Ross Kurtz ’’Heritage’ CD
Many a contemporary folk singer-songwriter, like John Schuman, looks to the music spawned by the balladeers of the Australian Bush of the late 19th and early 20th century for inspiration, and so too does singer-songwriter and painter Ross Kurtz. The difference is that Kurtz’s inspiration is more uniquely direct. A fourth-generation farmer living and working in the Mudgee region of NSW, his grandfather was a celebrated singer and concertina player recorded by folklorist John Meredith in the ‘50s – and liltingly eulogised here by his grandson in ‘Fred Holland’ – while his father was a fiddler. Kurtz and his brother Bruce formed the Stringybark Bush Band in the late ‘60s, a group that still plays the occasional gig. All this, and the poetry of Henry Lawson, brings an undeniable authenticity to Kurtz’s music that rightly should place Heritage up there alongside the albums of Schuman, Eric Bogle and the rest. These days Don Coombes provides the concertina with Stringybark, and so he does here, while Simon Watts provides the fiddle and Glenn Skarratt, with whom Watts plays in a duo and who has played with Mark Lucas & The Deadsetters among others, provides the guitars, mandolin, bass and percussion as well as recording and engineering the album. Lawson provides the lyrics to six of the 14 tracks here, Kurtz opting for the less well-known pieces, like ‘Hawker’s Van’ and ‘Mary Called Him Mister’, presented lightly and brightly, unburdened by any overt heavily “Australiana” connotations. In fact the whole enterprise has a gentle lightness of touch that underscores not only the players’ reverence for the material but also the place from which it comes, which is really refreshing. There’s still a lot “the Bush” has to offer our increasingly urbanised, digitised, oceancentric society beyond merely nostalgic memories of bygone days, and Heritage is a nice little reminder of that.
Reviewed by Micheal Smith
(former sub editor of The Drum Media, this review published in The Haze Magazine, Winter 2019 Blue Mountains NSW)