'ard Tack - Australian Songs of Toil and Reward
Danny Spooner's 'ard Tack is a new 2004 release of traditional Australian folk songs from this extraordinary folk singer. A folk singer in the very best tradition, Danny Spooner was born and raised in London, then migrated to Australia in his twenties. Music and singing were always part and parcel of his life, whether as a child at home or as a young man working the Thames barges and North Sea tugs and fishing trawlers, singing traditional working and other folk songs. Upon moving to Australia, he also soon picked up the repertoire of Australian folk song.
Eventually turning to an academic career and becoming a professor of social history, Danny Spooner also continued to be very active on the folk scene. His extraordinary strong, booming voice, with a power and projection that is rare in somebody without any formal voice coaching and that could well be the envy of many a operatic singer, can be heard not only in Oz but at folk clubs and festivals all over the world, including in the United Kingdom and United States. Spooner also has a sizeable back catalogue of recordings to his credit.
On 'ard Tack, Danny Spooner engages the kind of work songs and strong masculine characters that he is so renowned for. In this instance, these are the traditional folk songs of his home of some forty years, Australia, giving us a small but exquisite taste of this rich tradition.
The songs on Danny Spooner's 'ard Tack are songs of itinerant workers, of 'bushmen' and sheepshearers, of miners and transported prisoners, of farmers, gold diggers and soldiers. Most of the songs on this album date from roughly Victorian times. They are superbly annotated by Spooner in the excellent sleeve notes. Singing of hardship, toil and graft, of pain, sorrow and joy, with great tenderness and sensitivity and utter authenticity comes naturally to Danny Spooner. His voice is that of a man of experience, of a man who has seen it (nearly) all for himself. This is what lends his interpretations of these songs their total authority, what gives them a special edge. Spooner accompanies himself with great sensitivity on the English concertina, which is sufficiently subdued to enhance his singing rather than detract from it.
Spinning a gripping yarn as always, Danny Spooner's perfect diction makes it easy to follow the story of the songs even if you may not be familiar with the Australian accent, mixed with a slight, pleasant tinge of remnant cockney. Even if they were not before, the songs of Danny Spooner's 'ard Tack album soon become like dear old friends. I must confess that every time I hear another of his albums, I think I have found a new favourite. But this is an illusion, they all are favourites, every last one of them.
Danny Spooner's 'ard Tack is a gem of an album, and utterly compelling. Essential in any collection not only of Australian, but general English language folk song. A re-issue on CD of Spooner's 1987 LP When a Man's in Love has already been reviewed here, and reviews of several more of Danny Spooner's albums plus a UK club appearance will follow soon.
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