Cowboys in Cyberspace

Cowboys in Cyberspace
Australia’s award-winning Internet Country Music resource (Est. 1997)

Vale Jimmy, Charlie and Eric – A Personal Tribute

April 30th, 2012

JIMMY LITTLE AO, the true Gentleman of Australian music, left us on April 2nd, 2012 at the age of 75. From childhood spent with his parents in a travelling vaudeville show, he became a recording artist with hits including the triple-gold single Royal Telephone in 1963, Baby Blue in 1974 and the multi-award winning 1999 album, Messenger. Born of the Yorta Yorta people, he became the most popular Indigenous music star across six decades, and in later years an educator and role-model. After personal health problems that included a kidney transplant, The Jimmy Little Foundation was created to promote indigenous health and diet.

I first encountered Jimmy while promoting his work at Festival Records in the mid-seventies. Soon after, I would have the joy of occasionally playing guitar behind him onstage. Much later, at various industry events, I was always touched by his warmth and dignity. A true inspiration; may his music live forever and the Foundation flourish in his name.

Jimmy Little Foundation website

CHARLIE LAMB, the “Mayor of Music Row’, died on March 7th, 2012 at the age of 90. He came from an era when the rules of showbiz were still being invented, not just by choice but by necessity. From carnivals to movies, from reporter to publisher, he took life by the horns and rode it to success! Amongst his many achievements, he will be remembered as the inventor of the “bullet’, now a feature of music charts around the world. He was there at the start of many trade organisations including the CMA and he was one of the inspirations behind the International Country Music Conference.

I was humbled to be invited to the 2004 ICMC in Nashville and to be honoured with the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism, presented on his behalf by Miss Brenda Lee and sponsored by Peggy and Gary Walker of the ‘The Great Escape’. It was fascinating to learn more about the life-story of Charlie Lamb and a privilege to have met this wonderful man in person.

CMT News Story…

ERIC WATSON OAM, historian and songwriter, died on January 8th, 2012 at the age of 85. As a young man, his first songs were recorded by artists that including Jimmy Little and later on, Slim Dusty. He was the first recognised historian of Australian Country Music with his two books, Country Music In Australia, volumes 1 & 2 published in 1975 and 1983 respectively (and combined as one book in a 2005 edition). With an uncompromising view of what constituted country music in general and Australian CM in particular, he founded Selection Records, the label that would further the careers of Reg Poole, Owen Blundell, Barry Thornton, Evelyn Bury and many other artists. Eric Watson

When I first met Eric in the late-seventies, he was literally living next door, over the back fence in the Sydney suburb of Eastlakes. He encouraged me as both a producer (several tracks for various Selection artists, including an album for Dusty Rankin in 1980, Sunset Valley Calling, during which this photo of Eric was taken), a session-musician (including the Gordon Parson’s album, The Old G.P.) and as an artist (my version of The Bushman’s Rodeo on Selection would be a ‘Golden Guitar’ finalist track in 1982). Always he was outspoken about what he considered ‘authentic’ in country music and, while there are undoubtable exceptions, when when one considers the progressive dilution of the genre, one must always consider that perhaps “Eric Watson was right”.

– Bob Howe, April 2012

Tamworth Country Music Festival 2012 – Media Launch

November 24th, 2011

First photos of some of the 2012 Golden Guitar Finalists!

Full list…CLICK HERE

Back row (L to R) :
Front Row (L to R) :

During the media event: GRAEME CONNORS (and Matt Fell)
finally get their 2011 trophies…presented by Joy McKean.

Kasey & Kelly: Buy the Book(s)

November 1st, 2011

A Little Bird Told Me book coverTo most Australian music fans, the bare bones of the story of the Chambers family saga will be familiar: Mum and Dad take their two-year-old son and baby Kasey into the Nullarbor Plain to live a nomadic existence for 10 years, finally returning to civilisation and forming a family band, then stumbling into critical acclaim followed by KASEY CHAMBERS’ emergence as a multi-platinum selling musical phenomenon. The story has been retold in countless articles and even the 2001 book, Red Desert Sky by John Lomax III. What makes this new book special, apart from continuing the next 10 years of the story, is the honest and openness that come from Kasey’s own words. Fans who already know how down-to-earth she is will not be surprised by that and credit must go to Jeff Apter who helped Kasey write this autobiography with such transparency that at no time does the narrative ever not sound like her own disarming and charming tone. Many will be taken aback however, to read of Kasey’s personal and physical struggles, hidden behind the glare of the spotlight, and how she has overcame those hurdles. A compelling and rewarding read.
A Little Bird Told Me by Kasey Chambers with Jeff Apter.
(Harper Collins Publishers ISBN:9780732291082)

