Monday, February 2, 2009

Australia Again -- country music as a local idiom

Here's an article from the Canberra Times illustrating how country music has been transformed -- or grew -- into a local Australian idiom, with its own cast of characters, events, landmarks, legends and music. The article deals with the Bush Ballad -- something like American cowboy songs but in an Australian context -- and an annual Bush Ballad festival and award.

Perhaps it's more accurate to look at this form of Australian country/folk music as a parallel track to that in the U.S., an independent local idiom with similar roots in European folk song? I don't know enough about it to determine the dynamics...

The song that won Anne Kirkpatrick best female vocalist at the Bungendore Muster Bush Ballad awards was so emotional, it stayed unsung in her family for years.

Even her father, country music legend Slim Dusty, wouldn't attempt it. ''It was too close for him to sing,'' Kirkpatrick said.

The song, Took His Saddle Home, tells the story of Dusty's songwriter, Mack Cormack, entrusting his prized saddle to Dusty when he was unwell.

Dusty had flown from Western Australia to be at his bedside.

''So dad took his saddle home,'' she said.

''It is a really special song because Mack was like a grandfather to me and a father to my dad, so it was a really emotional song.

''I had to sing it through a few times to get the emotion out of it because I would choke up.''

Kirkpatrick was one of the favourite performers at the muster yesterday, taking to the stage alongside other country music heavyweights Reg Poole, Glenn Jones and Terry Gordon.

The muster is in its 24th year, and while overall crowd numbers were down on previous years which was partially attributed to the heat there was a strong audience soaking up the music.

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