Almanac Music: Neil Murray at the Trinity Sessions




The genial duo, Roger Freeman and his wife Yvonne have organised music concerts, the Trinity Sessions, for more than twenty years. Held at the Church of the Trinity in the Adelaide suburb of Clarence Park, the venue is unique with brilliant acoustics and a wonderful leadlight stained glass window just to the side of the slightly elevated stage. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and everyone gets a seat. Over the years, folk-blues artists of substance have matched the surrounds. New up and coming artists are also afforded an opportunity. Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter performed here in the early years, Eric Bogle appears regularly while Lloyd Spiegel, Mahalia Barnes and Brian Cadd have graced the stage in recent months. Eric Bibb will perform at two sold-out concerts in coming weeks.






Last week the distinctive style of Neil Murray provided an enriching afternoon for all those present. Born in Victoria, Neil Murray has spent much of his time in the Top End. He has been a journeyman singer-songwriter since the 1970s. His songs tell stories of an Australian identity, bringing a connection to the land, the flora, the fauna and to the indigenous peoples and their ancestors.


His lyrics do not shy away from things that need to be said.


Murray wrote the iconic ‘My Island Home’, originally recorded by the Warumpi Band with Murray as a band member. The song became an indigenous anthem, taken to stellar heights by Christine Anu who performed it at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympics.
On a balmy afternoon with the sun streaming through the fabulous window, Neil Murray performed songs from the whole range of his catalogue. His playing alternated between his big white Gretsch guitar and a beautifully sounding amplified acoustic.


Most songs were accompanied by an associated story.


There are two songs from his latest album, The Telling, his ‘contribution to the process of truth telling in this country’.
‘Broken Land’ rollicks along as it relates the impact of 200 plus years of colonisation.





‘Tears of Wybalenna’ is an important song that tells the story of hundreds of Tasmanian aborigines moved to a settlement on Flinders Island for the purpose of being ‘civilised and christianised’. There was great suffering and many died as they awaited the promised return to their traditional country on the mainland. ‘Governments don’t learn from their mistakes’, sings Murray as he links this historical event with the fate of asylum seekers in the current era.



‘They languish in detention for many along year
and their cries for justice fall on deaf ears
Like the tears of Wybalenna’






Murray tells of a discussion with an old bloke in the Lyndhurst pub that led to the song ‘Horse and Rider’. The pitch of his voice rises a notch as he sings. The driving beat of ‘Goodlight in Broome’ is followed by ‘Fine Open Country’ and many others. He speaks of his respect for Eddie Mabo before performing the song of that name, the final verse becoming a name-check of prominent indigenous people – activists, sportspeople, politicians, artists and others.


The finale is a return to his early days and the Warumpi Band song ‘Black Fella, White Fella’ with the audience on their feet as they “stand up and be counted”.


A great afternoon spent with a talented artist who makes an important contribution to Australian music and culture.







More from Peter Crossing Here.



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About Peter Crossing

Peter Crossing loves the pure 'n natch'l blues. He is a member of the silver fox faction of the Adelaide Uni Greys. He is something of a cricket tragic although admitting to little interest in the IPL or Big Bash forms of the game.


  1. Barry Nicholls says

    Well done Peter. A very worthy tribute to a great story teller. Neil Murray’s book book ‘Sing for me, Country Man’ is an excellent examination of the culture of Central Australia among other things.

  2. Peter Crossing says

    Thanks Barry. I love the way Neil Murray tells his stories in words so clear and succinct.
    There were no books available at the card table that I could see but some people were getting personal copies signed. Seems to be out of print so am looking at libraries.
    Found a wonderful review from many years ago.

  3. DBalassone says

    Thanks for this Peter. Neil Murray is a great songmaker and a treasure. I haven’t got around to listening to ‘The Telling’ yet but I have about a dozen go to Murray songs that I am always playing like Coolamon Moon, Cooling Winds, Whispering Casuarina, Bring Thunder and Rain, Lights of Hay, Native Born, Calm and Crystal Clear, Melbourne Town, Sing Your Destiny, Anywhere Tonight, Meet Me in Bedourie and Myall Creek.

    How’s that opening to ‘Calm and Crystal Clear’:

    Looking out on the backroads of my life
    There’s me again as a five-year-old child
    Staring at the broken toys scattered in the sand
    Knowing deep inside I was an already an old man

    and also that killer line later on in the same song:

    The stars above offer no consolation

  4. Ian Wilson says

    Love this Peter. I saw Neil in a similar setting at a small winery just outside Hobart in 2006 and he was brilliant. ‘Sing For Me’ is wonderful as are the insights into the Warmup’s in Andrew Mcmillan’s book “Strict Rules’. Neil is a national treasure and very much under acknowledged in history of Australian songwriting. Must have been a great experience. Cheers

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