Echoes and regrets: notes on 2011

Vin Maskell reflects on a handful of music moments



Seeing Clare Bowditch.  Hearing Clare Bowditch.  Seeing and hearing Clare Bowditch singing songs recorded by the late Eva Cassidy. Call it a tribute concert. Call it cover versions of cover versions. Call it a fine night of music. A very fine night, tinged inevitably with the regret of Eva Cassidy’s passing all those years ago. Sweet sorrow.   The Atheneum, Melbourne, August.



A broken wing will ground a bird but a broken arm didn’t stop Ireland’s Mary Black singing her heart out. (The arm was broken when she tripped off-stage during a benefit gig to raise money to save a Catholic church just outside Port Fairy). Mary Black’s daughter, a stunning tall woman, can sing too. It’s in the Irish blood, cliche or no cliche.  It’s in the Irish bones, broken or not. The concert was in The Palais, Melbourne, April.



Lively gypsy music in a senior citizen’s hall. Soft blues in a broken-down RSL hall . Good folk music at the bowls club. Teenagers in the park playing in school brass bands.  A Maurice Frawley  documentary  on a Sunday morning in a community hall seating about 50 people. You don’t always need big concerts and big festivals and big shows and big venues. The Newport Folk Festival in Melbourne’s inner-west unveiled the richness of local talent, right under your nose. Various venues,  June.



David Bridie realised long ago he’d never bowl like Curtly Ambrose. I doubt Curtly Ambrose will ever write or play like David Bridie. The frontman of My Friend The Chocolate Cake mentions Ambrose on Great Expectations, a song on the band’s new album Fiasco. I first heard the song at The Substation, a venue that was for many years a derelict, vandalised  power-generator for trains.  A group of Newport  locals – is visionaries too strong a word? – have turned the place into a terrific venue. Great expectations, indeed.



Looking for my copy of The Pretender by Jackson Browne and finding it in my daughter’s pile of CDs. Years ago the Paul Kelly and Bob Dylan albums would disappear. Now  Jackson Browne.  Here’s  hoping that at just 21 my daughter’s not following her father’s foolish footsteps and taking some of Browne’s lyrics, written back in the 70s, personally: “Out into the cool of the evening strolls the pretender. He knows that all his hopes and dreams begin and end there.”



Lying in the dark, night after night,  drifting off to sleep to Dylan’s Red River Shore, a track he left off Oh Mercy 20 years ago. Dylan sings about dreams drying up and the sun setting “on me a long time ago”. Then, towards the end of the seven minute lullaby, the gentle lilt of a soft accordion gives you a little hope. Sweet sorrow.  The way I feel about Red River Shore is best reflected in the way Paul Kelly feels about Frank Sinatra. In How To Make Gravy (the book, not the song), Kelly describes how on the night of Sinatra’s death  he listened to the Sinatra album In The Wee Small Hours.  While lying in the dark.  “After a while you find yourself drifting off and thinking about your own life and all its losses, how life over time is simply a series of losses: loss of parents, of friends, of love, of possibilities; loss of innocence and your children’s innocence…Loss’s sphere grows wider now, and included in it is all possibility. You reflect on all you’ve missed – how much of your life you’ve forgotten, how much has streamed by you, how paltry the haul in your little net.”

You’ll find Dylan’s Red River Shore on Tell Tale Signs (The Bootleg Series Volume 8). Kelly’s words about Sinatra are also in Best Australian Essays 2011.



Hearing part of a new Paul Simon song while waiting for the RocKwiz Christmas concert at The Palais to begin and thinking: Is this song really, really good – I mean seriously good – or am I just getting caught up on the anticipation of the RocKwiz concert.  A fortnight later The Age’s Shaun Carney says Simon’s new album So Beautiful Or So What is “a monumental piece of work, an album from which I expect to be drawing joy and surprise 20 years from now”.

And the song that caught my ear was the album opener Getting Ready For Christmas, “built,” says Carney, “on a 70-year-old recording of a sermon by Baptist preacher Reverend   J.M.Gates”.


About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back's not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards - the older the better.


  1. Thanks Vin. What a great collection of memories and artists.
    I read Andrew Starkie’s ‘Best of 2011’ and felt very old and out of touch. There are only so many things a man can fit into a day or a life. So I decided to enjoy the music I grew up with. The early finish to the First Test and the later start of the Second Test (why is it not starting today – ACB please explain) means plenty of time for the CD collection instead of the tranny.
    I occasionally hear a new roots band that the critics have raved about and I think “its ok, but The Band did it better.” And I put on Big Pink or Rock of Ages.
    Love your Dylan narrative and will hunt out that song. I borrowed a copy of ‘Modern Times’ this year and had thought it was just a collection of muttered blues rambles. Driving to work listening to it I was reduced to tears listening to “When the Deal Goes Down” and “Beyond the Horizon”. Love songs for the over 50’s. Love, acceptance, regret and a heartfelt thanks to those who stood by you in the fighting and wandering years. It was my Record of the Year – 5 years late. “Workingman’s Blues #2” is a great tune that celebrates our biennial GFC events.
    Will give the new Paul Simon a go. Thanks for the wisdom.

  2. Thanks Peter,
    In another life I could have cranked out a Best of list but life changes. I vaguely keep in touch with current music via RocKwiz and my children’s albums, especially my daughter’s. (My sons listen to and store all their music on their iPods, so I’m really not sure what their tastes are.) I was listening to a newish band, The Felice Brothers, a year or so ago and thought, Gee, they’re heard a few Band albums in their time. And then I read the liner notes, where they mentioned, yes, The Band.
    I don’t think it matters anymore whether we feel old and out of touch. What matters is having music that sustains us over the long haul. And that doesn’t mean golden oldies and nostalgia unlimited. It means something entirely different: comfort, solace, and some times just great fun (I heard ‘Shout!’ the other day.)
    Enough for now.

    Thanks again


  3. John Butler says

    Vin, an enjoyable selection.

    Nostalgia, endurance, memory: all overlap as you reach a certain age. Particularly in a music business where everything old will at some stage be new again.

    Dylan remains a source of fascination. His willingness to continually tinker with songs many of his fans regard sacred antagonises many, but I reckon if the artist creates it he can do anything damn thing he wants with it.

    The Bootleg series reinforces that one man’s outcasts are others’ treasures.

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