Kasey makes several references to her various encounters with PAUL KELLY in her book, describing him as unassuming, compared to his huge stature in the business, much as many would describe her! If you missed Paul’s 2010 book (with or without the outstanding CD Box Set) or the subsequent iPhone/iPad interactive app, then at the very least, get the latest paperback version. Not an autobiography in linear time, but a fabulous sprawling memoir motivated by his live introductions to his renowned A-Z shows, now on tour around the globe, whereby he performs his self-penned repertoire in alphabetical order. For the book, taking the inspiration for the songs as a starting point, he alternatively reveals much of his songwriting process, life on the road and stories of his family, friends and his own life. Both touching and enlightening and inspiring; perfect for dipping in to or consuming en masse. A must for all music fans and aspiring songwriters.
How To Make Gravy by Paul Kelly
Paperback edition Penguin Books / ISBN:9781926428277


May 24th, 2011

DVD coverDVD review

Time Life/Shock Entertainment

Also known as OPRY VIDEO CLASSICS and originally sold by subscription and split into more parts, this 5-DVD set combines the mother-lode of historic television footage of the golden age of country music, from the 50s to the 70s.  Each part is themed – Queens, Kings, Duets, Pioneers etc, and has an introduction by Marty Stuart and bonus interviews with the stars of GRAND OLE OPRY. This collection should be compulsory viewing for any aspiring country artist, particularly if they think the genre began with Garth Brooks! The performances are all live and sure, the images are static by today’s standards; the majority of the singers stand upright and the camera angle changes at most for each verse and chorus. A far cry from today’s videos with shots lasting just a few seconds and with inexplicable costume changes. The cover modestly claims over ‘ten hours’ but I estimate it nearer to sixteen, and it claims to present “the greatest collection of vintage live country music performances ever assembled”.  No argument here!

Time Life/Shock Entertainment OPR 01 01


January 21st, 2011

CD coverSony Music Entertainment Australia is pleased to announce its support for the victims of recent floods across Australia through the release of a special benefit compilation CD “FLOOD RELIEF – Artists For The Flood Appeal”.

The response from both Australian and international artists wanting to lend their support has been so overwhelming that an additional disc was added making it a special 3 CD set. “FLOOD RELIEF – Artists For The Flood Appeal” features 59 tracks over three CD’s and features Aussie artists including Midnight Oil, Jessica Mauboy, Guy Sebastian, Troy Cassar-Daley, Tommy Emmanuel, John Williamson & Shannon Noll, Adam Brand, Adam Harvey, Melinda Schneider,  Lee Kernaghan and Crowded House together with international artists such as P!nk, Keith Urban, Sting, Bon Jovi, Alan Jackson, Kings Of Leon, Beyonce, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tim McGraw and Jeff Buckley.

Sony Music proceeds from the sale of the CD will go to the Salvation Army Flood Appeal through the charitable arm of the Australian Sony Group of Companies, The Sony Foundation to support young people affected by the tragic floods.

‘FLOOD RELIEF – Artists For The Flood Appeal’ will be in stores from Monday 24th January 2011.

Phil and Tommy Emmanuel in Tamworth 2011

January 19th, 2011


Australian guitar virtuosi PHIL AND TOMMY EMMANUEL are celebrating 50 years of performing together and the Tamworth Country Music Festival got a huge helping of their musical genius.

The brothers were honoured as this year’s inductees to the ‘Australian Country Music Roll of Renown’, Australian country music’s highest honour.

They made several impromptu performances around town, including with The Bushwackers (Tommy was a Bushwacker 1983-84, Phil in 1987) and also Stuie French’s Pickers Night.

