August 2014

Article taken from Country Update - Issue 74 (August 2014)

Dean Perrett Is The Land
Written by John Elliott for Country Update

Thirteen albums in twenty-five years have kept Dean Perrett a busy man.  But whenever I want to catch up with Dean to chat about his latest musical exploits I’m more likely to find him on the back of a horse mustering cattle on the family cattle property between Nanango then in a studio.

Dean’s not complaining.  “My work and life as a cattleman bears me in good stead for the art of writing Australian Bush Ballads”, he told me as he unloaded a deck full of cattle.  Dean sings and makes music in the traditional Australian Bush Ballad style so it came as a bit of a shook to his bush balladeer mates when Dean decided to record his latest album in Nashville.

Nick Erby, legendary country music broadcaster and historian, wasn’t all that surprised by Dean’s decision.  “The Bush Ballad scene in Australia is a key component of our music”, Nick told me earlier this year.  “For too long it was uninteresting and musically tired.  Then a few years ago came producers Stuie French and Michael Fix, who added a fresh feel, showing the potential of new ways of doing traditional music.  The Americans created the musical feel that became the bush ballad sound, so it’s not a bad thing for someone to explore what they can bring today to this important part of our music”.

I’ve heard the album and I absolutely love it.  It contains a great selection of songs, old and new, and it’s the best I’ve heard Dean sing.  The production sounds from producer Larry Marrs is respectful to what has gone before but is fresh and new at the same time.  Guthrie Trapp, on lead guitar, highly in demand around the studios as a session player and has toured with the likes of Patty Loveless, plays up a storm.  At times I think he is channelling Barry Thornton – the sound is so authentic to the bush ballad genre.

Dean recorded his bluegrass gospel album in Nashville in 2013 and he came home with a massive respect and awe of how the musicians approached their country and bluegrass music.  It got him thinking, “I had every confidence that we could achieve a top shelf bush ballad recording even though this genre of country music was not one they had played or tried before in Nashville.  The simple truth is the bush ballad is old traditional country and that is what gave myself and the musicians a lot in common when we went to work on the project.”

Producer Larry Marrs worked with Dean on his bluegrass gospel album after being introduced by the Davidson Brothers.  Larry has recorded and worked on the road for many years with great country acts such as George Jones and Marty Stuart.  Dean asked Larry to co-produce the bush ballad album with him.  It made sense, Larry with his musical and record production experience and team of Nashville’s best players to call on and Dean to keep the authenticity of the uniquely Australian genre where it should sit.

Larry put together the A team of musicians.  Bruce Watkins on acoustic guitar, who has played on all of Allan Jackson’s country albums as well as sessions for George Jones.  He also toured Australia twice as part of Dolly Parton’s Band.  Paul Franklin, who without question is regarded as the greatest pedal steel player in the world,  Paul has worked with most of the country greats and with rock band Dire Straits.  Charley McCoy played harmonica.  Charley is the harmonica player you hear on recordings by George Jones, Tom T Hall, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel – if ever there was a big hit with harmonica you can bet it was Charley blowing that blues harp.  The fiddle player is Kenny Sears who is part of legendary western swing band the Time Jumpers and was the house fiddle player on the Grand Ole Opry for many years.  His smooth fiddle licks add something special to Dean’s album.  “I didn’t want to tamper with the sound of the bush ballad”, Larry Marrs told me.  “Dean was there all the way to guide me but he still had to trust that we could get the right feel.  I have been wanting to make an album like this for twenty years and it took a guy from Australia to bring the songs for us to do it”.

Dean couldn’t be happier with the album he brought back from Nashville.  “I consider I’m The Land my best album so far.  All the songs on it strike at the very heart of who I am.  My hope is that this album will find a special place not only in the hearts of my fans but also at the core of the Australian country music industry.  The bush ballad is unique and I hope this project goes a long way toward freshing the sound while still preserving the integrity of this great Australian music form.” 
I take one last photo of Dean under the impressive gateway to Bowenfels, the family cattle property between Nanango and Goomeri in the heart of the South Burnett region.  Dean, a fourth generation cattleman says he has to get back to helping his father Glen draft some cattle and get ready for a shipment of I’m The Land which he is expecting later in the week.

Luckily for Dean his father Glen doesn’t mind doing more than his share of the work when Dean hits the road to take his music to his ever-increasing legion of fans.  You can catch Dean September 12 to 14 at the Nanango Country Heritage Festival, Mildura Festival at the end of September and the Slim Dusty Music Memories Week Festival at the end of October.


Leave a comment