The Buck Loner Revue Union Hotel Sunday May 24th

Genre blending uncovers fresh country.

If you look him up, Buck Loner is not some legendary 1950’s country singer, he’s an absurd cliché – a former country radio star character in the 1970 cult (but not classic) film Myra Breckenridge. Based on a wonderfully crazed Gore Vidal novel and starring Raquel Welch, it had a lot going for it but just didn’t gel. On the evidence of their first gig The Buck Loner Revue have done the opposite: they’ve taken quality ingredients, great writing, great musos, warping genres and created something very good and very fun indeed. While Buck Loner was a cliché ten-gallon hat country these guys had not a hat in sight. It is country-inspired music but it comes with smart new twists and plenty of rockin’ licks. If it were wearing any headgear at all it would be a tie dyed Neil Young headband dusted with Jeff Tweedy Americana grit and faded power pop baseball cap (worn forwards) as a costume change.

Genre-blending takes a fresh turn with the latest imagining by Chris Porter, who has already shown us tried and trusted rock and psyche can be brilliantly re-made for the modern world with his fuzzed out Dirt Picnic. This gathering of talented musos has Chris on Rhythm and vocal duties and a traditional clear toned lead handled by Mark Lucas, and they have sparked up a fresh take on country rock. Psyche-tinged country power-pop anyone? Non-traditional country roots rock or Americana is in vogue these days and thankfully the guys are in the ‘we’ve thought about this properly’ category. They start from classic early 70’s country rock and go much further. They are never quite as radical as Wilco at their most introverted, though “Sweet Communion” at the beginning of their second set is close. And there is musical wisdom in everything they do, largely because of
 Porter’s excellent writing and his thoughtful off-centre vocal style that gives an edge to every number, including those ‘pop country’ moments that rival Steve Earle in his white stetson swagger days.

The best news is that it’s still possible to wander down the pub and find yourself captivated by a debut set that reinvigorates the idea of a fun Sunday session with hardly a cover in sight, except for a sweet country song by American singer songwriter John Fullbright called “Didn’t Know I was in Love with You”. The inner west Union mob enjoyed well over an album’s worth of great new songs all penned by Chris and played by the boys: Peter Yates on bass, John Jessen on drums and Mark Lucas on lead guitar. The crowd took to them like old standards getting their feet moving for a roaring finale that included ‘On the Waterfront’, Chris’s tribute and cautionary tale to the seedier side of his hometown St John’s on Canada’s chilly Newfoundland east-coast. Perhaps it’s that salty Canadian tone that gives The Buck Loner Revue the gritty authenticity needed to ensure this kind of music avoids the cliché trap with tracks like ‘Stranded In Valentine’. Instead, the song conjours up a contemporary ‘love ain’t all it should be’ story around breaking down but needin’ to drive out of Valentine, somewhere west of Chris’s Aussie hometown – Newcastle – also giving it a welcome Aussie tone. So we can claim the Buck Loners as Aussie new wave country if we want and if you want to hear more you’re going to have to go listen next time to the Buck Loner Revue and say ‘hi’. There’s no product from these guys yet, just more live shows down the dirt road you scuff up your sneakers along the way.

By Neal Vaughan (600 words)

Dirt Picnic. Skylines and Alleyways.

Gritty understated mastery from redundant smokestacks via the Inner West.

Fuzzed out licks contrast soaring phosphorescent progressions. Twisted winding vocals echo off a solid state back beat. Sweet distortion sweeps through atmos laden lyrical harmony from the land of weatherboard and iron. An all-embracing journey through fresh, raw love, enigmatic-stalemates and the fading light of grungy Australia. This is the first, second and tenth impression of Dirt Picnic, the Newcastle/ Inner West three-piece that embodies the heavier side of guitarist Chris Porter’s musical persona. Canadian born Chris describes their debut album Skylines and Alleyways as a down and dirty rock but he sells the band, himself on guitar and vocals, Andy Macdonald Bass and Lukos Hey on drums, a little short. There’s much more to this outfit than another set of generic Inner West wanabee rockers. Perhaps because of Chris’s love of Americana this understated down and dirty slow burn outing captures a rare mood that only comes from confident musicians who understand that great tracks, memorable sounds are as much about what you leave out as what you put in. If you’re looking for easy references consider that Skylines and Alleyway’s opener ‘No more hopin’ and a wishin’ would sit happily on an early amped up Son Volt album while ‘Hot air in the balloon’ exudes a smoother rock swagger to match the Drive By Truckers in their heavier outings. And Chris’s vocal style certainly borrows, mostly successfully, from the Jay Farrer school of sparse intensity. On ‘Just Like Dead Wood’ it simmers darkly as it travails the depths of threatened life. But who needs comparisons when you can enjoy homegrown songwriting talent that actually stands up to day-long listening scrutiny. Skylines and Alleyways isn’t perfectly formed, perhaps some themes are overly repeated, but it’s one of those few inspired contemporary rock records (Ok it’s a CD or download) that offers both light and shade, a rare layered depth. You want to spin it over and over again as the music compels itself into your aural subconscious. Yes Dirt Picnic are doing more than just something right, maybe it’s that raw first album energy or maybe it’s the heavy punk country moments that grab my ears. Whatever it is catch them before they get too good and ruin the whole effect.

