Today we take a look at a CD from down under that is good for 50 minutes of pure Americana listening. The maker of the music is singer songwriter Phil Smith, who grew up in Sydney, where he has learned, like many others, the skills of the trade while playing in rock – metal orientated bands. Eventually this brought his journey to England. It was there of all places that he started playing the Americana style music. This initially resulted in the EP “Desire”, which was produced shortly after his return to his homeland. Three years later the album “Goldmine” was produced which is the first mature full album. And that is a record that very much did justice to its name and has rewarded listeners with beautiful thoroughbred Americana music. The most eye catching of those songs are the ones that include the dobro and mandolin played by Bill Chambers in “Baby Doll”, or in the thickly melancholic “Ill Walk The Line (One More Time)”, or “Where Does It Go?” a waltz duet with Roz Pappalardo from Women in Docs or “One More For The Road”. Each one of these songs will be ideal for oncoming Autumn nights that we will be playing on radio Alternative Country. We instantly fell for the warm melancholic voice of Smith with the acoustic guitar tunes, harmonica, and songs crafted with piano tunes. All of this is quite beautiful!
Phil Smith’s bio reads like a classic wanderer’s story: born in Sydney, moved to Darwin for work in his teens, shifted over to Queensland, then decamped to England where he participated in a hip hop (!) project with a Hungarian friend, worked many different jobs, discovered Americana and finally came back to Australia on family matters. Here, he tells us stories from his rich life in a warm, yet weathered and authoritative voice. Upon the first glance, one might think the cd cover says it all: murky public bar interior, a half-empty beer and the man himself assuming a reflective/contemplative pose. However it’s the music and the words that do the talking; opening with the waltz-time, haunting memories-imbued title track, the album’s unhurried pace draws you in. Weeping pedal steel (courtesy of Leigh Ivin) is prominent in the mix, underscoring the meditative Blackbird and the defiant (I’ll Walk The Line) One More Time in fine tradition. Throughout the record Smith is helped out with names such as Bill Chambers (dobro and mandolin on Baby Doll), Women In Doc’s Roz Pappalardo (bringing her distinctive vocals to the Gram Parson’s/ Emmylou Harris-like Where Does It Go?) and Sara Tyndley (backup on Blackbird and One More For The Road), while Brisbane radio identity Natalie Van den Hurk stars on piano. Like any quiet, quality alt-country release, Goldmine is a worthwhile listen that is certain to improve after a few spins.