BUSH GOTHIC - The Natural Selection Australian Songbook - 4 stars
The dark side of the Australian bush tradition.
Australia has a long tradition of bush bands: Ned-Kelly-a-likes playing tunes from the Aussie folk songbook, an Irish and Scottish fuelled tradition with lyrics that tell of heartbreak and tragedy, displacement and resilience, sung in a nasal keening and very often given an irreverent antipodean twist. Melbourne trio Bush Gothic take the subversion further, lending anthems such as ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ a knowing postmodern aesthetic with arrangements that variously soothe, stir and surprise. Asserting their rebel credentials with a brief instrumental opener featuring a dark and spooky drone, Chris Lewis (drums, banjo-mandolin and backing vocals), Dan Witton (double bass, backing vocals) and singer Jenny M Thomas (also on piano, viola, violin) dive deep into the Australian national psyche and give its chain a yank.
By slowing down the deceptive jauntiness of the likes of ‘Botany Bay’ and turning its famed ‘Toora-li/Ooora-li Addidady’ refrain into something dream-like and ghostly, Bush Gothic expose the terrible truths of Terra Australis. And while some of the tracks seem to slip into each other with a homogeneity, the spine-tingling a cappella vibe of ‘Female Transport’ conveys the wretchedness of the convict’s sea-crossing. Other standouts include ‘Swag on my Shoulder’, which showcases Thomas’ sweet vocals and features a chorus phase from the song ‘Treaty’ by aboriginal stars Yothu Yindi - a reminder of just who the first Australians were.
Jane Cornwall, SONGLINES(UK) August 2016
Beautiful, evocative and thoroughly enjoyable, Bush Gothic is Australian folk at its finest.' Rip It Up Magazine Read more
'Extraordinary, even revolutionary. Unforgettable folk.' The Canberra Times
'Frankly, wars could have exploded, governments imploded, revolutions sparked and faded, Shane Warne could have proposed, the trains could have run on time. I have been deaf to it all. Who do I have to thank for this interregnum? A Melbourne trio, and their supporting cast. The trio are Jenny M. Thomas and the System' National Times Read more
'Imagine the most hackneyed old songs of colonial Australia re-imagined as works of exquisite beauty.' Music Forum Read more
'Rescues Australian folk from the world of beards and blue jeans.' The Age
'Singing and bowing at the same time and wryly reclaiming lost Australian cultural territory...Jenny M. Thomas, to my mind, means diversity in a very good way. She is like no other violin player on the planet' fRoots UK Read more
'Imagining life without her music and its suprises is too bleak to even think about. Jenny M. Thomas is that transformative an artist. She is Earth and Ether. Big Words but true.' fRoots UK Read more