Reviews of Noel's latest CD, Walking This Land
This afternoon was the 1st time that I was able to sit and really listen to your wonderful CD. It brought tears to my eyes - the way you are able to bring me back to earth! There is so much in your songs to which I directly relate - my worries about my own children when their mother and I broke up! And how well I remember the clandestine Dean brother's activities (in Victoria where I come from). You also reminded me of my own doubts about how our country treats the refugees, how Australia's terrible treatment of its aborigines built the settler's dynasties (Duracks etc..) and its military support for America's oil companies in the Middle East. It is all so very professionally done too!
Congratulations! I can safely say that this CD will be made a permanent member of my collection in my car - the car has a beaut sound system, and that is where I turn up the volume without fear of deafening anyone else!
Noel Gardner’s independent album release Walking This Land is insightful, thought provoking and politically relevant to issues that all Australians can strive to understand, or at least be aware of.
The Palmwoods songwriter won the Lyrics Category at the 2005 Australian National Songwriters Association contest for track eleven on Walking This Land - "Stolen Children".
His lyrical references to domestic and international issues paint a picture of someone acutely aware of the political climate around them...
His lyrics and music appear soaked in the natural elements and landscape of Australia, inspired by the history and ability to instigate positive change. The award winning lyricist covers such topics as aboriginal rights and the stolen generation, the futility of war, the plight of refugees, the essence of nature and what it means to be Australian - whether we like it or not.
But it’s musical expression that really drives the theme and lyrical content of each track.
The inspirational "Refugee" comes across as an alternative version of that catchy hook and pinnacle of nationalist influence “I am Australian”. Even before a word is sung, a Middle Eastern flavour bursts forth, setting the subject matter and imagery of foreign detainees. Speaking in the first person, Noel sings; "As I sit in the camp in the desert, curled wire defines all my dreams".
Atmospheric and skilfully produced - all the musicians click together and play there own part in the overall sound. A perfect example is “ In The Forest”. With the graceful flute playing of Sundari Krishna and a rhythm section driven by the bass of Mcoy Harvey and the drumming of Nik Meyer-Miller.
"Humpback Whale" is another track with an evocative harmony vocal and guitar motif, this time reminisecent of an adventurous seafaring journey. His lyrics reach out and grapple with the heartstrings but for Noel, it almost appears unintentional. This is because he gives the impression of speaking "matter of factly" through the description of landscapes, colours and looks in people’s eyes.
Elements of Celtic Folk weave through tracks such as "Sunset Symphony" and "Happy Song", but overall it emerges unquestionable in it’s Australian identity references to bloodwoods, Pauline Hanson and country Queensland towns see to that...
Just when you think the confronting subject matter is enough to dampen the mood, Noel’s self-awareness humour and positive approach brightly shines through. As it’s title suggests, "Happy Song" is an interesting departure from the heavier lyrical content throughout the album. However, in it’s own way, it becomes perhaps the most politically motivated of all tracks on Walking This Land, achieved by telling the listener what he "isn’t" going to sing about.
Every track on this album covers new territory whether through lyrical content or musical influence.
Herein lies the strength of Noel and the talented group of musicians by his side. On first listen, it’s evident the lyrics of "Stolen Children" were no flash in the pan. Noel could easily have won a lyrical award for several other tracks - particularly "Reflections Of War" and "Refugee".
In drawing upon vast subject matter, all accurate, succinct and brutally honest, all the tracks containmessages of understanding and acceptance that are relevant to all. As a far reaching music fan and strong advocate for political transparency, I was thrilled to discover that Walking This Land is one of the most informed and honest assessments of Australian identity I have come across.
Well known Sunshine Coast singer songwriter Noel Gardner has just released his long promised third CD. Walking This Land takes us on a journey through geographical, personal, and political landscapes in contemporary Australia in songs that are characterized by thoughtful and evocative lyrics, and singable melodies and choruses.
Central to Noel’s music is how he writes about the land. He draws images in words, then colours them with melodies and evocative arrangements. ‘Bare Dunes’, ‘Sunset Symphony’, ‘Walking This Land’ and ‘In The Forest’ are strong examples. But Noel also challenges us to reflect on our relationships with our country, our history and the traditional owners as the basis for making our own connections.
In ‘Whispering Wind’, images of moonlight on granite boulders shift to 'rivers of blood cross the lowlands'. The rhythm here is also wonderfully disconcerting, especially given that the song is about seeking balance and equilibrium!
It’s a short distance to the concerns of ‘Refugee’, ‘Reflections of War’, and ‘Stolen Children’, with their references to contemporary and timeless concerns. ‘Stolen Children’ won this year’s Australian Songwriters Association award for best lyrics and ‘Reflections of War’ made it into the top 20. Last year ‘Refugee’ was placed second in the Acoustic category. ‘Happy Song’ is also in the top 5 shortlist in the 2005 MusicOz Awards Folk Category.
‘Happy Song’ continues in political territory, but with the ironic humour that is always part of Noel’s live performances.
The varied arrangements work well on this CD, because the many musicians involved make their unique contributions to it without overpowering Noel’s voice and words. Instrumental favourites for me were the uillean pipes on ‘Sunset Symphony’, dobro on ‘Whispering Winds’ and clarinet on ‘Refugee’.
Backing vocals by Noel's regular collaborators Jennie Finnigan and Alex Bridge, and some other well-known guests, are consistently sensitive and polished. Noel’s sings alone on the reflective ‘Child’s World’, which, along with “Photos and Memories’ was written for his sons. Son Peter was sound engineer on the CD and all three sons feature on it.
I thought that several songs would have been sharpened by judicious editing, and I'm not sure that 'One Equals Three' sits comfortably in the whole. The cover and booklet design are pleasing, containing some great images which occasionally overpower the words. Could just be an opportunity to listen harder.
These are minor reservations. Walking This Land is a fine marker of Noel’s musical journey, a timely reflection on Australia in 2005, and a warm addition to any music collection.