Almanac Music – Aussie album review: Tex, Don and Charlie – ‘Sad But True’

 

The ‘Supergroup’ is a peculiarly rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon, in which the whole usually never quite adds up to the sum of the parts. Although Cream, whom Rolling Stone magazine credits as being the first real supergroup, were not too bad a combine. Generally, however, supergroups have a tendency to produce one ripping track, and not much else: style over substance.

 

Thankfully, Australian music does not have a long and storied history of supergroups. In this country, Axiom (featuring Brian Cadd and Glenn Shorrock), Shorrock’s subsequent Little River Band, and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds are probably the best known of this peculiar genre. There are others, of course. And then we have Tex, Don and Charlie.

 

What an advantage Tex, Don & Charlie had right from the start. This country has produced some fine songwriters. But with apologies to such greats as Dave Faulkner, Paul Kelly, Forster & McLennan, Ross Wilson, Sia Furler and the afore-mentioned Cave and Cadd, I reckon the argument over who is the finest of all has long been a moot point. The greatest is Don Walker, and his back catalogue is nothing short of extraordinary, from Cold Chisel to Catfish and beyond. Then add Charlie Owen and Tex Perkins. The former is the least well known of the three, but widely considered to be one of this country’s best guitarists; he is a man with a resume which reads like an Australian music encyclopedia. Perkins needs no introduction: a charismatic and versatile singer equally at home whether belting out rock, blues or Johnny Cash covers.

 

Apart from his songwriting ability, it is quite amazing really, that Walker never sang lead on any Cold Chisel track. True, the Chisels had a couple of handy singers in Jimmy Barnes and guitarist Ian Moss; but one of the most wondrous discoveries in Walker’s superb post-1983 canon has been the revelation of that unusual, nasally voice. It kicks off the opening track “Redheads, Gold Cards And Long Black Limousines”, a track which, with its first line (“I’ve been in and out of trouble, mainly in”) begins the process of easing the listener in to this collection of songs of misfits, losers and people living on the wrong side of the tracks.

 

You are lured in by the quality of the playing, and the incisiveness of the lyrics. “Postcard from Elvis”, “Fake That Emotion”, and Walker’s “The Girl with the Bluebird” are all superb tracks. “Danielle” (orginally Chisel’s “Janelle“) is simply beautiful. And it ends with Perkins’ semi-regretful “I must be getting soft”, a fine way to conclude the journey we have just undertaken. I am not sure that Tex has ever sounded better.

 

The first time I played the album, some 25 years ago now, I can still recall greedily ruing the fact that there were not more than the 13 tracks presented. It has the looseness of a jam session; the listener has the joy associated with stumbling upon an out-of-the-way hole in the wall and finding the country’s best bar band just enjoying themselves, and not caring too much if anyone else likes what is going on. It all has a feel. A feel that is comfortable and satisfying: Walker’s keyboards, Perkins’ plaintive growl, Owen’s atmospheric fretwork, A-grade session musos, and chemistry you can almost reach out and touch.

 

 

Welcome to Almanac Music. We’d love to publish your stories.

 

About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. Chris Daley says

    Barlow and Chambers nearly did me in listening as a 20 year old. Might listen tonight. Thanks Smoke

  2. Robert Allen says

    A ripper collection (I also have their live album). I wasn’t a huge Chisel fan growing up so this was the album that alerted me to Don Walker’s song writing brilliance. His great voice is an added bonus. I’m looking forward to reading his new book.

  3. E.regnans says

    Smokie.
    Outstanding. Music and stories, both.
    D Walker’s observations, disciplined use of language, wits, often catch me off-balance. Like a shark at a funeral.

  4. DBalassone says

    It’s great isn’t it? Especially fond of Bluebird, Elvis, Redheads and Fateful Day. And I reckon their next album ‘All is Forgiven’ is even better (this is where Harry Was a Bad Bugger, Paycheques and Jails live).
    Have you got Walker’s book of lyrics Songs? I purchased last week. Epic.

  5. Thank you all for your comments.
    Chris, Barlow & Chambers is the most unique track on the album, it has a (purposely) different feel to the other tracks.
    Robert / Damo, I am very much looking forward to purchasing the new Walker book.
    e.r., Yes, as mentioned I reckon Walker is our finest.

  6. John Butler says

    Smoke, an excellent pick. You can’t go wrong with these gentlemen in combination.

    And Mr Walker’s Catfish albums are well worth the price of entry, also.

    Cheers

  7. Brilliant Smokie. Great review of a great album. Happily saw them for the first time a couple years’ ago and it was terrific: atmospheric, enveloping, funny and haunting.

Leave a Comment

*