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Aussie artists
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Howzat! Archive - January 27th 2010

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An Aussie has conquered the country world. But has our country music become too Urban? John Elliott - the country music writer, not the blabbermouth former Carlton president - delivered a lecture in Tamworth last week called "Let's Get Real: The Need For Authenticity In Australian Country Music", declaring: "Country music in the past 10 years has become very ordinary." John traces the decline to "the day Slim [Dusty] died". "Slim was a shining light," John told The Australian, "since Slim died, it's almost like the day the music died." Sadly, Australian country artists have no major outlets for their music. Radio play is rare, and record companies are usually not interested unless the artist has been involved in some reality TV show. Has the result been artists selling their souls in the hope of a pop crossover? "There's still some great country music, but it's become overwhelmed by stuff that is just ordinary," according to John Elliott, who has written books about Slim Dusty and Smokey Dawson. "It's not rocket science - it's country and it's music. There has to be some sort of connection with the country for it to have meaning. Country music has always had respect for what's come before. Without that respect, it becomes very bad pop music." Before Keith Urban's recent Rod Laver Arena show, Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? played over the P.A. But reviewers remarked that Urban's music no longer had a close country connection. "The years spent cultivating pop stardom have sanitised his music into a slickly produced commercial product," Patrick Emery wrote in The Australian. "Urban was indistinguishable from any buffed West Coast pop star." But country guru Dave Dawson declared: "He may have deviated from the roots of his raising, but now has audiences taking him places that Hank never dreamed of so maybe it's hats off to a soaring star who doesn't wear one."

Sony Music boss Denis Handlin is fond of saying that crisis presents opportunity, which is how the local music industry should be viewing the devastating news regarding the Tote and the Arthouse. As Bruce Milne told the crowd at the Tote protest, "We're not going to let this happen to other live music venues in Melbourne. We have to protect something that's incredibly important." It would be wrong to paint the Brumby Government as being "anti-rock" - they continue to fund Vic Rocks, which helps fund tours and albums, and The Push and FReeZA Central. Hopefully, the Tote publicity will help the government understand that Melbourne has a thriving, positive music community, and it's time for them to truly embrace the industry, so that they can benefit from promoting Melbourne as Australia's rock capital, if not the world's. The timing could be good - there's an election on the way, and with the departure of Lynne Kosky, we have a new Arts Minister (Peter Batchelor). Unfortunately, the local scene has no body that speaks for the industry as a whole. The industry is a mix of disparate, often competing, forces. We need a group that can effectively lobby government. Howzat! is pleased to report that work is going on behind the scenes to create a "Music Victoria" body, involving representatives of APRA, AIR, The Push and the Australian Music Industry Network. Its time has come. As well as fixing the liquor licensing problems and making things easier for venues that host live music, the state government should hook up with ARIA to create an ARIA Hall of Fame in Melbourne - an actual place that music fans can visit and celebrate Australia's rock history. If the state government doesn't step in soon, a less worthy city will get the gig. The Hall of Fame should be centrally located - at Federation Square or the Arts Centre. Or how about the unused ballroom at Flinders Street Station?

Who were big influences on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? None other than Melbourne's own Daddy Cool. Tom played Eagle Rock and Come Back Again on his radio show last year, and now keyboards player Benmont Tench has revealed that DC helped bring the band together. "I was lucky enough to walk into a room and meet Tom and (guitarist) Mike (Campbell) and have them show me songs by so and so and me show them songs by so and so. For instance, we all loved this band named Daddy Cool, an Australian group that was just fantastic and obscure as you can get. One of the first times I went to Tom's house he said, 'Check this out', and put on this Daddy Cool record. It was something I'd heard a couple weeks before on the college radio station and was blown away but didn't know who it was. And I'm sitting there with Tom and thinking, 'Okay, this is good, this will work.'" Daddy Cool celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, but frontman Ross Wilson is focusing on a new solo album. He's getting set to release a new single, I Come In Peace, written with Rick Brewster from The Angels.

Kate Miller-Heidke's Caught In The Crowd returns to the Top 40, while Broken, the debut single for Sam Clark (Ringo in Neighbours), breaks into the Top 50. Meanwhile, Sia is aiming for her first Top 40 hit - You've Changed arrives at 42.

Black Box STAN WALKER (number eight)
Art Of Love GUY SEBASTIAN (14)
One Way Road JOHN BUTLER TRIO (18)
According To You ORIANTHI (20)
Sweet Disposition THE TEMPER TRAP (23)
Like It Like That GUY SEBASTIAN (31)
Caught In The Crowd KATE MILLER-HEIDKE (40)

No Aussie albums in the national Top 10.

Introducing STAN WALKER (number 13)
Golden Rule POWDERFINGER (18)
Conditions THE TEMPER TRAP (20)
Walking On A Dream EMPIRE OF THE SUN (21)
As Day Follows Night SARAH BLASKO (22)
Like It Like That GUY SEBASTIAN (35)
Been Waiting JESSICA MAUBOY (38)
Hazardous VANESSA AMOROSI (39)

Will You Shine? PERRY KEYES
Taste Of Your Heart PARALLEL LIONS
Intense Wear Lipstick THE VIDEOMATICS

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