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Howzat! Archive - March 13th 2013

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SAINTS, SINNERS & SUCCESS
"The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner has a future." So said Oscar Wilde. That quote has now inspired the title-track of Benny Walker's second album, Sinners and Saints (out through MGM). "I know that I ain't perfect," Benny sings. But this record shows he has a knack for crafting quality roots music. "I heard the Oscar Wilde quote one day and it really stuck with me," the Echuca singer-songwriter says. "I put it away in the songwriting bank and, sure enough, it became the seed that the song grew from." Benny doesn't barrack for the Saints - he's a Carlton man. As for a favourite Saint, he says: "I used to lose things all the time when I was going to school. Being educated in Catholic schools, they'd tell me to pray to Saint Anthony." Which of the seven deadly sins - lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride - is Benny most guilty of? "Probably gluttony," he laughs. "I love to eat and drink with my friends and we usually over indulge. If I go to hell for that, I think it's a pretty good pay off."

Sinners and Saints is beautifully produced by Shane "Subtlety" O'Mara. What was the biggest lesson Benny learned from Shane? "Serve the song - whether it was by not adding that extra instrument, or playing guitar a certain way at a certain time. He helped me get back to playing an acoustic guitar gently. I was really bashing away there for a while and after I sent the demos to Shane, he asked if I could go away and play the songs gentler. He's right. The acoustic guitar loses its beauty if you don't play it right." Asked to put the making of the album into a few words, Benny replies, "The greatest time of my creative life ... so far."

"What did you want to be when you were just a child?" Benny asks in standout song Leave It To Me. "I definitely wanted to be a guitar player from an early age," he says. "I remember as a kid writing a story about playing guitar in front of thousands of people. Like a lot of Australian kids, I grew up playing footy and cricket and really loved my sport, too. But music has always had a different hold on me." Benny's first musical loves were Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Later, he got into Nirvana and Max Cavalera's Sepultura and Soulfly. "Eventually, I worked my way back to blues, folk and singer-songwriters." The new album concludes with a cover of JJ Cale's Crazy Mama. "I first heard of JJ Cale through listening to Clapton cover his songs. Cocaine and After Midnight are such great tunes, and probably like a lot of people, I thought they were Clapton's songs. When we took a break from recording the album, we'd go into Shane's lounge room, throw on Crazy Mama and have a beer. I hadn't planned to do any covers but I suggested it to Shane and away we went."

Oscar Wilde also said: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Benny Walker's future is bright. He's playing at the Northcote Social Club on Friday, with the Tom Richardson Project and Harry Hookey.


A KNOCK OUT
Amali Ward's new single, Knock You Out, certainly packs a punch. In just 2.20 minutes, Amali rails against racism, promising retribution. "If you're gonna try and form division," she sings, "somebody's gonna knock you out." The song - which won Best R&B Song in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest - was inspired by a conversation Amali had with an old school friend, "who said something off-hand that was really racist. I was blown away that someone from my generation could be racist. It made me really angry." Amali grew up in Tasmania, but now calls Sydney home. Born to English and Sri Lankan parents, did she ever encounter any racism? "Nothing majorly racist," she says, "but in the heat of the moment, I've been told, 'Go back to where you come from!' What, Tassie? I've also been told that my look 'lends itself to R&B', whatever that means!" Amali was just 16 when she made the Australian Idol Top 10 in 2004 (the year of Casey Donovan, Anthony Callea, Ricki-Lee, Em Rusciano, Prinnie Stevens, Ngaiire, and Dan O'Connor). She infamously declared, "I'd love for Tasmania to be known for something other than incest." Amali's debut album, Back In Time, is out next month, and she's playing at the Workers Club on Thursday.

CHART WATCH
Jessica Mauboy's NRL song debuts at 26.

Lanterns BIRDS OF TOKYO (number 11)
Holdin On FLUME (19)
Something's Got A Hold On Me JESSICA MAUBOY (26, debut)
Big Banana HAVANA BROWN (38, debut)

Russell Morris's Sharkmouth is eating up the charts, jumping from 28 to 17, to give Russell his first top 20 album in 42 years. Meanwhile, Birds of Tokyo become the fourth Aussie act to top the charts this year, knocking off Hillsong.

March Fires BIRDS OF TOKYO (number one, debut)
Push The Sky Away NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS (six)
Flume FLUME (eight)
Zion HILLSONG UNITED (nine)
Sharkmouth RUSSELL MORRIS (17)
I See Seaweed THE DRONES (18, debut)
Armageddon GUY SEBASTIAN (24)
The Sapphires SOUNDTRACK (37)
Lonerism TAME IMPALA (39)
The Rubens THE RUBENS (40)


HOWZAT! PLAYLIST
Leave It To Me BENNY WALKER
Knock You Out AMALI WARD
Making Our Way SKIPPING GIRL VINEGAR
You're The Cops, I'm The Crime DAVEY LANE
The Drifter RUSSELL MORRIS

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