written by Chris Familton
Through consistency and a single-minded vision for his music Jamie Hutchings has slowly built an impressive body of solo work post Bluebottle Kiss. Avalon Cassettes is another stellar collection of pure and poetic Australiana songs that confirms Hutchings’ stature as a songwriter of the same quality and ilk as the likes of Dirty Three, Gareth Liddiard and Nick Cave.
Over the years Hutchings has developed a distinctive vocal style, complete with mumbles, chewed words and overflowing lines painting descriptive scenes and characters. On rare occasions he has overcrowded lines or invested too much drama but here he manages his voice perfectly, sounding like an outback troubadour on New Vagabond or an emotive Springsteen on the achingly epic Cicada Symphony.
Hutchings has stretched the possibilities of percussion on the album by stepping outside traditional form and function to work up some unique collisions of various rattled and beaten objects. This adds a wonderful loose feel to the album, keeping it grounded and rustic while adding an explorative edge. Other variations include a duet with wife Erin on When It’ll Blow. Her voice has a shrillness that harks back to English folk of the 60s and it works surprisingly well alongside Hutchings’ rougher tones.
Hutchings’ solo albums have always felt like the flip-side to the bruising swagger of Bluebottle Kiss and on Avalon Cassettes there is a strong focus on portraying the songs with minimal and exacting instrumentation – whether it be a saw, typewriter, thai flute or the absolutely gorgeous piano phrases of Smoky Dawson courtesy of sister Sophie. The song is an example of Hutchings’ wordiness at its most elaborate – using Dawson as a symbol of fading memories and the mysteries of legend before a gloriously coruscating Nels Cline/Neil Young style guitar solo teasingly evokes the spirit of BBK and highlights Hutchings’ restless and mercurial creativity.
this review first appeared in Drum Media