Various Artists

Australia: Our Land, Our Music

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This two-hour double CD (originally a triple LP), subtitled "Australiana Collection," isn't limited to folk material, although that makes up the bulk of it. Most of the music dates from the late '50s on, and is in stereo, although a few songs ("Moreton Bay" by Marion Henderson, etc.) are transferred from 78-rpm sources. Lionel Long ("The Ballad of Cobb and Co."), who could be Australia's Marty Robbins, Slim Dusty ("The Man from Snowy River," "The Pub with No Beer," "The Ballad of Henry Lawson"), who could be down under's Johnny Cash, and Eric Bogle ("And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," "Aussie Bar-B-Q") are the most interesting performers, with the best songs and the best musicianship as well as the most expressive voices, but there's a lot to offer throughout. One learns that "We'll All Die Game" was a fatalistic phrase attributed to the Ned Kelly gang in their final shootout, but later adopted by Australian soldiers during WWI and WWII. There are at least six renditions of "Waltzing Matilda" here, no two alike in any way, including one by the Weavers and one played in bluegrass fashion by Chris Duffy's Bullant Band. Australian country music is represented by Slim Dusty and Buddy Williams, and the ubiquitous Rolf Harris is also present on two songs, along with Aussie singing star Peter Dawson, who has an old-style, dramatic approach to folk music -- the particular quirks of Australia's populace ("The Bobba Wodda Wedding," "Aussie Bar-B-Q") are celebrated and, for a tiny bit of balance, there's also a fragment of Aboriginal music courtesy of Wandjuk Marika ("Didjeridu Solo"), but mostly this is more a major-label retrospective than a Folkways-style field recording. There's also a swing-style rendition of "Along the Road to Gundagai" by Jim Davidson's Dandies, and there's some very knowing humor here as well -- Peter Russell-Clarke's explanation-filled rendition of "Waltzing Matilda" and John Clements' "The National Adjective," in which he explains the many down under permutations of the word "bastard."

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