'.. "Andy McDonell is the best Australian songwriter you've never heard of. Granted, he's been quiet for a good long while, playing live often in his native Brisbane but writing little – Sentimental Asylum is his first album for 15 years. But it's well worth making his acquaintance, or renewing the friendship if you were one of the few who got hold of one of his three excellent earlier records. McDonell's songs have the lyrical wit of a Kris Kristofferson or a young Tom Waits in barfly mode, and his musical mastery of wildly varying genres is remarkable. Sentimental Asylum goes from waltzes to mariachi tunes, from outlaw country, lounge jazz and brassy torch song to smoky blues and Celtic-infused ballads, but it's wonderfully consistent.
In the early 1990s, McDonell shared several stages with a young Brisbane band called Powderfinger, and that group's singer Bernard Fanning contributes guest harmonies and vocals on the album's most immediate track, Hollow Bones. It's a rollicking roadtrain of a song, and McDonell and Fanning's voices sound fantastic together. "It takes more than flight to reach the sky/More than a straight face to tell a lie... there's more to this than meets the eye", they sing, and latter line is true of this record. Album opener All These Memories is the tale of a misspent youth and mis-steps in adulthood, ultimately realising that what's done can't be undone. Two Bullets reveals McDonell's enduring love of a country tearjerker that tugs on the heartstrings even as the protagonist's finger moves for the trigger of his gun. Gabriella in a Dream is mariachi music with a delightful twist in the chorus, while Long Term Plans is a beautifully brassy slow-burner that advises against the occasional foolishness of forward thinking. An Irishman, a Scotsman and a Jew is a song for every musician who has ever carted their gear into a pub to play for an audience that isn't there to listen, with the exceptional line "He's as subtle as the B in subtle". The Ballad of Bewildered William is as brilliant as its title, and McDonell's superb guitar playing comes to the fore in the closing track Fires. None of the songs outstay their welcome – some of them even seem perhaps a little too brief – but over the course of a little more than half an hour there's enough to keep you listening to this album for years. Let's just hope the wait for McDonell's next LP is much shorter next time round." Simon McKenzie. Rullende Stein Magazine November 2015.
Andy McDonell, Maleny Boxing Night
7.30pm, (subject to confirmation) dinner from 5.30
26 December 2015
Maleny Upfront Club, Maleny
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