As co-founder, songwriter, and keyboard player for one of the most exhilarating and successful rock bands of all time, INXS, Andrew Farriss will be a name familiar to music fans all over the world. However, some might be a little surprised that for his first major solo release he’s gone for a full-on outlaw country sound, heralded by the thundering sound of horses’s hooves in the atmospheric, mandolin-strumming, scene-setting opening track, Bounty Hunter – Hummingbird.
But actually, when you think about it, an Andrew Farriss country album makes perfect sense. For starters, he’s an Aussie, and his homeland has a particular affinity for country music, sharing the same sense of the great wide-open plains and vast blue skies. I mean, they even gave us Keith Urban, one of the biggest country music stars in the world! Thank you, Australia! Australia also has its own fair share of actual real-life cowboys and ranchers, and Andrew in fact is one himself, living with his wife, Marlina, on their own cattle ranch in Tamworth, New South Wales, an area famed for its annual country music festival.
The Andrew Farriss country music sound is therefore very much an authentic one. You can feel it deep in the roots of these 12 tracks, in which he reveals himself to be perfectly suited to the genre, with the deep, warm timbre of his vocals infusing heart and soul into his lyrics. He’s always been a great writer of fantastically infectious rock, pop, and funk songs for INXS, but here he reveals his skill as a country music and folk storyteller.
No stranger to the ways of Nashville, Andrew has in fact been regularly writing songs in Music City for the past 10 years, which is why this collection of songs sounds so authentic, effortless, and natural. It has been a long time coming to fruition.
At first Andrew started working in Nashville purely to use some of the excellent, world-beating recording facilities to work on his new songs, but the more songs he wrote, and the more he started singing them himself, the realisation dawned on him just how much country music suited him, and his voice, and this collection of songs is the solid-gold proof of that.
What I really love about this record is how it mixes all manner of traditional Americana, country, roots and folk influences with influences that are uniquely Australian. The track With the Kelly Gang is a fine example of this. It’s a traditional outlaw yarn from an Australian perspective all about the life and times of Aussie bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly. But as with so much of Farriss’ work, it also poses interesting questions, and comes at the subject matter from a fascinating angle, with the writer appearing to yearn to join the controversial Kelly’s gang.
The outlaw cowboy influence is also strong on Son of a Gun, which boasts some wonderfully soulful backing vocals, venturing into Muscle Shoals territory.
Another track, My Cajun Girl, takes another Southern detour with a more Cajun twist, as you might expect from the title. Fiddles and banjos combine with joyfully romantic lyrics to make this another standout track.
Apache Pass is beautifully atmospheric track, and could possibly be called one of the pivotal tracks on the album, as it describes a real-life horse-riding adventure that Andrew and his wife, Marlina, and cowboy wrangler Craig Lawson and his wife, Tamara, undertook through the Chiricahua Mountains along the Mexican border.
According to Andrew, the stories that he heard and the incredibly dramatic landscapes that he travelled through during the trip inspired him on his return to Nashville to focus on a more outlaw country direction rather than trying to write a modern country hit.
Starlight sounds like another track that could have been influenced by that Mexican trip, with fantastic guitar licks and Mariachi horn blasts.
There are even a couple of tracks that would not have sounded out of place on an INXS album, including the anthemic, You Are My Rock, which would sound right at home being blasted from ginormous speakers to a sea of waving arms in a packed-out stadium. Likewise, Good Momma Bad features thought-provoking lyrics about the nature of motherhood, propelled by an infectiously funky, danceable beat.
As you might expect from an artist of such pedigree in terms of pure sound quality (those old INXS records still sound as crisp and vibrant today as the day they were made), the musicianship and overall tone and sound of this record is absolutely gorgeous. So many layers to discover on repeated listens. Try it on quality pair of headphones if you can.
This album was actually due to be released in early 2020, but like everything else in the world, its launch was delayed until a more suitable time, which just so happens to be now. It’s great that this album will now be able to get the attention it deserves.
By Maura Sutton