January 24th - Australian Ballads: The Early Years

Australian Ballads: The Early Years - Seona McDowell, 1981

Content Warning: tracks 4 and 8 contain racist terms for and scenarios involving indigenous Australians.

Okay, let me get the easy joke over with first - the first four songs on this album are about being sent to Australia because you committed a crime, four are about legendary outlaws and two are about sheep. But joking aside, they're fun songs - alternatively rollicking ballads and heart-rending weepies - well-sung by Seona McDowell and with great instrumentation and production. There are some really great moments in here - the version of Black Velvet Band  that starts the album is fun to hear in an Australian context, as I've usually heard it as an Irish song.

It's also interesting to think about penal servitude in Australia in the 1800s - it must have been a literal death sentence for many sentenced to it. It took the first fleet of British colonial ships 250 days to reach Australia; I can't imagine that the amenities for convicts were very inductive to survival. After serving out your sentence, I don't even know if it would be feasible to return to wherever you came from - you were essentially exiled forever.

Sorry! It's been a GLOOMY FEW DAYS. This is...a good one, though!

Hopefully Folkways will still be around tomorrow.

Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways