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Live Review: Kev Carmody

24 January 2017 | 2:03 pm | Rhys Anderson

"Carmody is not a singer, he is a storyteller able to deliver insightful lectures..."

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A great festival can deliver rare possibilities you didn't think you'd get. Possibilities such as being able to see one of Australia's humblest living legends: the great Kev Carmody, who has written songs of protest and hope for the past 40 years. As an artist with such an incredible live touring history and catalogue of songs, it's remarkable that the gathering crowd is so modest in size. For most of the show, it is just Carmody, his acoustic guitar and unadorned voice, but he's occasionally joined by another guitarist.

The songs span the range of human emotion and centuries of Australian history. Carmody is not a singer, he is a storyteller able to deliver insightful lectures on issues such as Indigenous Australian rights, culture, identity and perseverance. People gather around to hear him tell his story. Sitting on the lawns of Mona on a sunny afternoon, the crowd looks up to Carmody as he works through a career-spanning body of work with songs like From Little Things Big Things Grow, which has some members of the audience in tears and most raising their voices during the chorus. The 70-year-old songwriter from Cairns sits, relaxed, in his chair on stage. The intimacy created feels as soothing as a reverie on this warm, hazy weekend afternoon.

Carmody's soft, raw timbre brings evocations that both enchant and relax. It's true that other artists — including Paul Kelly, John Butler and Dan Kelly — have gained more popular acclaim from their renditions of Carmody's songs, but who else could move us to tears one minute and then coax smiles the next?