Home Truths from Slim Dime

Examining Slim Dime’s New Outing

Slim Dime – Photo: LTTL

‘The Long Journey Home’

from Slim Dime

Out September 14, 2020

By Rob Dickens

I first encountered Slim Dime at the Mountaingrass festival in 2018 and took an immediate liking to their music.

Jen Land on acoustic guitar and vocals, with Chris Taylor on acoustic guitar, banjo and vocals make for a delightful combo.  On their brand-new release The Long Journey Home, the duo presents a sixteen track collection which features beautiful arrangements, sweet and nuanced harmonies as well as a large dose of old-time country authenticity.

It’s a wonderful document which focuses on ‘home’, made all the more relevant as we all grapple with a more singular, simple life during the pandemic. (Jen and Chris reside in Victoria, Australia which has the worst and most-prolonged COVID outbreak in the country. Accordingly our movements are very restricted and have been for quite some time)

I caught up with the couple recently and explored the new album.

Examining Slim Dime’s New Outing

LTTL: Congratulations on The Long Journey Home – it’s a beautifully warm and intimate release.  The album has a definite theme of home which is particularly relevant given the global pandemic, given we are all spending more time than ever there (maybe more than we want!).  Was this theme your original intention with the album or did that evolve as you grasped the enormity of the COVID impact?

SD: We had been writing around the theme of “home” for a couple of years. After living in Belgrave for a decade we decided on a seachange and moved down to the Mornington Peninsula. It takes a while to feel “at home” in a new place and as our lyricist I was thinking a lot about the concept of Home – we listen to a lot of Gospel music (and play a lot too) and in that genre Home equals heaven, musicians travel a bit and as a gypsy type I tend to feel that home is an internal space that travels with you (a sense of self acceptance) and many people experience a sense of alienation or a lack of sense of belonging – homelessness. Then COVID hit and everyone was thinking about home, or at least stuck at home the world over. We had already started recording with Mark at that time, at his studio in his home. We had planned a double album – a disc of traditionals/covers “The Long Journey” and a disc of originals “Home” – then our income as musicians evaporated and we could really only afford a single disc. So after a spot of brainstorming we thought we’d do a serious edit of the material and release a single disc. A dreadful synchronicity really, that everyone had a changed relationship with home.

Your music doesn’t seem to me to fit the bluegrass label at all, perhaps closer to old-time music or very early country.  Even a little touch of Welch/Rawlings Americana perhaps?.  How would you describe the musical style on The Long Journey Home?

We make old fashioned acoustic music. We’ve been really lucky that we’ve been embraced by the Bluegrass/Old Time Music community – but it is neither of those genres. I guess as a community they listen to a lot of elderly recordings and understand where we’re coming from. When we play at a Folk Festival, they describe us as Bluegrass, if it’s a Bluegrass Festival – Old Timey, if it’s an Old Time Music event – folk. Somewhere in the Venn diagram of all those genres – is us! Welch/Rawlings are extraordinary but not the main influence on our style, we love brother duos of the 1930’s and 40’s like the Louvin Brothers and the Delmore Brothers, the Monroe Brothers and the Stanley Brothers. Between the two of us we have very broad listening habits – from metal, trad Bluegrass through to classical with lots of unexpected stops along the way which I feel has an influence. We also live a kinda isolated life – even before social distancing and I guess that means we aren’t really influenced by prevailing trends.

You recorded the album with Mark Woods, tell me about the background to your choice there and a little about the recording process?  The result has a really authentic sound to it

We met Mark through playing at Festivals where he does a lot of live sound – he has beautiful ears and has always enjoyed our music – perhaps because it is a little different, or not a specific genre at least. He knew we would want to record live with no tracking or overdubs – which is challenging from his perspective and necessitated great performances from us – or at least ones we can live with. He also understood that we would want a very natural sound and that it would need to feel intimate – as if we were in the room with the listener. We all share a similar sense of humour (a little dark) and he was great to work with. We’re all really pleased with the end result. Mark is a lovely man and it’s really important to us both that the people we work with are great people as well as being great at what they do.