The official Tommy and Phil Emmanuel 50th Anniversary Tour concert took place at West Tamworth League Club on Wednesday 19th January and the auditorium was packed with excited fans. Phil’s daughter Jesse Emmanuel opened the show solo with songs from her album ‘Everything I Know So Far…’, soon to be joined by her dad for a number before leaving the stage. The brothers then, Phil on electric and Tommy on acoustic, began a chronological journey through their musical careers, beginning with high energy versions of several classics by The Shadows, including Wonderful Land and Apache. Tracks from their joint album Terra Firma followed, with nods to New Zealand guitar legend Peter Posa (Nashville Express) and their favourite long-haired rocker, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Rondo Ala Turka).

Phil and Tommy Emmanuel

 Tommy Emmanuel with electric guitar

With Phil taking a break, the multi-talented T.E. ALLSTAR BAND joined Tommy onstage, first as backing vocalists for Haba Na Haba from his latest album Little by Little, and then as a full powered musical group for a sweep through Tommy’s early solo hits including Determination from 1991, the title track of the biggest selling instrumental album of all time in Australia. It is rare to see to see him play electric guitar these days and the audience was clearly excited by the sight and sound of his battered old Telecaster. Rock on, Tommy!

Phil Emmanuel

Also from the Determination album came Tommy’s tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stevie’s Blues, and tonight’s rendition included harmonica played by LUKE DICKENS, who had recently been named the winner of the 2011 Toyota Star Maker competition.

Phil Emmanuel returned to centre-stage for some solo numbers with the band, including a show-stopping version of the operatic aria Nessun Dorma, à la Jeff Beck.

As the show drew to a close with Tommy back onstage and the brothers reunited, they revisited the tune Terra Firma which they previously played at the Closing Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games.

For the final number, they brought back the ‘next generation’ as Jesse joined her dad Phil and Uncle Tommy to wind up the concert, with the over-whelmed audience calling for more. A triumphant night for instrumental guitar music and the two phenomenal Emmanuel brothers.

Phil, Jesse and Tommy Emmanuel

Tamworth CM Festival 2011

January 16th, 2011


Wanita and her Honky Tonk Bar Dwellers @ The Locomotive Hotel

Christmas Stocking (quick picks)

December 20th, 2010

CD cover

It’s that time of the year again and there are plenty of great albums out in time for the big Christmas shopping spree!

Last year, SUGARLAND delivered the marvellous seasonal offering Green and Gold (check out the behind-the-scenes videos here). This year their excellent new album The Incredible Machine has already made a big splash due to the single Stuck Like Glue riding high the charts, complete with its quirky hillbilly-rap section. More pop/rocky than their first three albums, The Incredible Machine has several tracks tailor-made for their stadium-size performances.CD cover (Mercury Records/Universal Music Australia 2755048)

TAYLOR SWIFT is sitting comfortably at the peak of the Australian Country chart at the moment (having already topped the pop chart) with Speak Now, her third and most accomplished album yet. Now twenty-years-old, she has written the whole album alone and co-produced it with Nathan Chapman (whose credits also include Jewel and The McClymonts). Swift’s songs reflect her increased maturity although she does sometimes lean towards a young-person’s-urgent-way-of-speaking-very-long-sentences-without-pausing-for-a-breath! Much has been made of the autobiographical nature of the love/break-up songs and those who follow the tabloids will have no problem matching the songs to the appropriate men in her life. (Big Machine Records/Universal Music Australia 2749395)

CD Cover

If it’s straight country that you want, you can’t go past 34 Number Ones by ALAN JACKSON. His debut album and first #1, Here In The Real World, were released about the time Taylor Swift was born! Astute fans will have noted this 2-CD set has 37 tracks; the three extra offerings being  the new Zac Brown Band single, As She’s Walking Away featuring Alan Jackson, a remake of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire with Lee Ann Womack on background vocals and Look At Me a song he recorded for the soundtrack to the 2008 movie Billy: The Early Years(Arista/Sony Music Entertainment 88697-786812-2)

CD cover

While he only has half as many #1 singles as Jackson, BRAD PAISLEY still hits the spot with his 2-CD set Hits Alive with the unique approach of filling Disc One with many studio hits and Disc Two with previously unreleased high-energy live versions of more hits (there is only a small duplication of four titles). While neither a comprehensive ‘hits’ package or a full-length live concert experience, this is nevertheless a a great slice of what Brad Paisley is all about; fun, country and hot guitar playing. (Arista/Sony Music Entertainment 88697-75878-2)

One for the Kids…

November 4th, 2010

CD cover

Thirty years in the making…from a bedtime tale for his own children through various incarnations to now…finally on CD…the highly unlikely but quite possibly true story ofPILLIGA PETE & CLARRIE THE COCKY by JOHN WATERS.

