Eric Bogle,
Other People's Children
(Greentrax, 2005)

The year 2005 was a vintage year for Eric Bogle fans, and the treasures were plentiful. Other People's Children contains 11 new songs from his prolific pen, plus his renditions of two other songs -- one with the words of A.E. Houseman set to Bogle melody, the other from his pal, compatriot and fellow performer John Munro.

After collecting most of his recordings over the years I thought that I had probably heard the best of Eric Bogle, but I was wrong. This CD arriving in the final month of the year is right up there as my album of 2005 -- a year in which I listened to some great releases from all quarters.

On this CD we get the usual mixture of funny, sad, upbeat and downbeat, but always thoughtful and thought-provoking songs.

One of Bogle's greatest compositions was "No Man's Land," perhaps better known as "Green Fields of France" or even "Willie McBride." On the new album he revisits the theme, the thoughts and the inspirational location that is the war cemeteries of France. On "Hallowed Ground" we are brought face to face with war and death as exposed in that classic song with a brand new sequel.

The futility of wars old and new is brought home again in the marvelous title track, "Other People's Children." We see them constantly on television news footage, but with music and words Bogle brings us face to face with the reality in a heart-rending fashion.

But he is fair in his criticism of war and death. The terrorists are confronted with the powerful "Thou Shalt Not" as he explores the religious fundamentalism that triggers so much hatred and wonders about when the terrorist meets his or her God.

An unusual aspect of this Bogle record is that the track "The Promise" is not sung by him. The distinctive voice of Colcannon's Kat Kraus makes this song of saying goodbye to a loved one a classic in the making.

The usual sideswipes at politicians under cover of comedy are there on "True Believers" and "A Good Man," and another beautiful song, "Tambourine Mountain," serves as his musical tribute to Slim Dusty. If you are a country fan, you have to listen to "The Last Rodeo." Either the rodeo has reached Australia or he is spending too much time in America. This song is pure country and great with it.

Bogle has a knack for hitting the nail on the head with his songs whether he sings about politics, war or Christmas. He also hits the right notes when he writes about the personal sadnesses of human life. We all know of someone afflicted by depression and listening to him sing his amazing song "The Demon" will bring the illness, the suffering and the reality into focus as only he can.

My worry about this album is a song called "Tired." It sounds too much like a retirement song for my liking as he sings that his "get up and got up and went." Eric, we know that it often feels like singing to the deaf when your songs express unpopular emotions but the rest of the world needs to keep hearing the stories.

This is folk music as we love it and need it. Readers in the UK and Ireland should catch Eric on his 2006 tour. If you like him on record you will love him live.

by Nicky Rossiter
4 March 2006