Reviewed by: Phil Catley
Published: 19 May 2011
lp: australian songbook volume 1
“Australian Songbook Volume One” is the latest release from Adelaide folk trio The Beggars. This Songbook includes cover versions of 15 iconic Australian songs, dating from Banjo Patterson’s 1895 composition “Waltzing Matilda” to Paul Kelly’s 1987 hit ”To Her Door”. The material in between includes songs from The Seekers, Chad Morgan, Slim Dusty, Johnny O’Keefe, and Spectrum and more.
The musical performance across each of the 15 tracks is of a high standard; there are no ‘weak’ songs in this collection. Each song has a story behind it, and the liner notes provide a short snippet. I also found it interesting to go back and listen to the original songs (easily found on YouTube, where you might also look for “Happy People” by FAB and make the connection).
Some of the highlights include the two Slim Dusty songs, the yodelling “I’ve Been a Fool Too Long” and perennial favourite “The Pub with No Beer”. And if all country tunes were as good as The Beggars' version of The Dingoes' “Way out West”, the genre’s reputation for cheap kitsch consumerism would disappear. The Aussie/Irish version of “Waltzing Matilda” culminates in a two minute rollicking instrumental fiddling its way to a conclusion. There’s a rousing rendition of “The Whale” and Stuart, Quinton and Renee all puff their way through “I’ve Been Everywhere” which is a breath stealing, knee slapping, tongue twisting tester of a song. Renee’s vocals are highlights on The Seekers' “World of Our Own”, Paul Kelly’s “To Her Door” and the once banned anti-war song “Suvla Bay”.
They’re all good songs though.
As this is “Volume One” it would be fair to assume a “Volume Two” (and maybe more) will appear at a later stage. It will be interesting to see which direction The Beggars take with subsequent releases.
The target market for this “Songbook” probably includes ABC radio listeners (particularly “Macca” fans), lovers of folk / country music and Australiana, and Three D Radio Hillbilly Hooters. If you match this demographic you are going to love this album: it’s professionally recorded, beautifully sung, and honest as the day is long. Those outside this demographic should still grab a copy; the material, production and performance is excellent and this collection of Australian classics deserves repeated listening. If it doesn’t grab you at first, listen again. These are classics, and you can’t help humming and tapping along. Guaranteed. And I’m looking forward to Volume Two.