VOICE: A Celebration of Women In MusicWhen Loene Carmen was but a little Loene, it was as routine as Rice Bubbles for Bon Scott to pop 'round, to see her dad, rock piano-player, Peter Head. What LC does solo, however, is a million miles from anything the late, great Ronald Belford Scott ever did. Her solo work has been described as 'broken bedroom beats'. Whatever it is, it's compelling. And, though hers was the opening set for Renee Geyer's collaborative, all-girl concept, Voice, strictly late night & parental advisory in style & content. Think alternative punk-country and you're in the right ballpark. Sitting in an intangible, magical, rarefied space, somewhere between Tom Waits & Dolly Parton, she's not to everyone's taste (neither my best girl or the barman were sold), but she's absolutely to mine. In fact, I can't wait to hear what she does next. Her sound and stories are all her own & her presence, intense.

Since her first album was released, well over a decade ago, Lisa Miller has won over critics and pundits, who seem never to have lost faith in her 'stripped back' approach; which, in essence, resonates harmoniously with Loene's, as reflected in this telling quote: "I've always been fascinated with language; in particular, the quest to find the greatest meaning, in the fewest words; I like to tell the truth, in disguise". The wonder of her is the ironic, paradoxical tension between spare, low-fat arrangements and substantive songs; not empty high-carb, but protein-packed.

Rebecca Barnard, she of the former Empire, just happens to be Shane O'Mara's wife. Now that's a power couple! Like Miller & Carmen, her roots reach deep into dark country, despite the fact she derives from a jazz background. (Her Heidi-hoedown plaits tend to defy that pedigree, however.)

Renee Geyer needs no introduction whatsoever and there isn't one that can begin to estimate her prodigious talents. As it turns out, she's not just a difficult woman, but a pithy, funny one too.

It's funny to find Renee coming on all country, but easy to understand from the get-go: these girls harmonise as sweetly and seamlessly as any of the great girl, or boy, groups you care to contemplate. We heard a number of Lisa's, Rebecca's and Renee's songs and even a Beatles cover. And, to paraphrase that holy tome, it was good. Yea; and verily. Miller's and Barnard's (&, for mine, Carmen's, too) work needs and deserves all the exposure it can get; nonetheless, it was probably Geyer's new trademark song, A Difficult Woman, written for her by Paul Kelly and, moreover, 1974's seminal Heading In The Right Direction which drew the greatest response.

I'm probably not Robinson Crusoe, in thinking Renee's is one of the greatest voices I've ever heard; (too trite to describe as world-class, it's even better than that!) Team it with voices of the quality of Miller's & Barnard's and it's so bodaciously, awesomely honeyed, it's almost too much for the ear, heart & soul to embrace. The truly remarkable thing is that three utterly distinctive voices can come together so synergistically; on paper, it would seem infeasible. That's just the vocals. Then you have the songs: to a tune, some of the greatest ever written, anywhere, anytime, stirred and shaken with bluesy soul; with worldly-wise, wry lyrics, that hit nail, after nail, squarely on the head. Some will resile from this assertion, believing greatness can't, by definition, dwell amongst us, in the collective Aussie backyard. But I'm here to tell you, it can. And does. I was there, right by the barbie, last night.


VOICE - A Celebration of Women In Music
featuring Renée Geyer, Lisa Miller & Rebecca Barnard (with very special guest Loene Carmen)

Venue: The Basement | 29 Reiby Place, Circular Quay
Dates: Fri 13 & Sat 14 June 2008
Contact: 02 9251 2797

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