THE WHITLAMS BLACK STUMP SHARE DEBUT ALBUM ‘KOOKABURRA’

“The nicest surprise on the stunning album is the exquisite Fallen Leaves, a brand-new song that takes the album from superb to sublime.” – Susan Jarvis – Country Music Capital News

Yeah, Tim Freedman’s got stories. He’s got Australian stories. Scores of them. He might sing about Ned Kelly’s sister, Kate, or driving down for a surf at Thirroul, about Gough Whitlam in a restaurant, or the pokies in the pub. He can tell you a yarn about composer Peter Sculthorpe on an all-nighter, or a bloke who puts his last dollar on race 8, share one about a love affair that got complicated, or confess that being single has its benefits as his bandmates phone home from a telephone booth on the highway.

And he’s played gigs in almost every corner of the land, with The Whitlams or solo, for decades now, sometimes with the footy on the TV in the next bar, sometimes with an old couple holding hands in the front row, always with a room full of people singing along.

Even though I have inner city indie DNA, I do feel that when I play a particular selection of my songs, solo in a country town that I am particularly Australian. I’m giving them something especially local, as opposed to generic” Tim says. “When all those people come in who have heard me on ABC local radio over the years, one of the reasons they are there is because they appreciate songs about their own culture.”

Maybe then, the real question isn’t why he has now made, under the name The Whitlams Black Stump, a country album called Kookaburra, with multi award-winning musician/producers Matt Fell and Rod McCormack; it’s why has it taken him this long to do it.

What it took was a revelation as he drove some backroads between Gunnedah and Dubbo, Orange and Tamworth, listening to the radio and feeling at home. It got him thinking, and he made a phone call to Fell, who’s become a staple at the Golden Guitars as the man at the desk for albums by Sara StorerShane NicholsonTroy Cassar-DaleyFanny Lumsden and The Wolfe Brothers.

“I am a parochial lyric writer, and country music has a strong sense of time and place, so clothing my stories in a country music coat seemed like a natural progression to me,” says Tim. “I had to scratch that itch and investigate.”

The itch was scratched over an initial four “feverish” days in the studio – and then on stage with McCormack on banjo and guitar, Ollie Thorpe on pedal steel, Whitlams stalwart Terepai Richmond on drums, Fell on bass and George Washingmachine on the fiddle. And the material is an eclectic selection which has classic Whitlams, like ‘Blow Up The Pokies’ and ‘No Aphrodisiac’ and deep cuts from the band’s catalogue, next to second looks at songs from the most recent Whitlams album, and some covers that tell you a lot about where this record was coming from: not just Neil Young but two giants of “inner western country”, Bernie Hayes and Perry Keyes.

“Perry’s The Day John Sattler Broke His Jaw is probably the best inner western country song there is, and the next best is my favourite Bernie Hayes song, Your Boyfriend’s Back In Town, which is a title that was crying out to become a country song,” says Tim, admitting that the intimations of Phil Spector meeting Garth Porter on ‘Your Boyfriend’s Back In Town’ – timpani, female backing vocals, booming wall of sound – were exactly what Fell was aiming for.

And ‘Fallen Leaves’, the new beast in the repertoire, sits at track 3 – a collaboration between FreedmanFell and Keyes, whose soaring strings wring out the heart wreck of the narrator’s admission that “What she don’t know won’t hurt her / but now it’s killing me.”

Something changed too, that was more nature than nurture. “One important technical aspect of the album is that when I am redoing a Whitlams song they are now sung in a lower register than they used to be. As you get older your voice lowers, and it’s more natural to be able to convey them now in an age-appropriate key. I can unleash the crooner within!” laughs Tim.

Rather than some bloke just dabbling in country, the combination of lowering the tempos and keys, focusing more on the stories, using banjo and pedal steel, fiddle and a few more instruments a lot of modern country records don’t really include anymore – and working with musicians and producers who live and breathe this stuff – makes this sound whole, you could even say organic. Definitely natural, and a very Australian story.

KOOKABURRA TOUR DATES:

Fri 8 March – Lizotte’s, Newcastle – NSW – SOLD OUT

Sat 9 March – Blazes @ West Tamworth League Club, Tamworth – NSW

Sun 10 March – Avoca Beach Theatre, Avoca – NSW – SOLD OUT

Sun 31 March – Bluesfest Byron Bay – NSW

Fri 26 April – Hopgood Theatre, Noarlunga – SA

Sat 27 April – The Gov, Adelaide – SA

Thu 2 May – Springlake Hotel, Brisbane – QLD *

Fri 3 May – Imperial Hotel, Eumundi – QLD

Sat 4 May – Princess Theatre, Brisbane – QLD

Tue 7 May – Piano Bar, Bendigo – VIC *

Wed 8 May – Piano Bar, Ballarat – VIC *

Thu 9 May – Piano Bar, Geelong – VIC *

Fri 10 May – Kindred Bandroom, Footscray – VIC

Sat 11 May – Memo Music Hall, St Kilda – VIC

Thu 16 May – Wilder Tasmania, Gowrie Park – TAS *

Fri 17 May – Royal Oak, Launceston – TAS * – SOLD OUT

Sat 18 May – Forth Pub, Forth – TAS

Sun 19 May – Longley International Hotel, Longley – TAS

Thu 23 May – Resin Brewing, Bulli – NSW * – SOLD OUT

Fri 24 May – Tallagandra Hill Winery, Gundaroo – NSW * – SOLD OUT

Sun 26 May – Dangar Island Bowling Club, Dangar Island – NSW * – SOLD OUT

Thu 30 May – Avoca Beach Theatre, Avoca – NSW

Fri 31 May – Factory Theatre, Marrickville – NSW

Sat 1 June – Avalon Beach RSL, Avalon – NSW

* Black Stump Duo – Tim and Ollie

**Tickets on sale now and available at https://thewhitlams.com/tour/