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ALAN SCOTT & KEITH McKENRY "Travelling Through the Storm"
Fanged Wombat FWD002

KEITH McKENRY "Bugger the Music, Give us a Poem!" Fanged Wombat FWD003

The Australian tradition remains mysterious to most UK ears, so these two CDs, plus comprehensive booklets, should help counter our ignorance.

The first is purely poetry - no, don't skip over! We'll call it the spoken word - OK? The second is a rare mix of words, music, and some fine singing, ably backed by a downhome bush band, complete with offbeat piano - lovely!

Keith McKenry maintains that the century-old Australian 'bush poetry' tradition is unbroken, if rather usurped by the music 'revival', hence the CD title! Three tracks are McKenry's own, "The Last Gallipoli Veteran" being a thirty-eight second gem. John Maniford's "The Map" is a remarkable list of Aussie place names, unthinkable in UK. Wolverhampton? Bognor Regis? Maybe not! McKenry is plainly a 'live' performer, and this studio recording seems rather theatrical at times, but overall, the CD is a valuable and interesting collection.

The late Alan Scott (1930-1995) is associated closely with traditional Australian singers. He listened (No. 1 priority!), collected and performed songs of the bush and beyond, while his own "Arnold Ap" and the traditional "Sam Griffith" crystallise his anger at hypocrisy and racism. However, he was equally at home with "Patsy Fagan" (viewed from Australia instead of Glasgow) or the Child ballad "The Golden Vanity", all accompanied by his own concertina and the band.

Another comic song is Henry Lawson's "Shearer's Dream". In the sixties, I recall the Ian Campbell group singing the similar "Drover's Dream". Well, Alan Scott recorded that on a 78 in 1955, so we're talking experience here! The last of Scott's songs, John Broomhall's "Time is a Tempest" is a 'natural' folk club anthem. Listen to it, all you chorus singers!

The band contribute a lovely waltz and a hornpipe, and there are more bush poems from Keith McKenry. I like particularly his comic poem "To Morrow", detailing his problems in acquiring a rail ticket to the town of Morrow!

These are two excellent productions, giving a real insight into what is a genuine living Australian tradition.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 31 of The Living Tradition magazine.