Andy Collins,
Lake St. Serenade
(self-produced, 2003)

This Australian singer-songwriter has filled his CD with music and lyrics that opened my eyes to some of the great music traditions that exist outside North America. Much of the music on this Lake St. Serenade is a jazz/blues/country cross -- very light on country, but there's a hint of it.

The first number, "Just Another Day," lights up the air with its catchy tempo and sparking jazz tones. The next cut is a smooth swing style, and the lyrics are as laid back as the sound.

The third track leans toward rock with lyrics about an Australian Tarzan-type; it rocks and it sways with two tempos. Andy Collins sings well and follows with "Bare Bellied Joe," a tune reminiscent of southern blues with some authentic harmonica by Jim Conway. So far, so good.

OK, next he tries a party-swing style, like something from the "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy" period, but his creation is called "Two to the Valley" and features Joe Epps on trombone with lyrics that are totally Australian, and again, the whole thing works. It's very good.

I'd call Collins a minstrel with a mission. The major beauty of this album is in his lyrics and, though he styles them differently, underneath them all is a folk-blues tradition that captures and shares stories about people and places that are essentially the spirit of his homeland.

There's a wicked list of players and singers on this CD that are the icing on the cake. Collins carries things pretty well himself from what I hear, but the horns, drums, supporting vocals, guitars and fiddles are so professional and yet perform a really a good sound for his folksy lyrics.

That's what I found confusing was the downtown, neon-lights, city-glitz nightclub look of the CD cover contrasting with the rural, country values of the lyrics. But maybe that's the paradox of Australia.

I liked this very much on first listen and even more after I read through the lyrics in the booklet. I like the light blues tones and the strong release of backup music, great vocals and the bonus video CD with the single "Pascoe River," (an award-winning song from his first CD, Barron Delta Blue, that has some beautiful shots of the Australian outdoors). There really is something special going on here.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 10 October 2003

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