October 2014

Article taken from Country Music Capital News - October 2014

Leading the Way
Written by Susan Jarvis for Country Music Capital News

Being an Australian Bush Balladeer carried a big responsibility –something Dean Perrett knows only too well.

“So much of the unknown and unrecorded history of our country is contained in bush ballads, so you have to get them right and also capture the spirit of the land”, Dean said.

Over the past 25 years, Dean’s played a vital part in contributing to the body of work that is Australia’s unique and very important musical heritage.  With 12 previous albums under his belt buckle, and a swag of awards for his music, he’s regarded as one of the leading exponents of the bush ballad style, and also as someone who’s not afraid to carry the genre into the next century, by combining innovation and enormous respect for the style.

With his latest album, I’m the Land, Dean has done just that:  the album features some very traditional bush ballads, yet it was recorded in Nashville.  After recording a number of successful albums in Australia with producer Stuie French, Dean says he thought long and hard about the decision to record Aussie Bush Ballads in America.

“The idea of doing it came to me while I was recording my last album, The Shelter of the Cross, which is a bluegrass gospel record.  Because I was after a really authentic bluegrass sound for that, I chose to record it in Nashville with producer Larry Marrs, and I was really pleased with the result,” Dean said.  “But it also got me thinking:  the players on the album have such respect for their traditional music, and I wondered how they’d approach Australian Bush music.  I was also trilled with Larry as a Producer and wanted to explore doing a bush ballad album with him.

“So I took the plunge – but I made sure I guided the whole process, by providing sounds and styles to all the musicians and to Larry, and explaining exactly the kind of sound and feel that I was after.”  In the end, though, Dean says it came down purely to feel.

“Those musicians just got what it was about, and really captured the spirit and feel of the music.  And when I talked to them about it, I realised that so much of the basis of our bush ballad style – not the lyrics, obviously, but the underlying style – comes from that traditional hillbilly music.”

I’m the Land is proof that the experiment worked – the album’s production is superb:  it’s simple, elegant and very classy, yet it embodies all that is authentic and honest about the bush ballad.  That’s helped, of course, by a collection of songs, written by Dean and a number of his musical mates.

The album’s title track, penned by Allan Caswell, has already taken Dean into the finals of this year’s Southern Stars Independent Country Music Awards in Mildura.  It’s a powerful and captivating song that Allan offered to Dean after he asked for a contribution to the album.

The land is also the subject of Dean’s duet with Troy Cassar-Daley, My Country My Land, which the pair wrote after Troy suggested a song that took two difference perspectives on connection to country.  “He suggested we write a song that explored that link from his Indigenous viewpoint, and from my perspective as a fourth-generation cattleman,” Dean said.  “We wrote it via email, and it came together really well.  Then I sang my vocal in Nashville and he did his in Brisbane – making music has changed a lot since I began recording 25 years ago!”

Another friend, Kedron Taylor, wrote the thought-provoking The Thought Has Crossed My Mind after Dean suggested the idea to him of a song about depression.  I’d been thinking about a song about depression for a while – it’s been tough in the bush and the rural suicide rate is really high”, Dean said.  “I have always admired Kedron’s ability to write about emotion, and he was really able to get inside the head of someone going through that suffering in a very powerful way”.

Dean’s always at his best when he’s singing about the country he loves and its rich history, and songs like Blood wood & Clover (written by Ian Quinn), Coopers Creek and Mobs Moving all capture the essence of Australia perfectly. 

There are also tributes to two of the greats of Australian country music, Buddy Williams and Slim Dusty.  “I wanted to do a song about Buddy to mark the 75th anniversary of his first recording, and Ian Quinn’s The Last Hillbilly Man was perfect – especially with the tag of Buddy’s Where the White Faced Cattle Roam,” Dean said.  “The Slim song was written by Virginia Coad.  I’d always avoided singing about Slim because there are so many songs out there, but this one was too good to pass up.  And the Title – Another Slim – works really well.  It might be another song about Slim, but there really will never be another Slim.  He was one of a kind.”

Other standout tracks on the album include a cover of the great Shel Silverstein song Ned Kelly, written in the 1970s for Waylon Jennings to sing in the Ned Kelly movie starring Mick Jagger, and the warm and heartfelt Outback Woman.  To provide some contrast, Dean’s teamed up with legendary bluegrass singer Paul Brewster for a killer version of the old country classic Amanda.

“This album has brought together so many of the things I’ve been wanting to do, and that seems appropriate, given that it marks my silver anniversary in the industry.  I’m really proud of the songs and the production, and it’s made me feel really inspired to keep going for another 25 years,” Dean said.

Dean has a hectic schedule for the rest of the year, with this month featuring the Mildura Festival, the Port Pirie Country Music Festival and the Slim Dusty Country Music Memoires Week Festival in Kempsey.

He recently launched the new album at the Gympie Muster, where it was received enthusiastically by his many fans.

Then it’s back to the farm to live the life he sings about for a while before heading off to the Tamworth Festival in January.  “I sometimes feel I have two full-time jobs, but they are both so much a part of me that I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.  Music’s so much a part of what I do, and my life on the land is so much a part of my music that I feel very privileged to have them both in my life”, Dean said.


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