Various: Troubadours Vol 1 (Exile)

 |   |  1 min read

Al Hunter: Sleep Won't Come
Various: Troubadours Vol 1 (Exile)

My guess is that you'd have to look long and hard (possibly through secondhand bins) to find albums by Glen Moffatt, Al Hunter and Red McKelvie who, from the late Eighties to the mid-Nineties carried the flag for contemporary New Zealand country music.

They didn't owe a lot to Nashville other than the sense of a song but were too straight to be (which at the time was still an emerging movement), however they wrote and sang songs which resonated with the country/rural spirit but which were also urban, and never urbane.

By the closing overs of this interesting but short-lived period Moffatt had gone to Australia, Hunter went somewhere else (the West Coast of the South Island) and McKelvie's apppearances were becoming increasingly limited.

Oddly enough this group of writers were embraced more by rock listeners than the more staid country people who preferred to hear the old songs and play their Jim Reeves albums, but these three made fine albums: Moffatt three by my count, Hunter maybe about the same, possibly four (his Neon Cowboy debut of '87 effectively kick-starting the movement) and McKelvie maybe just the one?

This admirable double-disc collection draws from the three Moffatts, McKelvie's Ridin' The Trains and Hunter's later Cold Hard Winter: and it is wonderful to hear again songs like Tearing My Old Heart Down, Somewhere in New Zealand Tonight and Rain Across the Lake (Moffatt), Gypsy Woman, Cold Hard Winter, Final Curtain and Sleep Won't Come (Hunter) and McKelvie's more traditonal Americana songs (That's What I Like, Ridin' On Trains).

There's a tough but sentimental soul in these tight and crafted songs, elevated by Moffatt and Hunter's great voices (not a claim you'd necessarily make for guitarist McKelvie) and they stand as testament to the artists' committment to a genre that was always going to be a hard sell.

That this is subtitled "NZ country singer-songwriters series: Vol 1" is very encouraging. But a thought occurs: why is with so many compilations such as these that no one thinks they are deserving a some kind of liner essay to place them in the context of their time, and their resonances for a contemporary audience?

An opportunity lost on that front, especially when the original albums aren't that easy to locate. 


Share It

Your Comments

crimsonz - Sep 26, 2009

where can I buy this???

graham reid - Sep 27, 2009

This album (and that by Murray McNabb under Absolute Elsewhere) come through Neil Hannan's label out of Auckland.
or try

Graham Hooper - Jun 22, 2016

Al Hunter. What a legend. At the Gluepot, and Al's Bar Symond St Corner upstairs. Neon Cowboy ,The Singer Albums.   Blue Sky Waiting for Me became famous after a TV advert used it. A great Willie Nelson style song. Al is still down the West Coast somewhere playing locally I believe.  Said he still had copies of the albums (CD's available). Loved the timbre in his voice and the lyrics .. . a real Kiwi cowboy ..

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Gin Wigmore: Gravel and Wine (Universal)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Gin Wigmore: Gravel and Wine (Universal)

Although the remarkable Gin Wigmore mostly co-wrote here, you'd have to say it is her voice -- not just her musical voice -- which comes through with utter clarity. And yes, this extraordinary... > Read more

Dominic Blaazer: The Lights of Te Atatu (vinyl/streaming services)

Dominic Blaazer: The Lights of Te Atatu (vinyl/streaming services)

Auckland keyboard player/singer/guitarist Dominic Blaazer is perhaps best known for the excellent bands he has been in, among them Greg Fleming's Trains, a stint in the Chills in the mid... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Rhythmagic Orchestra: The Rhythmagic Orchestra (Unfold)

The Rhythmagic Orchestra: The Rhythmagic Orchestra (Unfold)

The Rhythmagic Orchestra which plays Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz wouldn't perhaps qualify as world music for purists. They are mostly Londoners with an affection for the music of the greats of... > Read more

Pete's Danish rum souffle

Pete's Danish rum souffle

Pete notes that while this is neither Danish nor a souffle it does contain rum. It's an old family favourite apparently. "The parentals picked it up when blowing through some roadside diner... > Read more