Since Fanny Lumsden released her debut album, Small Town Big Shot, she has established herself as a pillar of the Australian country music community. She was already seasoned at touring parts of Australia that rarely see a musical act, and she continued to do that – it was a fitting activity for someone whose music appeared almost to spring from the land and its people. Lumsden seems to intrinsically understand that one of the functions of country music is to tell the story of the country. It can be quite a responsibility, and it’s one she is absolutely capable of undertaking, as she showed on Small Town Big Shot and now on her second album, Real Class Act.
On this new album Lumsden may return to the themes of her first – the land and its people – but she has moved on to new stories, and where there was a touch of (healthy) cynicism on the first album, the second is mostly a more jaunty affair. There is a notable exception: ‘Real Men Don’t Cry (War on Pride)’ is Lumsden’s serious – and needfully so – plea for Australians to relinquish the stoicism which can cause so much damage. It is the sort of directness that country music facilitates and allows to be sincerely received, because of the artist’s relationship with the audience and theirs with the artist. In someone else’s hands this song might sound hokey; in Lumsden’s – so assured, experienced and empathetic – it is moving. And it has a companion in the beautiful final song on the album, ‘Here to Hear’.
The other songs on Real Class Act are the sort that evoke scratchy summer grass, dusty roads and old friendships, with all the mixed emotions they bring. Lumsden understands that the best way to communicate a story is not by trying to sweep up as many experiences and emotions as you can into the one song. Specificity is what offers the listener the opportunity to think, Me too. Or, if there’s no commonality, there is a richly detailed story to listen to instead.
As with the title of her first album, Lumsden’s use of ‘Real Class Act’ could be taken as ironic – except it’s not. At every stage of her career she has proved herself to be the real deal, and a real class act. She’s also a one-off. Lumsden honours the traditions of Australian country music and takes them further along the red dirt road with her, remaking them as she goes and creating a unique sound and style that can only continue to win more fans.
Real Class Act is out now.