Country music may have the word ‘country’ in its name but not all of it is redolent of the land or landscape, even if most of it is about storytelling. There are stories of people and places, and people in places, and they don’t all have to evoke those places to be considered country music. But it’s a bonus if they do.
Queenslander Pete Cullen’s album Saltwater Cowboy
may have a title that suggests its songs hug the coastline but they actually sound like they have grown from the dirt, from sitting around campfires and singing to people, listening to those people’s stories and adding them to his cache. There are influences from traditional music – Celtic music – as well as country and folk. And there’s saltwater here, too – in the title song, as well as ‘Blue Saltwater Son’ and ‘Last Dance’, written for Cullen’s children friend and fellow surfer Matt Hughes.
Saltwater Cowboy contains the songs of a man who is prepared to own his place on this earth. He’s not trying to be older or younger. He’s not dreaming of living in a different place or time, or a different life. He’s making sense of the life he has now, revelling in the good parts, sorting through the tricky parts and finding in music refuge, release and joy. Because Cullen’s music comes from this place of self-acceptance, it only requires of the listener that he or she listens. And listening to this album becomes more and more interesting and enjoyable with each spin around the proverbial turntable. Cullen has the willingness, talent and ability to keep telling these stories – of his own life and others’ – for a while. Here’s hoping he does.
Saltwater Cowboy is out now.