An artist dedicated to maintaining the history and tradition of Australia’s folk music, The Queensland Tiger has spent years ensuring that the country’s turbulent past will be remembered through the songs that made it. Aptly titled and filled with classic tales from the colonial era, ‘Convicts and Bushrangers’ is a debut record steeped in tradition and heartfelt Australiana, recounting over one hundred years of hardship, rebellion, and tragedy.
Echoing the sounds of the past with a simple, rustic sound, each of the fourteen songs on ‘Convicts and Bushrangers’ recounts a different story from Australia’s rich history, following the lives and times of the people who lived it. Opening number, ‘Jim Jones at Botany Bay’ explores the convicts’ long sea journey and arrival at Sydney Cove, while following number ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ celebrates the plight of the men who were transported to the titular penal colony, laying the foundation for what would become the state of Tasmania. They’re two distinct and rugged songs that first introduce The Queensland Tiger’s sounds, seamlessly tying the past together with his own arrangements, introductions and bridges.
Following tracks ‘The Black Velvet Band’ and ‘Convict Maid’ bring more personal tales to the mix, infusing the album with a gentle Celtic sound whilst telling tales of two very different women embroiled in the convict way of life. Digging deeper into the underbelly of the first settlers, The Queensland Tiger also turns his attention to the rebellious convicts who became Australia’s first bushrangers, tracing the history of Jack Donahue in ‘Bold Jack Donahue’ and ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’, Frank Gardiner’s gang in a trio of tales, ‘Eugowra Rocks’, ‘Dunn, Gilbert and Ben Hall’, and ‘Streets of Forbes’, and perhaps the most infamous of all, The Kelly Gang in ‘The Ballad of Stringybark Creek’, ‘Ned Kelly was born in a Ramshackle Hut’, and the nostalgic glance through time, ‘The Bushrangers’.
Accompanied by a talented ensemble of musicians such as violinists Jessie Morgan, Dani Velasco, Sharon Sullivan, and Mikhail Bugaev, along with cellist Natasha Jaffe, and multi-instrumentalist and backing singer, Lillian Penner, the album layers strings and piano keys to create a traditional, expressive sound, one that rallies around the song’s characters and effortlessly expresses their trials and tribulations. It’s simple, but expressive music that is instantly recognisable as classic Australian folk, proving the enduring nature of the songs and the history above all else.
Through it all, The Queensland Tiger is ever-present, lending his rough vocals and lingering piano notes to each and every piece. Musically, The Queensland Tiger’s arrangements have allowed his accompanists to shine, and their additions to each song wonderfully captures the heart and soul of the age-old tales. Charming and timeless, but not without their faults, each of the fourteen folk songs hold true to tradition, offering an unapologetically rustic and wonderfully poignant reminder of days gone by.
You can stream ‘Convicts and Bushrangers above via Spotify, as well as on Apple Music, Tidal, and Deezer, while selected tracks can also be found on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.