SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

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The Eastern: Talking Americana Cowboy Yeeha Blues
SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

Facing down an avalanche of releases, requests for coverage, the occasional demand that we be interested in their new album (sometimes with that absurd comment "but don't write about it if you don't like it") and so on, Elsewhere will every now and again do a quick sweep like this. 

Comments will be brief.

The Eastern; The Territory (RPR): Adam McGrath of the Eastern could hardly deny the influence of Springsteen on his work; a fair wedge of the songs here refer to the Boss' delivery and specifically Springsteen with the Sessions Band (sort of Nebraska + the Pogues) and The Stepping Razor is like Rosalita-era Bruce. But that's only to say he adopts an idiom, because McGrath's subjects are home territory and his socio-cultural and political reference points are firmly in this land, (the photos are by Ans Westra) and he sings in our flattened-vowel way and in the Kiwi vernacular. There are times when he's closer to Paul Kelly than Bruce.

Rain, Rosy and Broken Line sung by Jess Shanks leaven McGrath's masculine deliveries. And if you write them off on a quick listen as wearing someone else's overall then he's got a witty and pointed repost in Talking Americana Cowboy Yeeha Blues. Recommended. Available from here (vinyl soon also).

Various Artists; Aotearoa, The Very Best of Our Music (Sony): We don't often do such compilations, but what the hell. It's Christmas and this 60-song, three CD collection scoops such a lot of Maori (or Maori-identifying) artists that it's hard to go past. From Blue Smoke and Fifties artists like Daphne Walker, Johnny Cooper, the Howard Morrison Quartet and Sonny Day through Eddie Lowe, John Rowles, Billy TK and Mark Williams to Golden Harvest, Dalvanius, Prince Tui Teka and Ardijah then on to Upper Hutt Posse, Emma Paki, Moana and the Moa Hunters . . .

Right up to Anika Moa, Stan Walker, Kora, Ria Hall, Maisey Rika and . . . Get the picture? Here's your soundtrack to summer and my guess is the first disc might get the most play at barbecues. Just lovely, funny, insightful and memorable songs. Our songs actually.

To The Birds; November Meteors (bandcamp): To The Birds is singer/guitarist and songwriter Andrew Bezant with a few different drummers and the occasional pal . . . so basically it's his show and he writes clever and quite charmingly little pop-rock songs which reference the Fifties and Sixties as much as chiming, contemporary folk-rock. The breezy nature of some songs belies the astute observational and pointed lyrics he crafts, like short stories where you given just enough information to fill in your own details. These 11 songs are persuasive evidence that we have one mature and smart songwriter in our midst who can also craft memorable tunes. He's a rare one. Check it out here.

Peter and the Wolves; Peter and the Wolves: Musicians with considerable prior form, m'lord. Singer Peter Marshall and guitarist/songwriter John McDougall go way back to Wellington's Hulamen and then the Holidaymakers so their rolladecks meant they could call up the likes of Dave Khan (guitar/violin), bass players Justin Harwood and Nick Bollinger, keyboard player John Niland, singers Jackie Clarke, Annie Crummer . . . So this is well executed, but very little among these seven acoustic-based, country-framed songs has any real grip or enough to make them stand out. You wish for more energy expended in places. Nice enough, but to the category dad-rock might we now add uncle-country? Available through iTunes

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