Jun 5, 2011 Album Reviews
Posted by Adam
I used to read an online forum about Fred Eaglesmith called “The Digest” as religiously some folks follow their favourite sports team. That’s the first place I heard about Audrey Auld after she and Bill Chambers had played at the Roots on the River Festival in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Bill’s daughter Kasey Chambers was breaking big in North America with her album The Captain around that time and I remember being excited when I heard that title cut on a Sopranos episode.
Sometime after that I met my good friend and Austin-based singer-songwriter pal Joe Gee, who was as enthusiastic about Audrey and her music as as a dog is about meat. I have a picture of him sitting in a lawn chair in the pouring rain for one of her shows. Most of my encounters with this pretty, witty, humorous and sometimes ribald lady have been around Fred shows or events around North America.
It was a year or two later that I first saw Audrey at Roots on the River and heard her pronounce “Roots”(in her Tasmanian accent) as a North American might say “Ruts” and tell us that in Australia a root has the same meaning as a rut would over/up here! I next saw her perform at Saengerhalle in New Braunfels, Texas and now her name was Audrey Auld Mezera and she had an album called Texas. That show was the one that turned me into a fan…I bought the CD and played it a lot over the next few years.
In November of 2009 I was lucky enough to travel on a train from Winnipeg, Manitoba up to Churchill to see where I’d been born and to see Polar Bears while there were still some to see. It was a Roots on the Rails trip (www.flyingunderradar.com) with Fred Eaglesmith and his band, Washboard Hank & Lance Loree, Gurf Morlix, Jon Dee Graham and Audrey who was accompanied by the incomparable Andrew Hardin on guitar. What a hoot we had! Performers and passengers totaled around 90 folks and we played and drank and laughed and laughed and laughed our way up from Winnipeg, heading north past where the roads end and the trees get shorter and shorter, across the muskeg and snow to a small town on the edge of James Bay. There were daily open mics where I got to play with Mr. Hardin and Elsabe Kloppers, a naturalist and fiddler, song swaps with various mixes of performers, concert shows from all the pros and the very best part – late night jams in the baggage car! With the side doors open to vent the cigarette smoke and the back doors open where you could see the tracks rolling out from under the car, this was the place to be.
Audrey’s suitcase and beloved Taylor guitar had somehow travelled a different route to Winnipeg than she had and didn’t make it onto the train so she was without them on the two days up to and one of the days there in Churchill. The title cut and album opener ‘Come Find Me’ was written on this trip and may have originated as a little prayer from Audrey. It has a waltz time beat to it and I can’t read the words without hearing the melody in my head. If this CD is the first time you’ve heard Audrey, than this song is the invitation into her words and music.
I was and am a fan of all the performers on that trip but was most excited to get to spend some time around Jon Dee Graham. He was still in a lot of pain from a recent car accident and shortly after the trip he fell from a ladder…but’s he’s tough, profane and resilient and he goes on. Petals (for Jon Dee) is the fourth cut on the CD and is Audrey’s rap song about “The King of Austin”. I had heard the majority of these songs live and on a couple of EP’s before the CD but not this one. It immediately grabbed my attention with it’s poetry and beat. Ms. Auld-Mezera is good at tribute songs, on Texas she used her admiring pen to write about Woody Guthrie and Billy Joe Shaver and on this album she gives us “Orphan Girl”, with the lyrics by Australian Terry MacArthur, about Mary Gauthier, whom Auds has attentively covered in the past. She sings this a cappella to great effect.
I was closer to fifty than forty when I first heard “Forty”, a sardonic, minor key commemoration of that milestone in her life. The chorus of “I’m halfway home” made me think about my own mortality while smiling at the other wry observations in the song. I think Audrey Auld is the only Tasmanian I’ve ever met and she tells us about her birthplace in the song “Tasmania”. She has said in promo material that Tasmania has more trees than people and the song “Tree” examines the nature of beauty in inanimate objects, with a nice melody.
“Just Love” is a co-write with her husband Mez, and if there is such a thing as singles these days this song would be my pick for one. I first heard it at a concert at Gram’s Place in Tampa that was organized by my friends George & Marlene. I’m amazed that someone can write another song about the subject of love and make it profound, memorable and radio friendly all at the same time.
The album has a dozen tracks, the last song being “Bread & Roses”. It takes it’s title from an organization in California that brings artists into prisons to work with inmates. Audrey was working with them, going into San Quentin to do songwriting workshops with the residents and the rules are pretty stringent as to what can be brought into the facility. It’s my favourite song to attempt to sing but a lot easier because it’s included in her songbook “Write out Loud” and is available at www.audreyauld.com.
CD Baby lists Kasey Chambers, Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin as other artists that you may like but this album, I feel, has appeal beyond the country rock or Americana genre. If you’re already a fan, you’ll love this album, if your new to Audrey Auld, accept her invitation to “Come Find Me”, you’ll be happy you did.