs covering environmental concerns again include the title track which laments the over development of many coastal areas, “Mrs Macdonald’s Lament”(commenting on the decline of fish numbers caused by over fishing, as does “Herring Croon”), “Quiet Green Bushland, Goodbye” and even their cover of the Goffin-King song, “Goin’ Back” can be interpreted as regretting losing values once held in high esteem.
As usual Penny’s vocals are clear and sweet. Roger mainly provides backing vocals on this album, taking the lead for most of the verses on “Boulia Moon”. Generally the arrangements are uncluttered with simple accompaniment of one or two instruments. However it was refreshing to hear the drums of Jordan Davies-Ilott on a couple of tracks. Lee Williams is the only other musician credited assisting on the cd, providing bass guitar. The duo include a few covers: “Mrs Macdonald’s Lament” was written by Gordon Bok in 1971. “Herring Croon” was first recorded in 1965 by Bok again, but he added a new verse in 2010, highlighting that the fishing industry still had not learnt its lessons regarding over fishing. (A timely recording given the controversy of a large trawler, the MV Margiris, wanting permission to fish in Tasmanian waters with little regard to the impact it would have on the local fishing industry).
They also cover a John Broomhall song, “Quiet Green Bushland, Goodbye” and the previously mentioned Goffin King song, “Goin’ Back”. However their arrangement of this song bears no resemblence to the original.
Then there are poems by Bill Scott (“Song of the Answering Voices”) and Keith Foster “The Engines Sleep” which the duo have set to music. “Old Brown Donkey” is a song about the family pet: they rhyme ‘donkey’ with ‘wonky’ which sounds a bit twee on repeated listenings.
Readers familiar with the work of Penny & Roger will enjoy this album, it does not venture far away from their other work, but covers enough bases to be of interest to new listeners.
CD review by Ian Dearden
From their Restless Music studio outside Stanthorpe in Queensland’s Granite Belt, perennial folksinging couple Penny Davies and Roger Ilott have launched yet another album crammed full of enchanting Australiana (if that could be said to be our equivalent of the “Americana” tag so big in the US at present).
For the uninitiated, Penny and Roger have been writing, recording and performing Australian folk and country music for more than thirty years, originally based in Sydney but for many years living and working in south-east Queensland.
Penny brings exquisite vocals (and a dab hand on the mandolin and harp) to the mix – Roger brings sympathetic backing vocals, and an extraordinary multi-instrumental talent which spans acoustic, electric, bass and pedal steel guitars, mandolin, keyboards and percussion.
But that’s not the end of it – Roger also brings his production, recording, mixing and mastering talents to the table, and their son Jordan Davies– Ilott also pops up on this CD playing drums, making theirs a truly multi-talented household! All of this recorded in a studio based in an old Queenslander on their 32 acre property “Folkestone” overlooking the Storm King Dam.
The album highlights the song writing talents of Penny and Roger, featuring eight original songs (Song of the Answering Voices is a poem written in 1946 by the late, great Australian poet Bill Scott put to music by Roger), two songs by the legendary Maine singer/songwriter Gordon Bok (Mrs Macdonald’s Lament and Herring Croon), a touching lament by John Broomhall for a fast vanishing natural heritage (Quiet Green Bushland, Goodbye) and one song (Goin’ Back) by those well known folksong (?) writers Gerry Goffin and Carole King!!
The key defining aspects of this album are those sweet and seductive lead vocals from Penny, the superb and soaring pedal steel playing of Roger, reinforced by thoughtful instrumental arrangements, and finely honed harmony singing from Roger which always complements, but never overwhelms, Penny’s distinctive lead voice.
A true marriage of all the elements, from one of Australian folk music’s most enduring personal and musical couples. This is a delightful addition to their catalogue.
This is Australian folk music at its finest!!
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