Slim Dusty is the king of Australian country music and based on this triple CD, he deserves that accolade. I don't know much detail about his career, but I learned long ago that he had a UK hit in the fifties with a song about a pub with no beer, which I have somewhere on a multi-artist compilation. Somewhere along the way, I also learned that Slim recorded a song about the Melbourne Cup, though I never actually heard it. Still, I knew that if I ever bought any of his music, I had to have that song. Well, it's here along with four variations on the pub with no beer and much else besides, focusing on life in rural Australia.
For those who aren't familiar with Australian country music but are familiar with the American variety, I'd describe Slim's music as traditional country at its simplest, harking back to the days when country was still just breaking away from folk music. The songs of rural life echo the kind of themes that Johnny Cash and Tom T Hall sang about, albeit from an Australian perspective. I'm not saying that Slim sounds like them (he doesn't) but that he likes to sing about life generally and doesn't bother much with love songs - or if he does, you won't find them here. You might get a clue of what to expect from song titles such as Old bush barbecue, Cattle camp reverie, Horse and hobble days, Leave him in the long yard, Old time country halls, Old man drought, The dying stockman, Walk a country mile and Charley Grey's barn dance.
Though Slim continued his recording career right up until his death (he was working on another album at the time, the material recorded being used in a memorial album) early in the new millennium, this compilation focuses on his music from 1958 to 1983, plus one track from 1947, when Slim was a boy soprano, titled When the rain tumbles down in July, A later 1979 version of the song is also included. There are no liner notes as such, but the track listing includes a brief comment by Slim about each recording.
As I indicated earlier, there are four variations on the pub with no beer, but the original 1957 hit version isn't among them. There's a 1979 solo re-recording of the song, a 1983 duet version in which Slim is joined by the songwriter Gordon Parsons, and two 1958 sequels (Answer to the pub with no beer, Sequel to the pub with no beer). Apart from all these pubs with no beer and the rain tumbling down in July, no other songs are duplicated.
Slim is clearly a fan of Henry Lawson. Two songs (Australia is his name, Henry Lawson) are about this poet who is unknown to me as I write this. As I like the occasional poetry book, I must investigate someday. Watch out for my review of Henry Lawson's poetry, but you might have to wait a few months or a few years. Another song here (The brass well) has a Henry Lawson connection. I think it may be one of his poems that Slim set to music, but I need to confirm that.
This is a collection of Australian music in every sense of the word. You won't find covers of American or European songs here, though you will find covers of Waltzing Matilda and Tie me kangaroo down sport, the latter as part of a medley.
Slim may think that Australia is Henry Lawson's name, but the title of the compilation suggests that it is Slim's name too. And given the nature and the quality of the music here, who will argue with that? Not me. If you want to explore Australian country music, this is a good compilation to get you started.