30 minutes ago
Posted by Walter Mason on Wednesday, 21 August 2013
When I mention that I am a country music fan people often look surprised. I guess I am not really the country music “type.” But really they shouldn’t be surprised – my country roots run deep. I am, after all, a country town boy, and some of my most formative musical experiences involved country. My grandmother was a great fan of country and western, and I grew up listening to Jim Reeves and Tom T Hall. Of course, her greatest passion was Slim Dusty, and every year we would go along to his touring show as it made its way up to North Queensland (still a stronghold of country music fandom). I remember the adrenalin of those nights as the audience bonded once again with their beloved Slim and swooned to his glamorous wife Joy McKean and screamed with laughter at the mildly obscene antics of Chad Morgan.
But country is very different now. Gone is the overt nationalism and self-conscious regionalism of Slim and his ilk. Instead it has morphed into something more global. And Australia is leading the way in these new forms of country-influenced music which owe a debt to soul, R&B and classic rock as much as to bluegrass and cowboy music. Perhaps the greatest and most talented proponent of this new sound is Jasmine Rae, who has just released a new album, If I Want To.
Petite, beautiful and possessed of a sassy good humour, Jasmine is beloved of audiences across Australia, and has built a fine career and even finer reputation across two previous albums. But If I Want To brings her into a whole new class. The title single, the first off the album, is a stunner that has already earned her some mainstream praise. A laid-back piece of easy country rock, it pleases listeners across genres, and I praise it when I say it reminds me of the best of late 1980s-era Australian soft rock. It could easily have been recorded by Daryl Braithwaite, Wendy Matthews or Jenny Morris and it has quickly become one of the most-played tracks on my ipod.
If I Want To is such a strong album that it engages from the first, even most casual, listen. I had it on in my house when my cleaning lady was at work, and she ran right out and bought a copy – it’s just that kind of music. The diversity of the tracks reflect Jasmine’s own characteristic moods and modes of performance, from the cheeky country-camp of 'Bad Boys Get Me Good' and 'Why’d You Tie the Knot' through to the immensely moving ballads 'First Song' and 'Just Don’t Ask Me How I Am'. Jasmine’s voice slides from a fragile, almost childlike, quality into a powerful cry of anguish as the album shifts masterfully from whimsy to raw emotion and back into the moderately sexy playfulness of something like 'Lazy Boy'. Her vocal range and expression is incredibly impressive, and is as good live as it is on disc.
If you’re never going to buy a country music album, reconsider for just a moment and have a listen to If I Want To. You will be charmed by Jasmine's voice and you will fall instantly in love with her wonderful songs. This is easily the Australian album of the year and it will please listeners of all stripes.