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Small Town Romance

we review the debut self-titled release by Small Town Romance

small-town-romance_duo_porch-1

Small Town Romance
Hit Their Stride

This is an understated, yet classy release.

Small Town Romance has just released a self-titled debut.  Fronted by Jim Arneman and Flora Smith, the band has been working hard, successfully getting their name to a wider base.  The pair share writing and singing duties, complementing each other between Arneman’s story-telling and Smith’s narrative and Smith’s ear for a tune.

Jim Arneman is the son of songstress Anne Kirkpatrick and grandson of Australia’s most famous country couple Slim Dusty and Joy McKean and, as you can imagine, was raised on the traditions of Australian country music and touring life.  His later influences range across 1970’s singer songwriters, alt-country and Americana.  At the centre of his work is an admiration of, and ambition to strive for, classic song-craft and musicianship.  Smith grew up in a household filled with Irish folk music and then spent a rebellious period dabbling in opera.  She was set back on the right path after a period living in Texas where she studied Tex-Mex button accordion under Grammy winner Joel Guzman and fell in love with the energy and spirit of classic country.   The pair share writing and singing duties, complementing each other between Arneman’s story-telling and Smith’s narrative and Smith’s ear for a tune.

In 2014 the pair found themselves a crack honky-tonk band and that assembly provides a critical part of the merits of this collection – Jamie Argent-Jones on telecaster guitar, Alics Gate-Eastley on bass and Daniel Brates on drums.  In 2015 the band released a debut single ‘Rambler’ which appears on the album.  Penned by Arneman after spending a spell hitching rides with truckies across the Northern Territory, the song tips its hat more than once to the musical styling of his grandparents.

‘Timber & Stone’ is a likable country opener, nice harmonies and decorative pedal steel.  ‘Old Letter’ has some nice lead guitar filling spaces economically and with flair, ‘Halfway Up The Hume’ will resonate with those of us that have spent a few hours driving up Australia’s most traveled road. Smith provides the worthy lead vocals on ‘Coffee Grounds’ and her accordion augments ‘Rambler’ nicely.  ‘New Things’ is a highlight, with its catchy shuffle, sounding like a classic song.  ‘Rookie’ has a delightful Tex-Mex vibe and ‘Over The Line’ is a poignant, perfect way to close the collection.

Other contributions to this independent release are Munro Melano (piano), Shane Reilly (pedal steel) and Brendan McMahon (organ).  The album was recorded at ThirtyMill and Appleby Studios, engineered by Colin Wynne and Gate-Eastley, mixed by Wynne and mastered by Ross Cockle at Sing Sing.

Here is a clip of ‘Timber & Stone’:

 

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As this is their first record, they were happy to take some risks.  Smith explains “We didn’t want to limit ourselves stylistically so we just wrote the songs that came naturally and didn’t worry about whether or not they sounded homogenous”.  “Of course, writing the best songs we can is always the first priority” Arneman adds “but we had a lot of fun drawing on all our favourite sounds and lyricists from across the broad church of country music”.

Mission accomplished – it moves easily between country, alt. country, Americana and Tex-Mex.  Small Town Romance are a welcome addition to the Australian music scene.

we review the debut self-titled release by Small Town Romance

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Author: Rob Dickens

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