Over the past handful of years, it has become obvious that Australian country music and its subgenres are home to independently recorded and released music that is of very high quality. The writing, producing, recording, singing and playing are all of such a standard that it should perhaps make ‘traditional’ record companies nervous – what happens if country musicians all decide to go independent?
Too many weeks ago – and I say ‘too many’ because I’ve been remiss in not reviewing these albums earlier – I was sent Hillbillly Salad by Slim Dime and the Prairie Kings, and Hold Fast by Slim Dime. Slim Dime are a Melbourne duo, with Jen Land and Chris Taylor on vocals and all sorts of guitars.
Hillbilly Salad is well named, its eight tracks (does that make it a long EP or a short LP?) embodying the spirit and style of honky tonk. Land’s voice has a wonderful tone and it sits comfortably and cleanly above the music.
Hold Fast is a more melodic production – Land has lead vocals throughout (whereas they are shared on Hillbilly Salad), and the songs, and the singing, are sweeter. Some of the tracks are traditional, some covers and some originals. The traditional songs may have determined the direction of the album, towards ballads, so this is a slower, more melancholic affair than Hillbilly Salad.
Both of these recordings were independently made, and they exemplify the best of their kind. They also offer a simplicity of production that honours the songs – the tracks are not overlaid with more instruments than they need in order to make the sound ‘bigger’ for radio, which is obviously a concern for record companies. Thus we see why independent recordings suit country music so well: in a genre where songwriting is held in such high esteem, the most outstanding recordings are those that recognise that. Slim Dime treat songs with utmost respect, and the listener is the beneficiary. Plus, I could listen to Jen Land’s voice for days.
These recordings are available on CD or via download – visit http://slimdime.bandcamp.com.
Slim Dime are playing in the Melbourne area: visit http://www.songkick.com/artists/6817289-slim-dime-and-the-prairie-kings for details.