chris virtue - The I-94 Bar
2019 was first year for a while that I wasn’t doing a radio show and being in Canberra for work, I felt I was little bit out of the loop. Nonetheless, it was another memorable rock ‘n’ roll year and here’s my top10 in no particular order.
Kim Volkman and the Whiskey Priests at Marrickville Bowlo in Sydney
This took me back to when I first started seeing bands in Melbourne in the mid ’70s. It was no-nonsense loud rock. Two really good guitarists on top of a solid rhythm section. I loved how the band occupied half the stage and hardly broke formation through the gig. The record’s pretty good, too.
Sue Telfer Tribute in Sydney
It was really sad to lose Sue. She was seriously special and it was great to see so many people come out and so many good bands turn it on. All the bands I saw were great with X as a four piece the standout. I reckon it was the best gig I’ve seen Steve Lucas do.
Sydney radio host*
Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
Top Ten in Twos
1. Two Hendrix covers
Lucie Tiger – The Wind Cries Mary"
Sydney country singer transcribes one of Jimi’s more melodic tunes for solo piano with stunning effect, but leaves the song intact. Lucie acknowledges where it’s come from, but takes it somewhere new. Hear it.
Lachie Doley - "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)"
Sydney blues and soul keyboard master gives the whammy clavvy a serious workout on this. Check out the vid.
2. Two political songs
Chuck Prophet – "Get Off The Stage"
Subtle demolition job on the soon to be Toddler-in-Chief. The late great John Prine rates a mention even though the song was recorded pre-Covid because (as Chuck said when I interviewed him) everyone needs to listen to John Prine.
Matthew Caws– "When History Comes"
Nada Surf front man delivers one of the best protest songs in decades. Totally in your face without being cruel and ends with a rallying call to vote because “it’s important”.
Guitarist with Moonlight 5, Waxworks, Dwarfthrower
I-94 Bar reviewer
I am sure many will say the same: This has been a shit of a year. Even so, I included much more than ten. Who cares !!
The passing of Greg Sawers
One piece of news hit me in the guts: Greg Sawyers’ death. What more can be said about this real local legend and complete old school identity. He could be fit equally well at the Marrickville Bowlo or Annandale Hotel (R.I.P.) or the Wentworth Park dog track with his working -class dreams and love of supporting pure rock ‘n’ roll. Band manager Greg Sawyers took over when God got drunk. For Ian Rilen, Louis Tillet, Steve Lucasand Steve Balbi, he was their minder and advocate. He always had a couch for those in need and was willing to cook up his bacon and eggs when they woke sometime after midday. Greg was all heart and part of a Sydney music scene that is now gone.
Another bumper year for the discerning music fan with some cracking releases and choice gigs. It’s a fine time be a punter and the challenge will be keeping this review of the year to just 10.
Speaking of challenges, as I get older and my brain gets more addled, trying to remember what I had for breakfast is enough of a challenge, let alone trying to remember what I happened in the first half of the year. So, if I left something or someone off, be kind.
Amy Helm – This too shall light
Amy is the daughter of Levon Helm and Libby Titus and she (Amy) was a regular member of her dad’s band in the latter stages of his career. This is only her second solo album (she’s nearly 50) and with a pedigree like hers, you just have to check it out. In short, it’s a wonderful mixture of country, folk, soul, gospel and rock. Great voice and great backing. One of the albums of the year.
Other albums worth mentioning in the US sort of country space include Kim Richey (Edgeland) and Dawn Landes (Meet me at the River). Both excellent singers and songwriters. Kim’s ‘Leaving Song’ is one of the songs of the year.
In no particular order...
Garry Gray & The Sixth Circle:
The former Sacred Cowboys frontman's "Diamond in the Forehead" was one of the stand out albums of the year. Great songs, big unhinged guitars, fantastic vocals and solid rhythm section behind it. You could be forgiven for thinking that their show at the Factory Floor would be sell out, but no. Barely 50 people witnessed one of the gigs of the year. Supports Leadfinger were fabulous (they always are) and the Chickenstones put on the best show I've seen from them.
Leadfinger’s "Friday Night Heroes":
Stew and the boys were back with their fifth and best to date album in "Friday Night Heroes". Great songs for grown ups, plus two excellent guitarists and a top notch rhythm section. The album was backed up with some fantastic shows. Probably Sydney's best rock band at the moment and it makes me wonder what things would have been like in another era when people actually bought and went out to see this stuff. One of the albums of the year.
Jim Dickson’s "Coelum Verses":
The year's most unexpected debut? Yep. This is not what I would have expected from the New Christs and Birdman bassist. It took a few listens before I really got into and then the penny dropped – one man's journey through a life of listening to and playing music. Anyone who's had a beer with Jim knows that he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music and is a hell of a nice guy too. After each listen, this record was becoming less surprising and more enjoyable. Great songs, great band, great production. Can we have a live show please Jim?
Iggy Pop’s "Post Pop Depression":
Over the last 25 years or so, Iggy's records have been patchy at best. This one was recorded with a small band with production responsibilities handed over to Josh Homme. Stripped back, tight and brooding, it looks backwards and forwards. It's the sum of where he's been and may be where he intends to go. For mine, his best since the Berlin albums he did with Bowie. Compelling. Iggy's not done yet.