Eclectic collection of Aboriginal country and pop
This is part of one of the country's most comprehensive multimedia
productions. There are a film (already shown at film festivals and on SBS), a
book and this double-CD compilation of 46 tracks. Underpinning the Buried
Country project is a detailed look at the Aboriginal love of country music. No,
not love. Total and absolute obsession.
If ever a group of people embraced a musical style, it was the Aborigines,
from Broome to Bega and Bamaga. And it was a love affair stretching all the way
from the communities on outback stations who waited, like teenage pop fans, for
the old Slim Dusty caravan to roll into town through to the television
personality Stan Grant, who, reputedly, has one of the best collections of
country music in Australia.
This compilation is a cultural artefact. It is not the sort of thing anyone,
apart from a few hard-core fans, would buy for listening pleasure. It is a
strange hodgepodge of styles and traditions masquerading as a coherent
statement. There's everything from Georgia Lee's Porgy and Bess-style reading of
Down-under Blues (that ain't country at all) through to The Assang Brothers'
strange, boppy and poppy version of the gospel classic, Just a Closer Walk With
Thee, to real country acts such as Dougie Young, Bobby McLeod and Roger Knox.
Somewhere, probably around the first track (which happens to be Jimmy
Little's Royal Telephone), all pretence of being "pure country" is abandoned,
opening the way for the album to include such non-country acts as the haunting
didgeridoo and song-stick rendition of Gurindji Blues by Galarrwuy Yunupingu.
Then there's the Warumpi Band, Kev Carmody (typically Dylanesque folk
characterises You Cannot Buy My Soul), Archie Roach (his beautiful Stolen
Generations classic, Took the Children Away, is more folk ballad than country)
and Tiddas (a fine, minimal, close-harmony version of In My Kitchen). The result
is a collection of songs that is a reflection of the richness and diversity of
Aboriginal popular music. There are a couple of tracks from the singing boxer,
Lionel Rose, a fine piece of contemporary country from Troy Cassar-Daley and the
remarkable and deeply moving Brown Skin Baby (the first song written about the
Stolen Generations) by Bob Randall.
Why this love affair between Aborigines and country music? There are
obviously very complex reasons, but it is fair to put a lot of it down to Slim
Dusty, who has been one of white Australia's most committed and tireless
ambassadors to the Aboriginal community. Of the rest, well, country music is an
ideal vehicle for storytelling and it is also the music of rodeos, shearing
sheds and rural Australia. The love affair is, surprisingly, a very natural