Cedarsmoke “The Great & The Terrible”

Independent, 2023

An album full of well-crafted narratives describing the highs and lows of life.

Album artwork for Cedarsmoke's "The Great & The Terrible"The Brisbane-based group Cedarsmoke is the vehicle via which Jon Cloumassis releases music. Cedarsmoke’s second album is an exploration of change in all its forms, with references to the Wizard Of Oz woven throughout the record, in fact “Oz The Great & The Terrible”, which was how the character was also known, provides the record’s title. In addition, the cover features a yellow brick road leading to an emerald city, which is also the unofficial name sometimes given to Sydney.

Cloumassis’s aim was to release a more acoustic and cohesive LP than his debut. On this record he played everything on each of the 12 songs, except the drums. Before making the album Cloumassis spent a lot of time listening to early Bruce Springsteen. This is reflected in the first track, ‘For Real‘, which is a homage to Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road‘, as the piano and guitar riffs demonstrate.

Ready To Go‘ has some Dylanesque lyrics and great Hammond organ, with some Conor Oberst-sounding vocals. ‘Amy At 13‘ explores the complexities of a father’s relationship with his daughter who’s struggling with her mental health. ‘I Know You’re Mine‘ is a great slab of indie pop, with some surf-like guitar riffs.

Go Easy‘ is a folk rock ballad that continues the album’s theme with Dorothy, an out-of-work actress, working as a waitress who’s ‘gonna have to be gritty, if she’s ever gonna make it to the Emerald City‘ in the ‘land of Oz-stralia‘.

A poignant story of a woman’s life who’s pondering what she’s done and where she’s going is described in ‘Come Around Here‘. ‘The Way We Once Were‘ is a duet with a couple ruminating on whether they should get divorced and if it’s ‘a sunk cost fallacy‘ to stay together.

The album reaches its logical conclusion with ‘Emerald City‘ and its companion piece ‘Emerald City – Epilogue‘. ‘Emerald City‘ is a stripped-back piano and harmonica-based song where the ‘Damascened damsels don’t stay beautiful too long, And the doom of the bees could very well spell the end‘. The closing epilogue features a full band and some great slide guitar playing. It ends the album on an optimistic note, ‘But there’s one thing I know, There is no place like home, And when I’ve sealed my fate, Won’t life be great‘. It’s a good way to end a record which combines some thoughtful lyrics with great music.

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