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"Pithead in the Fern" Feathers and Wedge FWCD 042

This is a thematic collection of songs by John Warner telling of the opening up of the South Gippsland region of Victoria by the railway and coal mines (remember them?). The range of feelings and emotions common to any mining community are here added to by the fact that the industrialisation of Australia tended to ignore the fact that there was already a native population who occupied the land. The dispossession and genocide of the Kurnai tribe is always at the back of John Warner's mind and is specifically addressed in the poignant "Where have the Kurnai Gone?".

The majority of the songs, however, concern themselves with the struggles of the miners and rail workers and their families, farmers' difficulties with the weather, working conditions and class struggle. In these respects there are very strong parallels with songs from this country which tackle the same topics. Several of the tunes are recognisable as well.

Some of the songs contain obscure Strine language referring to the technicalities of the trades, but this does not detract from their general appeal. The songs are competently sung and sensitively accompanied with a minimum of fuss, and provide an interesting reminder that there is a universitality in hardship around the world.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 13 of The Living Tradition magazine.