Review of the new Neil Murray album by RUSSELL GUY
I picked up the new Neil Murray CD at the post office and sat down at a café to read the lyrics. Neil has published several memorable books of poetry over the past two or three decades. Indeed, he sometimes graces a live performance with a recitation.
It didn’t take me long to slip the CD, Bring Thunder and Rain into the car stereo and head home. The opener is a song he wrote for the ground-breaking Warumpi Band, of which he was a founding member at Papunya in the early 80s and not previously recorded.
Those of us who witnessed that band can hear the driving energy that was a part of their success in this song about a deadbeat without a chance, urged to turn his life around.
Wait For Thee, the second track is Gospel, with backing singers who take it to the river. If this is somewhat of a surprise, Neil is no atheist; he’s a fatalist in the philosophical sense, believing in destination and he explores this theme further in Whispering Casuarina, a song that was recently picked up by ABC national radio.
The songs washed over me as he revisited the history of Australia’s Settlement, positing it with the wash-up of our colonial past, not just reflecting on what kind of future Australia has, but its destiny.
These are big questions, but as far as singer songwriters go, Neil Murray has been described as “one of our most courageous.” In Nothing I Did, a conversation with his child, you can hear an edge of warning about what is important to children. This is a stand-out track, musically and lyrically – a heavyweight groove that packs a punch in a soul-stretching album.
Neil Murray has a huge future as a concert artist. He could fill the Opera House with his songs and I hope one day to see it, but for now, he’s carving out a living, honing his craft on long stretches of highway: stopping “at a river to quench my thirst, grooves on a stone told me I wasn’t the first, well the tribes were smashed and scattered to the wind, eons of lives played on these banks, the spirit still flows in a woman’s flanks and the babies keep getting born, along the Kidman Way.”
He describes how he came to write Wait For Thee when influenced as a child listening to the radio, thinking that it was “a happy place to be”.
Throughout Bring Thunder and Rain there’s a perception that the singer is looking for that place and he leaves us with the feeling that it’s a place where we all want the best for each other.