ONE of my favourite solo entertainers around the traps is Sawtell-based ex-Tamworthian Errol Gray.
A hundred years ago (well, maybe not quite that long ago), Errol sang and played bass in the Goodtime Band with the late Jazzer Smith, Johnny Green and Steve Newton. Some people might recall their Thursday night residency at Dominoes nightclub in the early ’80s.
After the demise of that outfit, Errol formed Sons of the Soil and they played the North West, New England and coastal areas for a decade or more.
From their headquarters at the Sawtell Hotel, the band enjoyed almost legendary status and in recent years, the public has demanded a return to those heady days when SOTS ruled the waves.
That’s why Errol has put together the annual Sons of the Soil reunion at Sawtell, the band’s favourite Mid North Coast watering hole, and this year’s is on Saturday, November 16. It’s always a hoot, so why not grab some friends and make a weekend of it?
These days, when he’s not organising reunions, Errol travels the solo road and has developed his own unique style. Since May 2005, in conjunction with former Goodtimer Steve Newton of ENREC Studio, he’s produced a series of albums – Bugger Me Dead!, The Backyard Balladeer, How Good Is This! and Things Could Be Worse!
The most recent, and one of his best, I believe, is Footloose and Fancy Free! In case you hadn’t caught on, Errol likes to use exclamation marks.
He’s always been a great songwriter, but like that fine wine, he’s matured over the years – and he’s writing better than ever– and funnier! Whoops, it’s catching!
There are some real gems on this one, including That’s What Pops Do, which he sang at Nev Parnell’s Country Gold reunion show in Blazes – and absolutely brought the house down.
Other standout tracks include Camping At Yamba, The Husband (Errol’s own version of the Don Schlitz-penned song made famous by Kenny Rogers, The Gambler), Stuck In Queensland, Milkin’ Time (a laugh a line, courtesy of writer Grahame Watt), The Set-Top Box and The Letter F (which is not what you might think).
You can check out Errol’s music at his website, www.errolgray.com.au or you could be lucky enough to catch up with him at selected venues during the festival in Tamworth, or rarer out-of-festival appearances in his former stomping ground.
He’s a class act in every sense of the word. If you like to have a laugh, you’ll love Errol’s music. It’s nothing, if not relatable.
NORTH Coast band Doot returns to The Pub in Tamworth next Friday night to catch up with all the friends and fans they made here back in July.
They’re also hoping to meet some new converts to their alt-country style, as well, so take along some mates who haven’t heard them.
Doot delivers a sound that’s classic and original, familiar yet surprising, rocking and rootsy, heartfelt and feel-good.
The lineup is Dave Irving – vocals and acoustic guitar; Paul Agar – pedal steel, electric guitar and backing vocals; Alan Brooker – double bass and Inverell lass Bec Flatt on drums.
They draw on inspirations from the ’60s and ’70s sounds of Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Byrds, yet their clever originals slide easily and comfortably into the band’s extensive repertoire.
The band’s debut EP featured Worn Out Engine, a tale of love gone bad, lightened by some smart wordplay, sublime harmonies and a propulsive, hopeful melody.
The CD was a truly trans-Atlantic effort, being recorded and mixed at Heaven Recording Studios in northern NSW, and then mastered in New York by Scott Hull.
So far, Doot’s debut EP has met with critical acclaim, and, according to Martin Jones from Rhythms Magazine: “This northern NSW quartet explores its own blend of folk rock and country, uniting smooth vocal harmonies, jangling guitars and pedal steels in a common purpose. Dave Irving has a voice that’s perfect for singing this kind of folk/country hybrid, the vocal harmonies are astonishingly sweet and Agar’s guitar playing is rich and tasteful. What’s not to like?”
Individually the members have quite varied musical backgrounds – indie Americana (Dave), pop and rock (Paul), and other subtle things thrown in for good measure.
“We like to mix those elements up into a kind of country pop; the nearest thing we could call it was alt-country,” Paul said.
“We don’t see ourselves purely in the traditional country sphere. I think our vocal harmonies bring out the pop flavour that runs through our music.”
Paul said Doot’s music reflects their love of the alt-country movement that started in the late ’60s, when Gram Parsons was a real mover and shaker in that scene.
As Dave said, they’re showing the respect they have for the sort of radical that Gram was, for his time, and the alternative country music he created.
“That’s where some of the lyrical imagery comes from, and other artists like the Flying Burrito Brothers, Emmylou Harris and the Byrds – all of the stuff that paved the way for country rock,” he said.
Last month Doot played a couple of smaller coastal country festivals and have really been enjoying performing to the hard-core country folk.
“They seem to be as passionate and knowledgeable as fans of any genre and, like the audience we get at Tamworth, are incredibly polite and seem to be there firstly for the music, which is not always the case at some venues,” Dave said.
There’s good news on the new album front, too, as they’ve written more than half the songs for the new CD, which they hope to begin recording by year’s end.
Some of those tunes are being road-tested, so there’s every chance you might hear a couple at their gig at The Pub next week.
Later this month the band is playing in Brisbane for the first time at Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, a relatively new venue, complete with velvet drapes and chandeliers.
“It’s great to see a venue in a city like Brisbane focused purely on country music,” Dave said.
This will be Doot’s last show in Tamworth before the festival, where they have gigs booked at The Pub and Southgate Inn.
If you haven’t caught Doot live, you’d better check out their website www.doot.com.au for a preview of what you’re in for.