Way back in the mists of time — beginning in 1999 or 2000 — the UK PC magazine Computer Shopper used to showcase independent artists in a MP3 section called Osmosis. I've long since thrown away the cover CD but did keep three songs by a guy called Leighton Watts: My Old Enamel Mug, Real Life Rodeo and The Murry Stream. I also did find his website whilst I was at university but the youngling I was didn't stray far from Amazon.com when ordering stuff from outside the UK. Fast forward to month or two ago, and I was trying to work out which recordings of Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land might include the last two verses, I'd been listening to a mix of guitar music, and stuck names into Google again... incidentally, by "month or two ago" it's taken me that long to get around to writing this, delivery wasn't slow or anything.
15$AUD (~£6) a disc gets you a neatly presented CD-R, and I opted for Down Under Country as that has the songs I was familar with — plus I wasn't entirely sure if the inclusive postage was valid for international orders. It is. Had a bit of trouble reading the copy, but was able to get output with EAC and make a backup to listen to. The music? Well worth it. Like most things these days I prefer to listen using 1by1 and the "Pump reduce" settings of its audio enhancer to balance volume and channels.
True, there's a bit of stage country — percussive beats and occasionally grating synth feature on a half-dozen tracks — but the weighting is much towards acoustic guitar and includes some spoken word pieces. This isn't Achy Breaky Heart, simple living isn't reduced to unrecognisable romanticised imagery, and whilst there's sentimentality aplenty it's warm, genuine and likeable. Wit isn't in short supply either, nor are characters and situations that come alive whilst you listen — barroom braggart Billy, the inhabitants of small towns, the outback itself, drovers and farmhands.
Of course I'm aware that with some (most) of it I'm being nostalgic for times and things I never knew, like I am for the generation that built computers from boards and components and programmed down to the bare metal. But these are stories as much and as important as any creation myth; how many people had their imagination turned to How Things Work by James Doohan? Music in this vein will get some people (me included) into the fresh air or out doing things or considering the value of simplicity, and that's nothing to be sniffed at.
Plus, at least sixteen tracks made of win on an album is great by anyone's standards. I don't doubt I'll be back around for more; there's always the hesitation of discovering a collection of songs you really like and wondering if anything else by the same people will match up to it, but there will be perseverence on this score.
More on the artist (as my brief overview and philosophical waffle isn't all that useful, heretofore omitting things such as mention of Leighton's vocals being baritone, pretty much anything about him, or example lyrics)...
...and a bit of geekish (altogether deliberate) synchronicity: I own an already somewhat chipped red enamel mug. Got it in Poland when I needed something to cook noodles and make tea in. It'll be travelling some more with me soon...
Bonus "resurrected from Osmosis" track: Chilli — Killing Me
Most reviews I've seen of this band (fronted by Sarah Upton) describe them as middle-of-the-road rock or a pub group. Amazon had the single for pennies, so I thought I'd check them out... and yea verily, I'd be happy to listen over a pint. The b-sides aren't remarkable, but Killing Me is very pleasant and sounds a bit like a Cranberries chart single. The band apparently also released an album,