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Aussie artists
Welcome to Living in the Land of Oz

Howzat! Archive - July 24th 2013

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PEAKS AND VALLEYS
Andy Szikla was known as Mr Fish when Howzat! met him in the mid-90s. We remember thinking, "If this guy had been around in the '70s, he would have been a superstar." He's a true singer-songwriter. As well as Mr Fish, Andy has been in several bands, including 87 Fat Girls (with Horsehead's Andy McLean and Cameron McKenzie) and Ides of March. And now he's finally released an album with just his name on the cover. "There is no vanity in it," Andy says. "It was just a way for me to navigate out of a very dark time in my life." Andy confesses he was "very, very lost" after his mother's death and a marriage break-up. "Needing to figure out where I was going and why I should bother", he started to write songs.

Dark Valley (out now on Rubber Records) isn't an obvious break-up album, with Andy creating characters to tell his tale. A highlight is Take Me Up, which features some wonderful wailing from Kerri Simpson. "It's a big song, and Kerri is a force of nature," Andy smiles. He and Kerri went to Lalor Tech together. "She was the leather-clad rocker and I was the clueless nerd, but we were both a little on the outer," Andy recalls of their school days. A fan of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, "everybody thought I was a dork, except for Kerri and a few others. She was the coolest kid I knew, and was into rocking bands like Thin Lizzy." Take Me Up is a heavy song. "The conflict is really about the guilt of exiting from a broken relationship and leaving kids behind. The song reinterprets that, and I made the guy a sod-busting farmer who tries to do the best for his family, but the cruel winters and poverty bring him failure, and the casualties are his children, as well as his own innocence. This kind of baroque, heroic re-telling of my own inner mess is really the theme of the whole album."

Howzat! usually likes short, sharp songs. Six of the nine cuts on Dark Valley are longer than five minutes, with the title-track clocking in at more than nine minutes. "Some narrative ideas require more exposition than others," Andy believes. "If the song is genuinely saying something, and it sounds great, the listener will probably want more, not less." Fair enough. Andy is launching the album Saturday at Cherry Bar, and videos for all the songs can be found at www.darkvalley.tv.


UPS AND DOWNS
Andy Szikla's favourite Aussie album is Died Pretty's Doughboy Hollow. "It can go round and round in my car's CD player for days." We're sure Andy will love the new Darling Downs album, In The Days When The World Was Wide (out this week on Fuse). Died Pretty's Ron S. Peno has reunited with Kim Salmon for the duo's first album in six years. Ron and Kim have been friends for more than 30 years. They met when the Scientists were doing a residency at the Vulcan in Sydney. Brett Myers, from The End, introduced his friend to Kim after a gig: "This is Ron from The Hellcats." Ron took the opportunity to ask Kim about the lyrics to Swampland. Kim was instantly drawn to Ron - "he had such an engaging personality" - and Ron became a regular at Scientists shows. One night he was wearing a wig, which had Kim wondering, "Is he mocking us, or is he just drunk?" Years later, backstage at a Surrealists show, Ron told Kim: "We've got to make a country record together!" Again, Kim wasn't sure if Ron was serious. But they would eventually create the "country-politan" duo The Darling Downs, releasing the 2005 debut, How Can I Forget This Heart Of Mine?, followed by 2007's From One To Another. Ron thought the show was over, but the new album - which is being launched Saturday at The Toff In Town - proves otherwise. It's a sparkling collection of songs that are both mournful and life-affirming.


SALMON FARMING
It's crazy that Kim Salmon is not in the ARIA Hall of Fame. He's a grunge pioneer, recognised around the world. Maybe he hasn't stood still long enough for ARIA to recognise his amazing body of work? We're talking Scientists, Beasts of Bourbon, the Surrealists, Salmon, The Business, Precious Jules, Antenna with Dave Faulkner, The Darling Downs, and Runaways with Spencer P Jones. "I've always got a lot of irons in the fire," Kim says. "It's like farming - if you stop planting a new crop, you're doomed." Surely, ARIA, his time has come?


CHART WATCH
Vance Joy jumps from 17 to 12.

Resolution MATT CORBY (number six)
Parachute TIMOMATIC (nine)
Riptide VANCE JOY (12)
Fire Starter SAMANTHA JADE (15)
Sheppard EP SHEPPARD (20)
Alive EMPIRE OF THE SUN (32)
Act Yo Age BLISS N ESO (36, debut)
Untouchable JOHNNY RUFFO (39, debut)

Four Voice-related albums in the Top 40.

More Than A Dream HARRISON CRAIG (number two)
Circus In The Sky BLISS N ESO (five)
A Time For Us LUKE KENNEDY (six, debut)
The Great Country Songbook TROY CASSAR-DALEY & ADAM HARVEY (12)
This Music CELIA PAVEY (14, debut)
Glorious Ruins HILLSONG LIVE (16)
Departures BERNARD FANNING (18)
The Beginning And The End Of Everything JOSH PYKE (20)
Surfers Paradise CODY SIMPSON (25, debut)
As The Crow Flies DANNY ROSS (26, debut)
Sharkmouth RUSSELL MORRIS (29)
Ice On The Dune EMPIRE OF THE SUN (30)
The Platinum Album JUDITH DURHAM (39)


HOWZAT! PLAYLIST
Take Me Up ANDY SZIKLA
Saved THE DARLING DOWNS
Henry MELODY POOL
Stolen Cars THE WEEKEND PEOPLE
Own Worst Enemy NICK BATTERHAM

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