by Neal Vaughan (380 words)

TaraO knows sex sells, that’s the problem

How A Sex Wizard messes up the best laid PR Plans.

TaraO is a self confident younger woman who’s just written a new self help book ‘  Wildly Irresistible’ subtitled ‘ 6 Keys To Becoming The Hottest (And Happiest) Woman You Know!’ And despite all evidence to the contrary – such as a web site that has the word sex scattered liberally throughout – this book is not, in Tara’s view predominately, about a sex. Her aim and, the majority of her text, is designed to get younger women feeling better about their inner selves it’s not salacious and she doesn’t want it to be hyped like a Cosmo sealed section.

While she’s far from the first to address the issue of female inner confidence and mind plus body wellbeing, she’s got a new take and unlike so many self-helpers she’s genuinely lived it and she means it. Tara says her book matters because it works and because there’s an epidemic of female self-loathing that leads to a plagues of anorexia, bulimia, self harm and a growing number of younger women suicides. So she gets irked, to say the least, when reviewers and interviewers latch on to the section about masturbation and her night with a sex wizard.

See it’s happening again so we’ll ignore it because what she matters more than yet another sex headline. Anyone who’s hung out in city bars and clubs late on a Friday or Saturday night will witness a legion of young women showing other classic symptoms of low self esteem  – risky casual sex, drugs and gallons of $20 dollar cocktails , and Tara’s been there done all of that. She successfully battled her own battle, and openly admits to having gone close to taking her own life at the lowest point. So when the only part of her book that gets talked about in the media is in her opinion the least important, though still crucial part – sexual self-awareness and control.

Already you can hear the lewd remarks of the male sex establishment and their ‘get over yourselves girls’ female cheerleaders. The radio jocks, the TV titillators and the faceless newsroom editors looking for any excuse to start a story with sex, casual sex or in this case sex wizard and female masturbation.

As she says “Hey we started talking about it here didn’t we. The problem is that it’s only small part of the book. There are so many other important parts that cover general self awareness, inner peace, mindfulness and managing your place in an over sexualised world”

So she’s fighting another battle now to get the publicity her book needs to help the women she set out to help, without bringing the focus back to one of the core causes of low self esteem. Sex and the over sexualised society she talks about. It’s hard to disagree that while ‘feminism’ – a term Tara tries to avoid – has made women equal or at least more equal in many ways, the late 20th century sexual revolution has somehow morphed into a more unequal sexual landscape. A world where young women, who are often successful in the careers and many other parts of their life, still feel their identity is solely connected to how they look and the men, or women, they attract.

Tara’s not saying that sex isn’t a crucial part of any young woman’s, or man’s, identity and that’s why she examines ways of taking control of your sexual self and exploring your sexuality on your own terms rather than letting society define it for you. But it’s only small part of the overall method and steps to inner self-awareness that Tara has mapped out for her readers. That young women first need to feel at one with themselves, to get their mind right and in control of what they do in the bedroom. Then they call the shots and explore what’s good for them.

‘In the end if all the hype sells more books then surely that’s a good thing? Tara isn’t sure ‘ if you’re reading it or finding out about it for the wrong reason, then you’re either going to be disappointed or you’ll take on board the wrong message. The whole point is that you get back in control of how you feel about yourself, not conform to the way others or society makes you feel you should be.’

It’s basic psychology that we seem to miss so much these days – letting the inner you shape the world you live in rather than letting the world you live in shape you – that’s the trap so many young women fall into.

As Tara concludes ‘They see these the power women stereotypes but don’t understand how women in those roles and positions have got there. They see the outside not the inside’. As for the night with the sex wizard you’ll have to find about that for yourself.

By Neal Vaughan. Sydney Writer