Since releasing her EP, Hell’s Half Acre, Victorian Gretta Ziller has become a finalist in the 2015 Toyota Star Maker competition, which reaches its conclusion each year during the Tamworth Country Music Festival. If the EP is anything to go by – and, of course, it is – Ziller belongs there. Her songs are developed, even if the emotions they express are raw; her voice is the right balance of polished, commanding and explosive, and her songs are modern while evoking hard-worn trails over cold southern mountains and nights spent wishing for a warm bed and a warmer embrace.
The opening track, ‘Hunt for Love’, is the siren song of a woman who knows her mind and is determined to get what she wants, on her terms. She might describe herself as a ‘little lady’ but this usage seems ironic. The title track, ‘Hell’s Half Acre’, sounds like a battle song born of ennui and the desire for a better life. The other three songs on the EP are just as interesting – and mostly in minor keys – and mark Ziller as an artist to watch. She describes herself as ‘alt country’ but she fits right within the musical and storytelling traditions of country music. Increasingly, that ‘alt’ seems to be standing for ‘Australian’ – there are so many outstanding Australian artists who are taking those country traditions from their own and other lands, and using them to craft songs that aren’t like anything emerging from any other country music scene. Ziller is a great example of what makes alt/Australian country so interesting and vibrant; whether or not she wins Star Maker will not change that.
Hell’s Half Acre is out now. Gretta Ziller is playing several shows at Tamworth 2015. For details on the shows and to buy the EP, visit grettaziller.com.