Bearded bards do it better

I’D LIKE to tell you a tale this week of two songwriters from oppositesides of the world.
Nanjing Night Net

I’m not even sure they’ve ever met, but I’d like to be a fly on the wall if and when they did.

The new albums by Allan Caswell and Reckless Johnny Wales have been doing the rounds in my car stereo for the past few months and it’s been quite a journey.

One thing I’ve discovered is you can rely on both of them to tell a great yarn.

Both are of a similar vintage, although Reckless may be the elder statesman. Both have beards. Maybe you need a decent beard to write a great song?

Cas has the more country album of the two, particularly with this new one of his, My Version Of The Truth.

NO KIDDING: Allan Caswell has a brilliant new disc, My Version Of The Truth, that’s sure to earn him a few more Golden Guitars. Photo: Paul Denham

He has a bag full of finalist nominations for songs from his previous release, Sometimes When You Lose You Win, in this year’s Southern Stars Australian Independent Country Music Awards.

I can’t wait to see next year’s finalists as I’m pretty sure he’ll scoop the pool with this newie.

Every track is a killer country song, with western swing, big ballads – even a bush ballad, slow-moving love songs that make you want to grab your partner and waltz around the kitchen, and more – each one telling the best stories around.

It’s hard to choose a favourite from this album, but I think the one that tends to stay in my head long after I’ve heard it is Drinking Irish. It has a beautiful lilt to it and a wonderful story line.

Apparently that’s what happens when Manfred Vijars and Allan Caswell sit down and drink a bottle of Irish whiskey together.

The closing track, also written with Manfred, is a pearler – One Last Muster – about an old cowboy dreaming of western skies long past the time of his last roundup.

One of the sweetest tracks of the 14 is Shelly’s Song, about a little girl who plays in a cemetery, switching flowers on graves to ensure everyone has enough, and in the process teaches the whole town to care.

Cas reckons some of his best story songs are written with fellow Blue Mountains resident Drew McAlister, and that’s certainly the case here.

The best thing about this album is he showcases the works of his co-writers so beautifully.

His producer and good friend Roger Corbett put the polish on Just Another Song About A Girl, another standout track; Melissa Bajric helped create Lousy Coffee, and Lachlan Bryan’s vocals on this one make it anything but a lousy song.

His favourite collaborator, wife Marian, features on three great songs – Russian Joe, Rhinestone In The Rough and Thank God ForThe 1%.

If you love a good yarn, don’t go past this new Allan Caswell album. It’s a masterpiece from a man who knows how to turn a great story into an amazing song.

ALL HEART: American Heart is the new album by Nashville-based singer-songwriter Reckless Johnny Wales. Photo: Denise Fussell

American Heart is the new album from Reckless Johnny Wales, another master storyteller, who’s based in Nashville.

There’s a bit of everything on this disc – sex, drugs, murder, love and reflection, all wound around the best lyrics and tunes.

It starts off with the quirky Send Me A Selfie. You can tell right away he’s pretty switched on with the latest technology, for a senior citizen, that is.

Catch You In The Fall is one of the sweetest love songs around, while Old Love Letter and The Bridges I’ve Burned are just so cleverly written. I really admire people who have a way with words.

Possibly the standout track on the disc – and they’re all beauties in their own way – is the closer, Old.

Reckless Johnny has a unique delivery, almost reciting the words, yet with a beautiful lilt that’s infinitely melodic, in a gravelly kind of way.

Unlike the pure country of Caswell’s outing, this one has a variety of musical styles, from blues to bop, and even a little mariachi moment on And She Plays.

He rounded up some great players and collaborators in the studio to create this new release with expat Aussie Anne McCue just one of them, adding her sweet vocals, guitar,bass and mandolin to the finishedproduct.

All of the 11 tracks, bar one, Pie In The Sky, are Reckless Johnny’s solo creations. That one was co-written with Brent Moyer.

An album like this is what I call “music for grown-ups” – it can’t be quite pigeonholed – but anyone with a good appreciation for a great song will enjoy the journey.

It sure makes driving around Tamworth a much more pleasurable experience to have Reckless Johnny and Allan Caswell on board.

With Caswell and his beautiful bride in Nashville next week for the Americana Music Festival, there’s a good chance the two of them might run into each other.

Just imagine the collaborating that would happen should this come to pass. Now that would be some album.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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