The original recordings by producer Martin Erdman have been enhanced and expanded on with genuine sound effects and music by some of Australia’s finest country musicians (listen out for a cameo appearance by John ‘Mr. Hoedown’ Minson on harmonica).

Highly respected actor and musical performer JOHN WATERS wrote, narrates the story and sings the songs that conjure up a marvellously engaging adventure, inspired by a yarn he once heard of a bushman who was befriended by a cockatoo. Included in the CD booklet are all of John’s original pen drawings that illustrate the story. For more information, visit (Du Monde Records/ AUSBUY 02)

Above: At the album launch, JOHN WATERS enthrals the children with his
“…highly unlikely but quite possibly true story of…

Bob Howe talked to Barbara Morison on 2SER 107.3 FM about this column and more…

November 2010 – Home-Grown Magic

November 2nd, 2010

CD cover In the mid-seventies, Australian rock music was beginning to find its own voice and local references were no longer just clumsy attempts at mimicking exotic overseas place names. Contemporary country music had rarely ventured outside the human condition to commentate on the conditions in which humans were forced to live. From the opening line of Way Out West (The Dingoes, Mushroom 1974), “Way out west, where the rain don’t fall…” things certainly changed. It hardly seems revolutionary now, overburdened as we are with songs about the drought, but back then it was a statement of national identity, the type of which had only been touched on before (Mansfield Hotel, Axiom 1970). Just as importantly, THE DINGOES were a rock band with a country slant that would gain recognition not only for their own output, but for the influence they would have on those that followed, Cold Chisel and Paul Kelly to name but two. More than thirty years after the band broke up, The Dingoes have returned with a fourth album, TRACKS, full of the atmosphere and edge that characterised their earlier work. Recommended for faithful fans and first time listeners alike. (Liberation Music LMCD0107)

CD cover By contrast, the wait for the new KASEY CHAMBERS album LITTLE BIRD has been much shorter, a mere four years, albeit punctuated by the duo-release with husband Shane Nicholson (Rattlin’ Bones, 2008) and the family CD and book set with father Bill Chambers (Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill and The Little Hillbillies, 2009). Kasey herself has said that this new collection of songs came ‘pouring out’ unexpectedly, at a time when she wasn’t remotely planning a new album. She has also noted that her desire was for the recording to “reflect the old style” of her first solo albums. Certainly the extra input from Bill Chambers and the fact that Kasey herself occupied the producer’s chair with self-confessed naivety, only adds to the charm. Guest contributions abound, but only make Kasey’s star shine all the brighter. (Essence Music/Liberation Music LMCD0109) (On tour this month!)

CD cover Kasey and Shane are just two of a stellar line-up that comes together on LONG GONE WHISTLE – The Songs Of Maurice Frawley. One of the major intentions of this three-disc set is to widen the exposure of the songs of MAURICE FRAWLEY, who departed this world far too early in May 2009. While there are many touching and stirring performances on the first two discs by friends and fans such as Sarah Blasko, Tim Rogers, Renee Geyer, Clare Bowditch Chrissy Amphlett, Dan Sultan Band and many more, perhaps the real revelation for many will be the third disc containing 21 recordings by Frawley himself, lovingly selected by former band members (the Working Class Ringos) and family, leaving no doubt that he deserved wider recognition as a composer and performer. Perhaps PAUL KELLY, who contributes a rambunctious version of When I Lay Down With You, says it best – “Maurice Frawley wrote some of my favourite songs. Great songwriters create a world. Maurice did – a hard-bitten, pastoral world through which walked a straight talking man, wide-eyed and willing.” (Liberation Music LMCD0105)


September 1st, 2010

1st Sept. 2010 at The Vanguard in Sydney: ANNE KIRKPATRICK and her band kick off The ANNETHOLOGY Tour to coincide with her new ‘Best Of’ album and performing her classics songs from 1974-2010.

Annethology - live on stage

L to R: Mike Kerin, Colin Watson, Bill Chambers, Doug Bligh, Anne Kirkpatrick, Jeff Mercer, Rod Coe, Michel Rose

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