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Album Review

HANNAH GILLESPIE
All the Dirt
From Down Under

I can't help but think that Hannah Gillespie is a reincarnation of a younger and stronger-voiced Marianne Faithfull because on All the Dirt she echoes the angst which made Faithfull's Broken English the classic that it was and is and, damn it, she sounds like her and I know that's probably just me, but I can't get it out of my head. I have listened to All the Dirt over and over and the more I listen, the more I am drawn to her singing, phrasing, songwriting and everything else. How good is Hannah Gillespie? She is the first artist, the very first, who has used the word 'fuck' in a song and not made me cringe. Somehow, she found a way to make it a natural part of a song--- not for shock value or coolness factor--- a real part of a song. I mean, I wanted to cringe, maybe out of habit, but when she sings “It is not about you every fucking time”, I find nothing cringeworthy. And, no, it's not because the word has become a part of everyday language. It is because it works.

There is not much that does not work in All the Dirt. The album is packed with songs to cleanse the palate of the mediocre pap which dominates the music scene. This is buried treasure, but I cannot imagine it being buried for long. There Are Songs, the Australiana-ish roots folk/rock song which kicks the album off, sets the bar high and it raises with each succeeding song. Upbeat and bright, it really isn't. It is a serious look at life, of a sort. And she starts her chorus “There are songs, they say, that ain't written in E-Minor” (at least, that's what I hear) “There's another heart, another sin, another man/ There's a free wind blowing back to my place/ But I would love to hear you say you didn't care.” Lyrics! Real lyrics which tug at the gut and open the mind! And they change with each chorus. Only slightly, but ain't it cool when lyrics are so good that a slight change makes all the difference.

Lyrics aside (did I mention that they are world-class and essential to the music?), Gillespie is a carnival ride of epic proportions. Besides the rocking and occasionally roots-oriented and folkie songs, she dabbles in music noir (Headlights is a late night jazz picture of a deserted street after a drenching rain--- in my head, at least), modern but updated folk (Tales From the Tote (Vinnie) is folk/psych of the first water, ending with “How many wonderful things do you know/ How many wonderful things can you do/ How many girls have you said this to...” A perfect ending you have to hear to appreciate, and the almost Spanish Sally Goes to Woodford--- a treatise in juxtaposing genres (Modern British Folk and Orchestral).

And she sings with a freaking Australian accent! None of that generic American sound. It always amazes me that singers from all over the world sound like they grew up in Bozeman or Kansas City when they sing but sound cockney or guttural as hell when they talk. I mean, how do they even do that? I have no idea, but they do. Not Hannah Gillespie. She sings like she is. And man, can she sing!

Gillespie's depth as a songwriter and singer luckily met their match in Ken Stringfellow. Gillespie had met him when he toured Australia with The Posies a number of years ago and when it came time to nail down All the Dirt, approached him about producing it. She was shocked when he said yes, but if the demos were one-tenth of what turned up on the album she shouldn't have been. Stringfellow has ears. Stringfellow knew what to do and he did it. The man is a pro.

I found Gillespie, in fact, through Stringfellow whose brush with The Dixie Bee-Liners (their Susanville album is as good a mix of folk, bluegrass and rock as I've ever heard) reawakened my interest in his work. He mentioned her in a Facebook post. I spend hours and hours a week searching for music above and beyond and he hands me Hannah Gillespie in one sentence. I owe him. Big time.

Look, I know not everyone heard Faithfull's Broken English like I did. I know that we are not all alike (thank the gods) and that we bring to music our past, musical and personal, and that that is where the magic happens. And I know that this isn't Broken English. But I also know that when something this good comes along and you don't make the effort, you come out the loser. Don't you lose out. All the Dirt is right there for the taking. Take a listen and then take it! Thirty years from now, you will be glad you did. Trust me.

Available at cdBaby and Bandcamp.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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