Roger Knox is often referred to in the Australian indigenous community as the black Elvis or the Koori King of Country. He is a Gamilaroi man who was born at Moree, northwest New South Wales.
Starting as a gospel singer Roger has survived not one but two plane crashes, suffering burns to most of his body. He has dedicated his life to sharing the gift of music with the world, spending much of his time playing to neglected Aboriginal audiences in remote communities and prisons, as well as touring detention centres and Indian reservations in the US and Canada.
Since 1984 he has released three albums of new material, the last one being Goin’ On, Still Strong in 2004. Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers and The Pine Valley Cosmonauts) met Knox on a visit to Australia several years ago and wanted to be involved in helping to preserve local culture.
Stranger In My Land is a collection of songs originally written by indigenous artists who were Knox’s peers and predecessors. Some tunes have been previously recorded but difficult to find and others are unrecorded, handed-down folk songs (which without this recording, may have been lost forever). The release comes from US label Bloodshot Records (good to see a well-regarded label supporting a local artist in this manner). From all reports, it contains powerful and moving material, heartbreaking and hilarious, downtrodden and uplifting – universal themes arising out of largely unexplored context. The press release refers to the urgency of an Alan Lomax field recording, but with a spirit that remains relevant in today’s world.
The CD includes a twenty four page booklet with stories about the songs and their writers – see http://bloodshotrecords.net/knoxsongs/ and interestingly features Dave Alvin, The Sadies, Bonnie Prince Billy, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan and Andre Williams.
You can watch a mini-documentary on the making of the album here: https://vimeo.com/58470513
“Song is as important as language, it is a part of our culture and well-being, it is another form of healing for Aboriginal people” – Roger Knox