|Roger Knox & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts: “Stranger In My Land
(Bloodshot BS 179)
Release date: 2013
The Land Where The Crow Flies Backwards
Great reviews from Allmusic.com and Cool Album of the Day that we don’t want to pull quotations from, they deserve to be read in full.
“When it’s released in early February, this will become the most important country music release of 2013. Why?…This is country music wrought bruised and aching from the dustbowl that is Australia’s Outback. This is Roger Knox bringing an Aboriginal voice to what amounts to Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell, Woody Guthrie and Paul Robeson gathered at the billabong singing protest tunes. These are down-under songs of racial alienation, displacement, the march to civil rights and a collective voice in the wilderness proclaiming that they will not be moved. It is vintage Nashville sung like it should be; honestly, matter-of-fact and evocative as hell…Elegant, suffused with meaning and essential.” –OCanada.com
“Part travelogue, part National Geographic special, and part crash sociology course, Stranger in My Land is surely to be the most important album you will listen to all year, and might just be the most important album of the decade… a five on a five scale listen.” – Cool Album of the Day
“Down-under civil-rights songs addressing feelings of racial alienation and making pleas for justice, all couched in the plainspoken language of vintage Nashville.” – Chicago Reader
Stranger In My Land is a collection of songs originally written by Aborigine artists who were Knox’s peers and predecessors; some tunes previously recorded but difficult to find as well as several unrecorded, handed-down folk songs (which without this recording, could have been lost forever). It is powerful and moving material, heartbreaking and hilarious, downtrodden and uplifting, suffused with longing, alienation, resilience and hope; universal themes arising out of largely unexplored context. It possesses the urgency of a Alan Lomax field recording, but with a spirit that remains relevant in today’s world.
Country music crossed the equator in the kitbag’s of US servicemen in WWII and magically struck a chord with a voiceless and near invisible aboriginal population. Soon American cowboy songs and honkytonk classics were retooled to describe rugged outback lifestyles and the migration from country to city. Turns out, you can’t beat this music as a vehicle for telling tough tales and the Aboriginal Country & Western Songbook is peppered with drinking songs and prison songs; songs that yearn for justice and for home; songs of alienation and the loneliness of the outsider. Humor, resignation and outrage stalk a superficially familiar musical landscape that’s been re-populated with stockmen, bandicoots, wallabies, porcupines, grog-drinkers, pelicans and policemen.
Stranger In My Land features guest vocals and instrumental performances from Bonnie Prince Billy (“Scobie’s Dream”), Kelly Hogan (“Blue Gums,” “Took The Children Away,”) Dave Alvin of X, Blasters (“Land Where The Crow Flies Backwards”), Sally Timms (“Home In The Valley”), Andre Williams (“Stranger in My Country”) and perhaps the last known recording from Charlie Louvin of the Louvin Brothers (“Ticket to Nowhere”). All this star power is backed The Pine Valley Cosmonauts and the Sadies.
Also included in a album is a lovely insert by Langford that gives an apt history of the songs, artists, and people behind this fragile, yet empowering music. This is an album about a man and a people’s struggles in their own place of origin, and the experiences in a journey that such a complex life path can take. Knox is the conduit for these stories and these songs, but this isn’t ancient history and these songs are not museum pieces.
The place names and characters are different, but the humanity remains common. In making Stranger In My Land, Roger Knox closes the circle on a strange journey that takes the music and stories of his people all the way around the planet and back to America.