Country music has a rich history – rich in stories told and instruments played. In Australia it takes in stories of the land and people who work it; stories of roads travelled and troubles gone by. The stories might be ours but the instruments are borrowed: guitars, mandolins and banjos are not, obviously, indigenous to Australia. It’s in those instruments that lineages can be traced – there are clues to an artist’s pedigree, their personal history, in the instruments they choose to write and play on.

Alesa Lajana has several instruments at her disposal, including an Australian Bellbird banjo. She is clearly an accomplished musician, and she has taken those considerable skills and used to them to great effect in the songs she has written, which are stories of Australia in the years after Europeans first arrived uninvited. 

This album accomplishes much on more than one level. To simply listen to the album is to hear a lovely voice, intriguing tales and a sound that echoes the past while connecting with the present. To really listen, however, is to realise how brilliantly Lejana has married past and present, how she has used the instruments of those Europeans to tell stories of people who were settling in a land that wasn’t their own, learning to adjust to climate and food and landscape that was unfamiliar. In other words: she’s used the comforts of the old home to act as the vehicle to carry the discomforts of the new. The songs on Frontier Lullaby sound like they could be played around campfires in the nineteenth century, yet modernity enters in the way Lejana has structured the songs.

This is an important album, and a sophisticated one. It’s also by turns haunting, compelling and even jaunty, and a significant contribution to Australian music in the twenty-first century.

Frontier Lullaby is out now.

Alesa Lajana east coast tour dates:

Sun 2 October | Upstart (Mildura VIC)
Sat 8 October | Fryerstown Hall (Fryerstown VIC)               
Thu 13 October | The Street Theatre (Canberra)
Sun 16 October | Django Bar (Sydney) *Featuring special guest Lara Goodridge (Fourplay String Quartet, Baby et Lulu)

21-23 October | Dorrigo Bluegrass Festival October (Dorrigo NSW)
Sat 29 October | Magda Community Artz (Brisbane)
Sun 30 October | Sheepdog Workers International Field Trial (Boonah)