Pete Cullen’s Saltwater Cowboy – A Review

Read our review of ‘Saltwater Cowboy’ by Pete Cullen




Pete Cullen has this month released his second studio album Saltwater Cowboy and it’s immensely likeable.  Inspired by raging oceans, the sunburnt land and its unique characters, the new record is a portrayal of Cullen’s close connection with Australia.

“It’s pretty honest and raw, that’s how I live my life, what you see is what you get and I think the songs and the sounds are a pretty true expression of me and come from the soul.” – Pete Cullen.

For his second solo album Pete Cullen decided to make the writing and recording process as relaxed as possible.  The songs were recorded over three days in a living room in Brisbane, Australia.  Cullen was joined by his band and a bunch of old friends including Ben Salter on banjo, J.B. Lewis on lead guitar and Michael Patrick on fiddle.


The latest single “Matilda” opens the collection and is inspired by the iconic Australian song “Waltzing Matilda” (penned by the legendary bush poet Banjo Paterson) and is an ode to the beauty of the Australian land, its larrikins and the connection between the two.  The song soars and is assured and melodic.  “Immigration” tells the story of a journey to the so-called ‘lucky country’ and this song captures beautifully the human factor – the hopes and the risks taken by these refugees seeking comfort in Australia.

Jangling and commanding guitar propel the excellent and compelling “Saltwater Man” – it’s urgent and passionate – have a listen for yourself.

The opening three tracks are worth the admission price alone.  “First Kiss” is a more than nice ballad with notable backing vocals (Tara Simmons and/or Mia Wray) which builds to a catchy and glorious finale.  “Song To Sing” is an enchanting jig and shuffle number while “Sunshine” is an upbeat, hand clapping affair.  “Harvester of Sorrow” (great title!) is another tune etched in the land and has Patrick’s evocative violin as a feature.  “Broome” is another profound tale of displacement, family and relationships with ringing electric guitar and “My Song” is an optimistic catchy paean.  “Splendour” is sweet-toned and well crafted and is another shining album highlight -its ‘Australian-ness’ an integral part of its charm with more poignant and soft fiddle.  “Blue Saltwater Son” an jangly electric doo wop affair while “Last Dance” is a rousing happy closer.

Saltwater Cowboy is a seriously good release.


Australian Tour Dates 2015

Friday Feb 27 – Cardigan Bar, Sandgate, QLD

Friday March 6 – Lefty’s Oldtime Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD

Saturday March 7 – Bleach Festival, Gold Coast , QLD

Saturday March 14 – Noosa Festival of Surfing, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Friday March 20 – Baha, Rye, VIC

Saturday March 21 – The Retreat Brunswick, Melbourne, VIC

*Sydney April dates to be announced*

The Songs in Pete Cullen’s Own Words

I have always loved the writings of Banjo Patterson and love the song Waltzing Matilda. I remember hearing John Williamson sing it before a Bledisloe Cup match after the New Zealand Hakka. The crowd ripped into it like a soccer crowd, it gave you goose bumps. With the centenary of the Anzac’s landing at Galipoli I wanted to write an Aussie anthem encompassing the beauty of the land, its larrikins and the two’s connection. The man in the story represents the people of Australia, Matilda Is the land. Matilda whispers to him and they dance through the dark night until the new day dawns. There is so much we can learn from indigenous Australian’s respect for and connection to the land. I wrote this song because I love Australia, it’s the best country in the world. Australia has had its dark moments but hopefully we are heading for the light of the new day.

“Leaky Boats”
I recently discussed this song over a beer with the Australian poet Rupert Mc Call. Leaky Boats was inspired by the Four Corners episode “Trading Misery”. Rupert said that “ABC Monday nights are essential viewing for any social commentator”! He is dead right. ABC Monday nights have inspired artists throughout Australia and hopefully will continue to do so. In September 2013 a boat carrying 72 asylum seekers sank in stormy waters off the coast of Indonesia. Most of the people onboard drowned, many of them children.
The majority of passengers came from Lebanon. They’d been persuaded to part with hundreds of thousands of dollars to go on a vessel they had been told was seaworthy and well equipped with food and safety equipment. They had been deceived.

“Saltwater Cowboy”
I worked at the iconic surf shop Noosa Longboards in Noosa Heads for 8 years. I love watching old cult surf movies especially “the Hot Generation” & “Morning Of The Earth.” The sound track of Morning of the Earth is amazing, mix that with Alby Falzon’s footage of Michael Peterson surfing Kirra and you have a moment in Surfing history that can’t be replicated. After reading the incredible book “MP” The Story of Michael Peterson I was inspired to write a song about a “Saltwater Man” or a “Saltwater Cowboy” a person lives in and off the sea and rides waves that look like white horses. Over many years of living in one of Australia’s iconic surf spots I met many others who had stories of being Saltwater men, I have had two surfing friends die in the past two years and this song goes out to them. One day in the surf shop Michael Peterson came in and we talked about music, he bought about 5 cds off me, all classics, I was pretty stoked. He really loved music. I can’t remember all of the albums but I know one of them was Neil Young’s ‘Everybody Know this is Nowhere’, one of my favourites.

