Gurrumul: The Gospel Album (Skinnyfish/Southbound)

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Gurrumul: Amazing Grace
Gurrumul: The Gospel Album (Skinnyfish/Southbound)

There is something just so right about this retiring, blind Aboriginal singer taking his rare gift to gospel songs, just as there's something equally right in Nick Cave exploring the antithesis.

Both have the voice for their subjects. 

Brought up in the local church on Elcho Island off the top of Australia, Gurrumul has appeared at Elsewhere for his previous albums where the secular was also imbued with something of the spirit of the divine.

Here however -- singing in the language of his mob -- he gives a fairly straight folk treatment to some occasionally familiar pieces (Amazing Grace which gets a reprise with Paul Kelly, All God's Children and the old Hallelujah, not the Cohen song).

Nearly all of these proceed at a very slow walking pace -- you don't come here to dance or joyously celebrate the Holy Spirit -- and Gurrumul's vocals broadcast on a similar wavelength on them all.

So beautiful though it can be, you probably do need to be well-disposed to the sound in the first place (think Fijian music if it helps) but when he steps a bit further forward -- as on All God's Children -- something rather special does happen.

The bright folk-pop of Saviour over chipping electric guitar and with backing vocals echoing his lines is especially appealing, but it's the haunting soundbed and fiddle like an old Anglo-folk ballad behind his yearning vocals on Baptism which make it the standout.

Although it would take a heart of ice not to be moved by his version of Amazing Grace (in his own language and without Kelly). 


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