Down home with The Cartwheels

THERE are lots of bands on the country scene, but precious few, in my opinion, can truly claim to be country bands. Many are simply pop bands with a pedal steel or worse still, rock’n’roll in a cowboy hat.

Family act The Cartwheels, from Hepburn Springs in Victoria, is one seriously great band that unashamedly wears the country label.

There’s mum Wendy Phypers on rhythm guitar and vocals; dad Dave Patterson on bass and backing vocals; son Charley Phypers on drums and lead guitarist Jeff Mercer (Travelling Country Band, Happening Thang, Lucky Bastards).

To epitomise the life they love – making music with their friends – Jeff climbed into the producer’s chair to help orchestrate the band’s third album, At Home. 

From the first track through to the last, it’s country all the way, with just three covers among the nine finely-crafted Wendy Phypers originals.

Engineered by Richard Pleasance and produced by Jeff,  At Home is like a breath of fresh, cool air on a steamy, hot summer’s day.

It’s refreshing to hear this style of album in an industry that’s increasingly taking a road that runs far from its country origins.

They roped in some talented friends to create the new disc – pedal steel supremo Dave Moore; Golden Guitar winner Pete Denahy on fiddle and piano accordion; recording engineer Richard contributes cello; and producer Jeff plays electric and acoustic guitar and high-string acoustic guitar.

A swinging country number, There’s Nothing Left, which has just been added to ABC Radio regional network’s national playlist, introduces this new set of songs and leaves you in no doubt what you’re hearing is country to the core.

Soaring harmonies and the  mighty fine pedal steel work of Dave Moore make the laidback  Thinking Of You another standout track.

You’re drawn back to the days of the old country dance halls with the simplistic Happy Girl, an old-fashioned waltz – a sibling in song to This One Is True – again drawn from the old school of writing.

You can almost imagine yourself lying back in bed on a rainy Sunday morning and pulling up the covers as Wendy dreamily reflects on her life with Dave and Charley on  Lucky.

Get your hands clapping and feet tapping to Ride Around The World and spend a lazy Sunday at their little Home In The Country, which could well be the Phypers/Patterson family anthem. 

Those Sweet Dreams caps off a dozen, down-home country songs that give an insight into this family act with a difference. 

Wendy beautifully covers Richard Thompson’s Tear-Stained Letter, Neil Young’s Long May You Run and the Gibb brothers’ To Love Somebody, giving each her distinctive stamp.

It’s one of the best country albums of the year, so whatever you do, get hold of a copy. You’ll find The Cartwheels on Facebook.

They met in the early ’90s when Wendy was in The Sparnetts (Golden Guitar winners), and Dave was playing bass with another groovy outfit discovered on the streets of Tamworth – The Happening Thang, along with Jeff Mercer, Cathy Wearne and Andy Travers (also Golden Guitar winners).

A few years later their son Charley was born, and not long after he learned to walk and talk, Charley headed for a drum kit.

In true Carter Family-style, they sat on their front porch picking, and when Charley was eight, recorded the band’s debut CD.

Since then they’ve been playing at festivals, weddings, parties, you name it – and have developed quite a following.

Their Tamworth home for the past few festivals has been the Central Hotel, so if any astute venue operator is looking for a country band that really kicks – you’d best get hold of Dave and Wendy on 0422 267 761 or email  before someone else scoops them up.

DID you hear the one about the Scotsman, the Irishman, the American and the Italian walking into a pub?

It’s no joke. Scotsman Jimmie McGuire, Irishman Tony Doyle, American Mark Schwinghamer and Italian Lou Farina have formed a band and, for reasons known only to Jimmie, their name is Mulligan’s Stew.

It could be due in part to the “league of nations” composition of the band – and the fact they’re playing Irish music to a primarily Aussie audience.

They’re doing a St Patrick’s Day preview gig at 6pm on Sunday, March 16 at The Pub on Gunnedah Rd.

Jimmie said it’s been a while between drinks for his band, but they’ve been rehearsing and are pretty happy with the way things are coming together.

There could even be another body or two in the lineup by the time the gig rolls around next month. I wonder what nationality they will be? 

Make a date in your diary for this special event. Who knows? If it’s well patronised, it could open the door to an Irish club event possibly once a month at The Pub. And with Danny boy managing The Pub, there’s every chance that could happen.

ONE of the most talked-about acts of the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival – the Adam Eckersley Band – will perform for one night only tomorrow at 8.30pm at Gunnedah Services Club.

The show is part of the band’s The First Album tour and should be a beauty.

If you love your country with a rocking good edge, don’t miss this gig.

HUGE congratulations to Tamworth’s Wendy Wood, who this week was named Songwriter of the Year at the NashvilleUniverse Awards.

What an achievement for a hardworking little Aussie – to beat all other contenders in the Nashville universe! You rock, Wendy Wood. 

If you don’t already have a copy of her new album, Enchanted Wood, do yourself a favour. It’s a little ripper.

HUNTER-based country singer Alby Pool has revitalised his old Hexham Horseshoe Bend Roundup and created a new, weekly musical gathering at the Lambton Park Hotel, 19a Morehead St, Lambton, in Newcastle.

The Lambton Park Jamboree plays host to some of Australia’s finest country acts each Wednesday night, with special guests, a resident band and opportunities for walk-up artists.

So if you’re in the Hunter and chasing some country – you’ll know where to find it every Wednesday. 

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