Charlotte Le Lievre “Songs From the Barrier Line”

Independent, 2023

Australian outback-inspired songs with traditional country and Americana stylings on debut album.

Americana with Australian roots is an uncommon feature in American UK reviews, but ‘Songs From the Barrier Line’, the debut release from Charlotte Le Lievre, has an immediate air of authenticity. Recorded live to tape in her adopted home of Broken Hill, the release’s ten original compositions are simultaneously rooted in classic old-time country and the here and now, with lyrics reflecting Le Lievre’s growing knowledge of the history of her new home, while coping with the loss of her mother to cancer.

Broken Hill is a remote desert mining town, over 1000 km west of Sydney, and 500 km from its closest neighbour major city, Adelaide, and its heritage provides the inspiration for the opening track ‘Barrier Line’, referencing the isolation of a railroad worker.  Over a gentle two-step beat, Le Lievre sings the workers’ heartfelt plea to break free from his bonds, with pedal steel accompaniment prominent “So much sorrow so much doubt in my mind/I’m way out west just doin’ my time/Oh Lord they got me workin’ hard/down at the railroad yard/I’m stranded on the barrier line”.

On ‘Silver Miners’ Daughter’ mandolin and fiddle are up front, on a tale of family love surviving daily hardship “I was just a silver miners’ child/born to the dust of the land so red and wild/we were poor as mud/but we were wrapped in golden love”.

‘We’ll Hold the Line’  is dedicated to the rebel women of Broken Hill, with a strong tradition of conflict as unionisation gradually secured improved conditions in the mines “So, come take your broom in hand/we’ll tar the bosses and the scabs/for none shall work down in the mines/against the blacklegs we’ll hold the line” with a stirring bluegrass accompaniment.

Le Lievre’s vocals lean towards traditional country, with echoes of Loretta Lynn, as in her tribute to her mother, ‘Ridin’ Free Till the End of Time’, singing “My grievin’ heart went walking out/on the railroad line that’s abandoned now/the country held my sorrows sweet/lay a path for my weary feet.” Her lyrics have an often poetic take on her chosen subjects, indeed ‘Creek Bed’ is inspired by the work of American writer and poet Willa Cather, best known for her works around the settler and frontier experience, brought up from the age of 9 in Nebraska “When my time is done and gone/take me back to the creek bed where I once belonged/Oh, won’t you share my remains/with the gentle wind and the western plains.”

The record was produced by Le Lievre in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist and old-time player Jas Bell and old-time fiddler Grace Bigby,  both featured on the album, together with Patrick Wilson on drums, Patrick Pheasant on double bass and backing vocals, Luke Byrnes on electric guitar, Grace Turner on backing vocals and Elwood Sze on banjo.

A gentle and atmospheric collection inspired by Le Lievre’s adopted remote outback home.

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About David Jarman 111 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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