Album title: The Hunting Road
Recorded: The Shed Studio, Melbourne VIC; 2009-2011
Released: September 5th, 2011
Availability: Still available - CD & digitally through Vitamin Records.
From his involvement with seminal Australian bands The Cat Empire and The Bamboos, to his highly ambitious compositions and arrangements that have been performed by countless big bands and orchestras.
Considering his iconic status as a bandleader and large-scale composer, Irwin’s debut solo record, The Hunting Road, might then come as something of a shock. There is no stabbing brass, there are no sweeping strings, no jungle percussion breaks. It seems that Irwin, whose musical palette is colourful and wide ranging, has surprised us all with a record that is simple, thoughtful, and beautiful.
Having suffered a clean break of heart in 2009, Roscoe retreated to the Canadian mountains, rented a house on the lake and made friends with the creature and a cheap nylon string guitar. After three weeks of late autumn cold, another Yankees world series and many sing-alongs with the local folk and country misfits, Roscoe returned with a pocket full of songs, and soon after recorded The Hunting Road with producer John Castle (The Bamboos, Washington) at The Shed studio in Melbourne.
What is unique about this record is the way that Irwin has been able to focus his extremely colourful musical imagination into a bunch of deceptively simple folksy pop songs. The music appears at first familiar to us, warm and well-worn sounds – the tapping of feet on wooden floorboards, tasteful country fingerpicking and lo-fi drums – but it soon becomes clear that this music has a deeper layer to it, a harmonic complexity and dynamic scope that lies half-hidden behind its whisky-and-dust façade. Occasionally Irwin’s full, unrestrained extravagance shines through brightly, whipping the music into joyful hurricanes, but it is always a well-controlled process. Irwin might swing our heads up into the clouds, but he keeps our feet planted firmly on the ground, in old leather boots.
Irwin’s lyrical storytelling is also strikingly original. Equal parts Sundance Kid and Heartbreak Kid, he is as likely to take us on a darkly surreal journey through densely wooded hills as he is to leave us misty-eyed and sighing at the end of the pier. At its core this record seems to be about the conflict between our need to be loved and our need to be alone, the tension between the loving friend and the wild vagabond.
However, Roscoe James Irwin, whose bio on his Facebook page describes him as “Indie Pop’s suscpiciously energetic Mr. Nice Guy”, does not seem like he wants to leave us in a pensive mood for very long. More often than not, his songs reach a point of combustion, exploding into soaring, joyful harmonies. It’s almost as if he’s saying: ‘Well, I’ve told you my story, now I just want to wail.’ And wail he does, shifting gears beautifully into a powerful upper register. It is in these moments that we realise we are not just listening to another folksy troubadour or broken-hearted warbler. This is one of Melbourne’s most gifted and diverse artists baring his soul, and, more importantly, his imagination.
- Harry James Angus -Track list:
(source: Roscoe James Irwin song-writer profile at Alberts)
1. Once Upon a Time... - 4:01 - R J Irwin
2. Johnny and June - 4:33 - R J Irwin
3. 1000 Nights - 4:05 - R J Irwin
4. Wrecking Ball - 3:23 - R J Irwin
5. Georgina - 4:15 - R J Irwin
6. Mercedes - 5:26 - R J Irwin
7. Picking Apples - 3:10 - R J Irwin
8. Honey Swept - 4:01 - R J Irwin
9. Don't Be Lonely - 3:06 - R J Irwin
10. Pass the Time - 2:56 - R J Irwin
(scans coming soon...)