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Welcome to Living in the Land of Oz

Howzat! Archive - June 19th 2013

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"Tonight is a special night," MC Hugo T. Armstrong tells the crowd. "For the first time ever … the first ever live recording on a steam train. You're gonna be part of musical history."

But, first, the backstory. Michael Pollitt was planning to be a basketballer. At Monash University, studying business systems and commerce, he found himself out injured, with a sprained ankle. With time on his hands, he wandered into the student union to discover a young, long-haired Jeff Lang blazing away. It was a life-changer. Michael returned to his friend's dormitory and picked up a guitar. He carried it with him for the next six months. "I played until I could play," Michael explains, smiling. He was 19. His basketball dream was over. Tony Forbes, a musician friend of his dad, suggested he check out Tommy Emmanuel, so Michael went to see him at the Continental. Arriving an hour early, he went for a walk down Chapel Street, discovering Muddy Waters Café. He found a spiky blond-haired performer named Geoff Achison, "playing some of the most amazing acoustic music I'd ever heard". Michael saw Tommy's gig and then returned to the café. He bought Geoff's CD, but it didn't feature the song that was stuck in his head, Adam & Eve. Michael couldn't sleep. He got online and wrote to Geoff, asking how he could get a copy of the song so he could learn it. Geoff wrote back: "There's only one way you can learn that song - come 'round to my place and I'll teach you." Michael had discovered the blues. Every Thursday night, he would tune in to Max Crawdaddy's Triple R show, jamming along to the songs. "Max was my education," Michael says. "He taught me the history of the blues."

Michael relocated to London, where he became a session guitarist. He also organised his best mate's buck's weekend. At 10am, completely sober, they had a surfing lesson at Cornwall beach. A guy fell in front of Michael. Instead of running over him, Michael decided to flip off the back of his board. About 20 metres from shore, he thought he'd be okay; he wasn't. He crashed head first in about 20cm of water, breaking his neck. He was lucky to survive. After being immobile for six months, a doctor asked what he did for a living. When Michael revealed he was a guitarist, the doctor replied, "Terrific, that's what you're going to do to get your hand working again." It was a case of use it or lose it. A year after his accident, Michael was recording his debut EP, The Morning Light. When a BBC DJ heard Michael's story, she said: "You're not Mr Blues, you're Mr Black & Blues." The name stuck. Michael now records as Mr Black & Blues on his own label, Breakneck Records.

After 10 years in the UK, Michael came home in 2010, finding a regular gig on Queenscliff's legendary Blues Train. Just before Christmas 2011, Michael met one of his heroes, Chris Wilson, at the Rainbow Hotel. Soon after, a booking mix-up led to Michael sitting in on Chris's set on the Blues Train. "Playing with Chris has been a spectacular education for me. His breadth of experience is extraordinary and he has a calm confidence on stage. He can tune an audience like a radio, able to reach into his musical bag of tricks and pull out exactly what the crowd needs at that moment." In September last year, Michael and Chris returned to the Blues Train to record the album, Blow These Tracks, Live On The Blues Train (out now via It was an unforgettable gig. "When you think about a recording studio, a moving train, with all its rattles and squeaks, is about as far as you can get from that environment. When we did it, I understood why no one had done it before!" Hugo T. Armstrong, who runs the Blues Train, has written to the Guinness Book of Records to see if it is, indeed, the first album to be recorded on a moving train. Whatever way you look at it, it's a remarkable record. And it heralds the arrival of a new blues star.

Great to see that the multi-talented Nick Batterham (The Earthmen, Blindside, Cordrazine) has signed to Popboomerang Records and will release a new solo album, Closing Time At Yah Yah's, in August. The first single is a sublime duet with Amaya Laucirica, Own Worst Enemy.

See you at the Community Cup on Sunday!

Harrison Craig is closing in on top spot.

Unchained Melody HARRISON CRAIG (number two, debut)
More Than A Dream HARRISON CRAIG (three, debut)
Parachute TIMOMATIC (seven, debut)
Resolution MATT CORBY (10)
Love Is Gone LUKE KENNEDY (22, debut)
Caruso LUKE KENNEDY (23, debut)
Threads of Silence KARISE EDEN (28)
Sheppard EP SHEPPARD (29)
Candle In The Night CELIA PAVEY (32, debut)

Bernard Fanning scores his seventh number one album (five with Powderfinger, two solo).

Departures BERNARD FANNING (number one, debut)
Steal The Light THE CAT EMPIRE (23)
Flume FLUME (27)
The Very Best INXS (28)
Keep Moving ANDREW STOCKDALE (32, debut)
Beautiful Noise LEE KERNAGHAN (33)
The Very Very Best Of CROWDED HOUSE (39)

The Beginning And The End Of Everything JOSH PYKE

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