Aussie soap star finds a perfect band to help him deliver his vision of Americana
On a couple of levels it seems absurd for AUK to be reviewing an album recorded by a 65-year-old Australian actor, best known for his long-serving role in the TV series ‘Neighbours’, I mean, we’ve never featured Kylie or Jason and a search of the archives fails to find any mention of other folk such as Dennis Waterman, Jimmy Nail or even (eek!) Anita Dobson.
Fletcher, to his credit, has been a jobbing musician over his years including playing in a band called Waiting Room who have toured the UK a couple of times. More to the point, he is a huge John Prine fan and it was when he was playing at a Prine tribute show at Australia’s Tamworth Festival that he met one of AUK’s favourite Australian bands, Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes. Bryan and the Wildes’ guitarist, Damian Cafarella, must have taken a shine to Fletcher as they invited him to record with them at their Melbourne studio, eventually releasing an EP and now this full-blown album.
The result is far better than one might anticipate – banish all thoughts of a soap star indulging in a vanity project. Fletcher can sing, at times gravelly, elsewhere quite yearning, and he can turn in a fine song in a Prine like fashion. In addition, Bryan and his Wildes play a blinder throughout, allowing the songs a genuine touch of down home American roots music. Listen to the nimble picking on ‘Jack’, the sinewy slide guitar on ‘Somebody’ and, especially, their sublime playing on ‘Dance Of Time’ and just wallow in what an excellent combo they are.
‘Dance Of Time’ also allows one to accept that Fletcher has his writing chops well honed. It’s an eloquent and yearning love song which has a mystery at its heart and, while it’s this writer’s favourite here, several of the songs are also quite memorable. The title song is an aching love song with some Chip Taylor wisdom etched within it and the sly humour of ‘Somebody’ echoes Prine’s lighter-hearted moments while there’s a hint of Shel Silverstein in the romping narrative which is ‘Jack’. Oddly enough, the one disappointment is Fletcher’s cover of Prine’s ‘Fish And Whistle’ which, while perfectly played, is just too sombre, lacking Prine’s essential jauntiness and lack of reverence.
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