Buried Country: The Concert has just completed its first rehearsals up in Tamworth during the recent Country Music Festival there, and along with a little showcase performance, to say it was all pretty successful, I think, would be an understatement. To me, it felt like a small triumph.
I first went to Tamworth in 1983; subsequently through the 80s I went to the festival a few more times with my dodgy hillbilly-grunge band the Killer Sheep. But it was that first time, in ’83, that I first encountered Roger Knox, and it’s fair to say, I think, that that’s where Buried Country was born.
I hadn’t been up there though for a good number of years until returning the other week. There’s a lot about it now that’s different and a lot that’s the same. What’s different is that it is very much more corporate and controlled. No longer are there thousands of booted and be-hatted country music maniacs loose on Peel St all day/every day. There’s still a few buskers (equipped with permits as much as guitars if not talent) and there’s an Aboriginal showcase stage now moved to this the centre of town (as opposed to being consigned, as previously, to the fringes), but it’s sadly lost something from the wild old days. There’s still a lot of music and a lot of drinking, and very little sleeping or eating, but what’s different is that a lot of the drinking now takes place at industry meet-and-greet functions, and the all-night singalongs go on around not a campfire but poolside!
… and so it was that the Buried Country Roadshow lobbed into this scene, if not as an official component of the festival. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the way everything went. As Iain Sheddon put it in his Spin Doctor column in the Australian, BC was one of two shows he saw that “were more entertaining than some of the scheduled programming I attended” (to see his full report go here). With the house band the Backtrackers effortlessly getting into a groove that made the rotating cast of guest-star singers (Warren H. Williams, L.J.Hill, Leah Flanagan, Luke Peacock, Frances Peters-Little and Roger Knox) feel at ease, a 13-song set emerged that gives us all the confidence we need to take the show the next step, which is more honing towards getting on the stage proper. My thanks go out to all the singers, the Backtrackers (MD Brendan Gallagher plus Jason Walker, Buddy Knox, Teangi Knox and Jim Elliot), Mop and the Drop-Outs (who played a few songs too), queen bee Mary Mihelakos, photographer James Henry, Steve Newton at Enrec, and various other lovely people we met like Cheryl Wilson, Kelly Fuller at ABC Local Radio in Tamworth, and of course all the folks who came along to support our showcase, which amounted to a virtual roomful of royalty from Paul Kelly (who got up for a few choruses of “Stranger in My Country”), to the whole Britt family including patriarch Steve, daughter Catherine (who a couple of days later won the Golden Guitar for Best Female Artist) and her new husband James Beverley, to Wesley Enoch, Allan Pigram, Lawrie Minson, John Wardle and others. Read Kelly Fuller’s blogpost here and, to reiterate, Iain Sheddon’s Spin Doctor report here. For all this success though, we know there’s still a long way to go, and we’re getting on with it… All photos above and below by James Henry.