Trad and Now Magazine 2021
Live at the Court House - CD Review by Tony Smith
In an age when over produced video clips pass as music, the real musical
experience provided by Gary Banks and friends is like a breath of fresh air.
They risked a live recording at the Bright Courthouse and the payoff is
The listener experiences being in the audience on the night with the ‘laughs,
the clicks, the squeaks, the fun and the friendship’. As well as constant
collaborator guitarist, Rudi Katterl, Banks thanks Chris Mangan (bass),
Jo Ellis (violin, vocals, accordian), Brian Dwyer (drums) and The Janes (vocals).
The first 11 tracks were written by Banks and arranged with Katterl. The final track the traditional ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ was an encore.
This is genuine folk music.
Katterl is a Wandiligong resident and
Bright local. The guitar work on this album
is as sharp as that of Dire Straits. The richness of the guitar accompaniments lifts these songs and maximizes their appeal. Although Banks quips that Katterl contributes guitars and interruptions, all the songs flow beautifully. While Banks lives along the Great Ocean Road in southern Victoria he spends part of each year in Connemara on Ireland’s west coast, where he regularly plays major festivals. He praises the people there for their sense of community to social justice and celebration of the arts. A sense of social justice shines through in several of Banks’ songs, especially ‘Not in my Name’ which deplores Australia’s savage treatment of asylum seekers, warmongering and sweat shops. Banks is also quite emotional about his relationship with his father who grew up on lighthouses along the Victorian coast. And he has a great tribute song to Pete Seeger. Banks mentions Seeger’s rendition of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land’ at President Obama’s inauguration, thus establishing a link in the tradition of great folk songs and their writers.
Banks fits quite readily into this company. ‘Rising Water’ protests the lack of action on climate change. The overall theme of this concert and CD is the sea from ‘Great Ocean Road’ to ‘Errislannan and ‘The Lighthouse Boy’. The shoreline has been a strong influence on Banks’ song writing. ‘Great Ocean Road’ celebrates the ‘Bay’ (Apollo Bay), the ‘Port’ (Port Fairy) and the ‘Quay’ (Torquay). Banks tells of writing ‘Touch’ after seeing a photo of soldiers sea-bathing at Gallipoli, a photo which I also find very affecting. Banks finds hope in the idea of the sea as a means of escape and connection, ‘the roar of the sea brings you closer to me’. ‘Go’ is advice to a child considering leaving home. It is echoed in the child’s final meeting with the dying father ‘go if you have to’. Banks admits to being a hopeless romantic and says this is a curse but his writing is not at all sentimental. The lyrics are always sincere. ‘Shadowlands’ – ‘between darkness and the light’ – is a tribute to unsung heroes getting on with their lives. ‘Adjusting to the Light’ is about a relationship breaking up when ‘footprints in the sand make a lonely sight’. ‘Errislannan’ was inspired by a famine memorial ‘calling me down to the ocean and the wild Atalantic shore’. “C’mon Jo’ exhorts the fiddle to ‘play it long and slow, the way that only you know’ and is a jaunty and happy sound.
More folk musicians should take the risk and record live albums. Gary Banks has shown that the product is authentic and artistically admirable.
Take the opportunity to see Gary live if you ever get the chance.
PICK OF THE CROP
A song written about my father - the 'lighthouse boy' - and for all those who love the healing power of the ocean.
Not In My Name
A song for Get Up and Australia Day. Released in 2009 at the Clifden Music Festival, Galway.
Trad and Now Magazine 2019
Gary's song 'Not In My Name' from his coverted album 'The Keeper' was selected by Trad and Now Magazine for their "Pick of the Crop" compliation of the best independent recordings.
Errislannan - Live @ Mallacoota
A song written about a peninsula in Connemara where immigration and belonging inhabit the very air of the place.
Trad and Now Magazine
Gary's song 'Lighthouse Boy' was selected by Trad and Now Magazine for their "Pick of the Crop" compilation of the best independent Recordings.
Trad and Now Magazine 2015
Gary's song 'Rising Water' was selected by Trad and Now Magazine for their "Pick of the Crop" compliation of the best independent recordings.