I love the diversity of material on the record – seven originals, two Carter family covers, “The Old Cross Road” by Bill Monroe.  Tell me about a few of the other songs you have recorded.and what guided your song mix selection

As we’d planned a double album we had a rather exhaustive list of material – all the originals with the theme of home and traditionals/covers that we love – Chris was more of a force with the covers and I was more responsible for the originals. When we realised it’d be a single album we chose the ones that worked best as a coherent whole and to be honest the ones with the best performances as our budget became tighter. My favourite is “Bright Eyes” – I just love that song – I love the character and the title is a thank you to a couple in Tasmania who have been real patrons to us – thank you Garry & Christina. I love to sing sad songs and Chris loves to play fast songs – the final album is the result of an interesting series of compromises and conversations – but all with the theme of “Home” underpinning the selection.

There is quite a lot of new music still being released this year, particularly in the USA, which is great for us music lovers but not such a good time for artists to maximise their exposure and thereby recouping some financial returns.  I assume the album is a totally independent release, funded by you both.  What was your thinking of about the release timing, particularly when our home State of Victoria is having a pretty restricted medium term?

ARGH it’s not a great time to release an album in Victoria. We aren’t a terribly well known act – we had been working towards using this release as an opportunity to reach more listeners. We have previously sold most of our work as a result of touring – both physical discs and digital sales as a direct result of people seeing us play. It is an independent release, we are self funded and pre COVID we were really enjoying playing at Festivals and touring quite a lot for two semi-professionals with day jobs. It was tempting to wait a little longer until we could start to play live again but we’re really proud of this release and we’d love for people to hear it. Neither of us are really keen on a live streamed gig as a release event – but I guess we’ll see if anyone is interested in that sort of thing! We both just cracked up. We just want to share our music so we have the digital release planned for September 14th – iTunes, Spotify – all the usual suspects – and when we can tour again we will. For us it’s about making music, the recording is as much a record for us of our progress as musicians, as it is an opportunity to share our work. Our long term goal is to have a body of work that we are proud of and it’s a massive bonus to us both if anybody else is also interested – again we’re laughing. We aren’t really interested in fame or accolades, we’re interested in consistently getting better at what we do.

We are all missing live music terribly.  What live music plans for 2020 had you and Paul made before the health crisis hit?

Oh man this is a hard question – 2 trips to South Australia, a mini tour to QLD with our friends Blue Limit and a Festival there, a tour of Tasmania and too many Festivals to list without feeling really sad. It’s just been a really tough year for music – we miss our friends, we miss the travel and we just miss playing regularly – we both feel a long way from “game ready”. It’s not just that you need to practice playing instruments – performance is a skill set that really needs regular practice. I’ve stopped even booking gigs for next year – none of us know what the live music scene will be like after COVID, a lot of great venues just aren’t going to survive and social distancing means that festival organisers are looking at some tough budgeting decisions, we just don’t know……. none of us know.

Finally, I’ve heard the expression ‘one thin dime’.  Where does your name come from and why choose it?

I was reading about a performer called Gypsy Rose Lee – a burlesque entertainer and witty quipster – who quipped that she was so poor she didn’t have a slim dime. After a spot of research we discovered it was an old phrase about being poor. Traditionally the kind of music that we play is from people who are in fact poor – folk music is the music of the folk. We aren’t highly motivated by financial gain, we’re renters and we don’t really own much that’s terribly valuable – except our music tools. We’re interested in spiritual wealth, we write/play songs about the nitty gritty of human-ness – death, loss, love, addiction. So I guess the band name is our way of identifying with these ideas, plus it’s old fashioned – like our music.

Examining Slim Dime’s New Outing

Here’s a live clip of one the album original tracks, “That Ole Train”:




Examining Slim Dime’s New Outing

Examining Slim Dime’s New Outing

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Author: Rob Dickens

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