One of the many pleasures of writing for The Wandering Lamb Music Blog is being asked to attend gigs that we otherwise would have missed, and with an email of introduction from Tim Guy, we graciously accepted the invitation for tonight’s gig. The Melbourne Folk Club site states that “The concept of the night is to combine the traditional listening environment and community elements of a folk club with a contemporary and eclectic program. “ Tonight the club takes residency at Bakehouse Studios a landmark establishment for local musicians and offers us a first time experience for some of us here at TWL.
For those not familiar with Melbourne, Hoddle Street is not the most splendid of “boulevards”, cursed with constant traffic, uninspired architecture, ramshackle homes spotted in-between random car yards and gas stations. It is also home of Bakehouse Studios, an almost derelict home hugging the busy street, built sometime during the turn of the century. The space drips with Australian musical history and has offered a rehearsal space for bands like The Avalanches, The Dirty Three, Cosmic Psychos, Spiderbait, Nick Cave and so many more. Internationally, the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Lemonheads, Janes Addiction and Neil Finn have been listed as both visitors and advocates.
Gaining access through an industrial side street, past a much-loved sofa that rests underneath a large poster of David Bowie, ducking your head through countless hanging planters, past some happy stoners, up some stairs, past a few church pews, a few humming rehearsal rooms and a working juke box that holds a great collection of lovingly used played CDs, you enter tonight’s gig room. The space is dimply lit, with a collection of vintage chairs and tables set in front of a modest stage, adorned with the words Melbourne Folk Club stenciled on the backdrop. Instantly, you can appreciate that there is good reason this is a well-kept secret in Melbourne’s music scene.
With a few people taking their seats quietly in front of the stage, Emily Barker greets the audience while the squeaky door behind us shuts. Barker is from Bridgetown, 270 km SW of Perth, a place we are told is known for getting your Ute serviced and your chainsaw greased. The influences of growing up in a country town resonate throughout Barker’s beautifully crafted songs, stories and narratives of love, isolation, death and finding your way through the complexities of life. Her music transcends far beyond doom and gloom, more inspiring and uplifting. Her accomplished acoustic guitar playing serenades a transfixed crowd, we had a few moments of goose bumps, clinging to each word sung, each chorus and melody played. ‘Blackbird’, played with a harmonica and a toe tap, oozed perfect contemporary Australian country-folk.
Barker made use of the piano that sat in the corner of the venue, while telling us a story of one of her great influences Sister Rosetta. An American singer, songwriter who influenced Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and, Emily Barker. A beautiful rendition was played out with passion and heart.
There were so many moments of honest beauty from this fantastically talented songwriter the heartfelt and painful lyrics of ‘I Want An Exit’, conveyed a story of suffering from illness and just wanting to be at peace, sung straight from the heart. A magical and effortless performance.
Tim Guy is a “true” songwriter, and by that I mean a talent who, although perhaps still under the radar to many of us, is a man who has quietly delivered a handful of albums over the years and written music that is so personal to him but reflective of the Australian way of life. He writes quintessential Australian folk/country music, with markings of Americana, sometimes with a blatantly proud twang. Guy is a singer that holds pride for this country.
Guy comes across as a humble man both on stage and in the music he creates. His set list is made up of many songs taken from his latest album Chords. An album that weaves together alt-country and folk influences. The recent single release, ‘Tarzan’, sounds rich and warm. His voice trembling either through nerves or a perfected vibrato ability, helped out by the harmonies of his backing band.
The accomplished production qualities on Chords are not present tonight. The layered strings and orchestration that build each of his songs in the studio show an almost slight vulnerable side. holding an emotive and humble nature to each of his songs. ‘Goldmine’, probably the most “up” track on his latest album sounds quirky and sweet, a 60’s inspired song that had touches of Simon and Garfunkel with its dreamy melodies and falsetto vocals.
With the sound of recorded tweeting birds (NSW native birds to be precise) playing over the PA, the band play in to ‘Electric Heart’. Perhaps the most harmonious and rhythmic songs of his set, that has Guy singing through with his native Australian twang, played with new found burst of energy.
‘The Rambler’, a song that digs deep in Australian country swagger, with lyrics of living in the outback, the heat, the long distance travel through baron land. Sounds like a song ready to be a classic Australian tune. Again, without the bigger production elements of the studio album, we are left to focus on some great lyric song writing. A song that would have Sam Beam from Iron and Wine wishing he could put his name to it.
Another special moment of the night comes with Guy’s story of his grandfather serving in World War II. This is accompanied with a sample taken from a documentary that captures the pride of Australia welcoming the troop’s home. The narrator explains the scenes of joy as address books are torn and thrown to their air in jubilation. It provides a great visual and a great introduction to the next song.
Tim Guy is a national undiscovered treasure. His studio albums are a testament to this and show the true talent he brings to Australian music. His live demeanor is earnest and humble. Guy deserves the backing he needs to provide the full ensemble to the stage and bring his recordings to life. A splendid gig and a rather special night.