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Saturday, April 21, 2007

REVIEW-Tribute to a great fighter by Carla Gorton

Cannot Buy My Soul: The songs of Kev Carmody
Various artists
Virgin, $24.99

For 200 years we’ve been beaten down

Too long on the dole

My dignity I’m losing here and mentally I’m old

There’s a system here that nails us, ain’t we left out in the cold

They took our life and liberty friend but

they couldn’t buy our soul.

Joe Hill died, Che Guevara fought and Pemulwuy lay down dead

If a person speaks out critically here you can get loaded down with lead

How long can the majority wait for their story to unfold

They took their life and liberty friend but

they could not buy their soul.

Kev Carmody

Cannot Buy My Soul is a tribute to Kev Carmody’s outstanding song writing talents. Paul Kelly, who has collaborated with Carmody on many projects, gathered together the John Butler Trio, Bernard Fanning, Missy Higgins, Augie March, The Waifs, The Herd, Archie Roach and many more to record this album. Along with this is a bonus disc of the original recordings by Carmody.

I loved the tribute album, but it was the disc of originals that really brought that strong emotional response you feel when you listen to music that really moves you.

And that is what Carmody has made since he released his debut album Pillars of Society in 1989 — music that moves people and songwriting so laden with stories that few can match it. “Droving Woman”, delivered on the album by Augie March, Missy Higgins and Paul Kelly, which plays for eight and a half minutes, is one example, but there are many more, including tracks not selected for this album like “Tom Shane” from the Eulogy album. Hopefully, this album will lead people to Carmody’s other albums and to discover the power of music with a political heart.

Indigenous activists and their supporters have been out on the streets again recently to fight for justice around the issues of Aboriginal deaths at the hands of police. Carmody’s music traces the history of these campaigns.

“River of Tears”, performed by The Drones, tells the story of David Gundy, a 32-year-old Aboriginal man who died after being shot by police when he was woken from his sleep during an unlawful raid on his home in Marrickville on April 27, 1989. The police were in fact looking for another man. Gundy was an Aboriginal man in the wrong place at the wrong time. The police had no legal right to be in his home, much less to point a loaded and cocked shotgun at him. A coronial inquest found that Gundy had died accidentally and an internal police investigation found that complaints about the police involved could not be sustained.

“The Young Dancer is Dead”, performed by The Last Kinection, highlights the fate of 18-year-old Daniel Yock, who in November 1993 was picked up from a street in Brisbane and taken in a paddy wagon to the Brisbane watchhouse. He was dead on arrival. In April 1994, the Criminal Justice Commission in Queensland found the six police officers who arrested Daniel Yock were not responsible for his death.

The John Butler Trio, who performed with Carmody at the Make Poverty History concert in Melbourne on November 17, present a great version of “Thou Shalt Not Steal”. Bernard Fanning puts his stamp on “Elly”. Troy Cassar-Daley, performing “On the Wire”, and Archie Roach, singing the title song, are outstanding. Sara Storer’s version of “Moonstruck” made me appreciate the beauty of this song all over again. “Darkside” somehow seemed to have been written especially for Tex Perkins to perform.

One of the highlights of the album for me is The Herd’s version of “Comrade Jesus Christ”. As Shannon Kennedy from The Herd explained on the February 12 episode of Message Stick on SBS, “The context that Kev’s put the lyrics in, it’s not about religion or about Christianity, I think it’s more about being an activist.”

This is an album for activists. It is also an album for musicians, and those who love a range of musical styles. And it is an album with soul. Despite the fact that Carmody’s performing has been hindered by arthritis and physical pain of recent years, brought on by many years of labouring work in his youth, hand cutting cane and carrying wheat bags (that’s another yarn all of its own), here’s hoping that we can look forward to future releases and collaborations down the track. Some of Carmody’s recent projects have included the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Wave Hill walk off at Kalkaringi and the Nganampa Music Project with musicians from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytiatiara Lands.

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