“First Kiss”
I wrote this song 13 years ago and never had the opportunity to record it as I was playing in the Brisbane garage blues band the Daybridges. The song was inspired by growing up by the ocean in Scarborough about an hour north of Brisbane. As teenagers my friends and I would spend our weekends at the beach falling in and out of love. This song describes the fleeting but intense nature of first love and the memories it leaves

“Song to Sing”
I wrote the chorus of this song at about 1am in the morning after a big night, a few drinks brings out the idealist in me! I was very quietly slurring it into my iPhone so not to wake my wife and kids! Sometimes I think I would like to solve the problems of the world however this is easier said than done.

This is probably the most personal song of the album. There is nothing like waking up before dawn and walking down to the beach. When the sunrises and you paddle out for a surf all your troubles seem to melt away. The song is about travelling through dark times, depression, bad luck and loneliness. Life can get you down sometimes but if you have hope there will be a new day.

“Harvester Of Sorrow”
Life can be hard living on the Land. You are constantly riding the waves of the extremes governed by the weather. I watched a news item on the ABC’s 7:30 report, it was about suicide rates in Farmers in Australia. Living in the city we often lose sight of where our food comes from and how hard people work to produce it. Everything is more expensive in the bush and still we have corporations driving prices down so they will profit at the farmers expense. This song was inspired by ABC 7:30 report

“Breeze That Shifts and Sways”
This song came out of a Jam session at Azza Luciow’s house. When I started to play music again after a five-year hiatus we would get together at his house and play songs, usually we would play for about an hour and the Jam would turn into a musical expeditionary session that would run into the early hours of the morning. Aaron’s twin brother Mick (who plays bass) was playing a Mississippi John Hurt song on the guitar, when I heard the riff I couldn’t help but turning it into a song. The song is about Aaron and his wife Lizi, they have been together since they where teenagers, they are very relaxed people. Nothing really fazes them, they are constant. Their love for each other and their family is unique and special. I love the bridge in this song! It has some kind of suspended chord leading back into the chorus. When I hear that chord it makes me feel satisfied!

When I was 20 I lived in Broome and worked in Aboriginal Communities throughout the Kimberley. I met many amazing people and was generously invited to share their culture. It was 1997 when the stolen generation and land rights movements were gaining momentum. I met people who had been stolen from their families, never to see them again. This song is inspired by one particular woman’s life story from Broome.

“My Song”
I thought I needed to write a song for my wife, this is it!

Splendour is about challenging yourself to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Over the last few years I have had major changes in my life, new career ,moved cities etc. At some point you’ve got to be able to back yourself and take some risks. My editor and chief, my wife Trish co-wrote the lyrics to splendour, she is an amazing lyricist.

“Blue Saltwater Son”
When surfing exploded around the world in the early 1960’s surfers were exploring for un-ridden perfect waves.  No one really knew or had surfed Noosa heads. People like Hayden Kenny and Bob McTavish where some of the first people to surf Noosa in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Surfing World Magazine let the cat out of the bag with and article on Noosa in 1967. From that moment people from around Australia and the world travelled to Noosa to surf arguably the best point breaks in the world. Some of the young blokes that came to Noosa in that period are still there today. Eccentric, eclectic Aussie larrikans. Every morning when there is some kind of swell you will see 10-20 blokes in their 60’s at first point checking the conditions, drinking a coffee and of course talking about the good old days, the massive cyclone swells of the 1970’s and how they had the breaks to themselves. Over the years of running a surf shop in Hastings St Noosa I met and became friends with many surfing legends and the locals who surf the hidden Noosa break “Heavens gates”. Named ‘heavens gates’ as it’s like a surfing retirement village… it’s where surfers go to die! And you couldn’t find a better spot. Blue Saltwater Son is dedicated to the Noosa Old Boy Surfing Brigade who I shared many stories, laughs and epic waves with over 10 years!

“Last Dance”
This song is dedicated to the life of Matt Hughes who died in a surfing accident in Byron bay in 2013.
Matt and I went to school together from grade 3 and we led similar lives. Matt worked in a surf shop in Miami, Gold Coast and was a well-respected Burleigh heads local surfer. He married his soul mate Michelle and they had 3 kids. As teenagers growing up in Scarborough we had an epic time, we used to go on Surfing Safaris up to the Sunshine Coast in Matt’s van, even though we where full of teenage testosterone and ego none of us could surf, it was pretty funny! Last Dance came to me a few days after Matt passed away, it took me over a year to send to Michelle. When she heard the song she felt that it was from Matt. On the night of Matt’s funeral we where standing on the shores of Tallebudgera Creek, over the water and through the clouds rose this amazing hallowed moon, we all thought it was a sign that Matt was OK and had gone to a different place.

Via footstompmusic


Read our review of ‘Saltwater Cowboy’ by Pete Cullen


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Author: Rob Dickens

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