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McKay, Gus: Talisman

A farmer and stocksman for most of his life, Gus McKay brings that dusty, grounded outlook to his deep rootsy take on the blues; tales of tractors and toiling on the land, working their way through the likes of “The Man” and “Hundred Acres”. It’s the perfect setting for the slow lumbering grind that carries the band leader’s lived in voice, where the rattle of Chris Rea meets the dryness of Ry Cooder, to leave little impression that we’re corralling the livestock in the land down under. With a 1940’s dobro brought into use and an Australian ‘galvo’ tricone resonator made from 100 year old galvanized roof tin/iron being employed, it doesn’t take too large a step to envisage the heat haze shimmering off the ground as “Piawanning Suit” takes us on its journey.

Gus isn’t ploughing these furrows alone however, Ronan Charles scattering the percussive seed behind the kit and also sprinkling some keyboards atop the crops. That he also adds tenor sax and Taishokoto to the mix shows he’s not frightened to get a sweat on the brow no matter where the calling. Phil Waldron too is vital to the all hands to the pump ethos, bass and its double cousin only half his story, as pedal steel and bouzouki, banjo and fiddle, trumpet and cello, are all expertly controlled when the need arises. With McKay not only providing the lived in, honest vocals and equally story telling guitars, blues-harp also sings and stings on his lips, suggesting that the trio seem tireless to the workload and yet, when the stark atmospheric hum and thrum of “Muse” requires an ever more plaintive edge to unravel its mystery, it’s the tenor sax of Paul “Pax” Andrews that truly howls this song’s blues. “Bohemian Life” and “Murchsion Sequel”, if anything, take the sparse framework and utterly destroy it by way of dragging you through what feels like destitute times searching for resolution and hope - the brass adding a vaguely jazzy air that quickly gets tugged away by the wind and merely hints its message from far off on the horizon.

In many ways that’s what Talisman feels like. A maelstrom that you’re right in the middle of and one that still somehow feels a long way off. Unravelling the swirling whispers on the tender yet howling gale takes time, patience and a little belief, but the deeper you dig, the richer the rewards.

Track Listing
1. Art of Living Sample Track
2. Fallen Down
3. Hundred Acres
4. Piawanning Suit
5. The Man
6. Muse
7. Bohemian Life
8. Murchison Sequel
9. Gin Gin Morning
10. Last Dance

Added: October 10th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Talisman @ Gus McKay online
Hits: 796
Language: english

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