Subtitled New Songs From The Prison Without Walls, this is essentially the original cast soundtrack of Mick Thomas’ kinda folk opera that through its Tasmanian locale goes a bit beyond the usual shearers and bushrangers default. There were whores, shopkeepers, farmers, Chinese and Jews, among others of the little island below the bigger island’s boat people as well.
And while it’s Thomas’ name on the marquee, the guests who fill the ‘roles’ of the songs are well picked, and given the chance to let their own talent and style come through. Sure that’s the classic Weddings Parties Anything line-up on a couple of tracks, but often with a female voice. Or the nominal title track, where Glenn Richards puts Thomas’ words in one of his beds of layered but sparse instrumentation, and mixes sea shanty tones with his modern melancholy. Elsewhere Ben Salter adds songs, as well as his sometimes questioning tones to the narrative. And the almost obligatory distanced romance falls to Can You See Across The Sea where former Hummingbird Alannah Russack’s engaging lilt crosses Aerial Maps’ Adam Gibson insistent rhythmic spoken word style to highlight the longing. Elsewhere, the theatrical nature of the project comes through as The Wolfgramm Sisters take Jane Gilligan On The Town for a pimped jig, or Tim Rogers continues his ongoing audition to play Fagin in the next musical production of Oliver through Ikey Mo’s darkly-humoured Yiddish nursery rhyme waltz.
As with any such compilation of just the music without the context, some things work, some things don’t. But just on the names involved, there’s likely something here you’ll find of worth.
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