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Cheshire Kim - Rocking Horse To Mar

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 9 / 5 / 2002

Cheshire Kim - Rocking Horse To Mar
Label: Laughing Outlaw
Format: CD


"Relaxed" country offering laced with shots of blues from Kim Cheshire, former lead singer with Golden Guitar-winning band, The Wheel

One thing is certain in this life; we are going to get older and as we do we gain the ability to take on board other musical styles which we might not give the time of day to right now. Sure, Norwegian Death Metal will always be in the record collection, even in later years and whatever the attraction of it is now, the same appeal will be there when listening to it in years to come. But surprisingly country music (not alt. country or new country or whatever name we are going to put on it this year, but traditional, Nashville country music) gets more appealing as the years roll by. It seems impossible as it shouldn’t be that way. It's not very rock and roll to like the same music as our parents, but country music seems to be the road to take for many once the years begin adding up. From Neil Young and The Grateful Dead, who have both made albums full of it, to Billy Bragg’s albums with Wilco, country music, much like jazz, has more appeal as time passes by. Kim Cheshire is the former lead singer with Australia’s The Wheel, winning that country’s most prestigious country award, The Golden Guitar, for two years running in 1996 and 1997 for Best Group Of The Year. In the intervening years since then Kim has been writing the songs for this, his first solo album, and has also been playing in a country / blues band Kings Horse. And it’s these relaxed country sounds which form the backbone of the twelve songs on ‘Rocking Horse From Mars’ for the most part , but Kim laces them as well with shots of blues, giving some tracks a more rootsy feel. There are two covers. The other ten songs are written by Kim alone or with Kevin Bennett (who also co-produced the album with Kim and Jeff McCormack). The first of these covers is a straightforward country reading of a song written by Russell Smith (Amazing Rhythm Aces) and Carol Chase, ‘Anger And Tears’. Good as it is, the other cover is the real gem, taking The Grateful Dead track ‘Ship Of Fools’ from the 70’s and bringing out a tenderness in the song which was not apparent until now, turning what was always a beautiful song into something very special. It’s a stunning version, which features both the always-excellent Kasey Chambers on vocal harmonies and magnificent guitar playing from Stuart French and Kevin Bennett, making the song one of the best tracks here. Of the originals, the opening, ‘Back To My Old Ways Again’, is the most traditional sounding country track on the album and, being the first song, makes you think that you are in for a whole album in the same vein, especially as the ‘Anger And Tears’ cover follows. Then on track three, ‘Ancient History’, a more rootsy and blues sound emerges. It’s this mixture of blues, country and rockabilly that then prevails throughout the remaining tracks. Kim has said that there is “only one biographical song” on the album. The others are fiction with little bits of his own and other people’s lives thrown in. Most of the tracks, however, have a personal theme to the lyrics and they are so good and his storytelling so compelling that it’s a guessing game trying to work out which is the only biographical track. Could it be ‘Big River’, where the singer is listening to Bobby Vee and Tommy Roe on a Saturday night as he is getting ready to go out, and meets the girl of his dreams before realising that, “You just don’t know how the pain of love could deal a heavy blow in big river”. Or maybe it’s 'Gone But Not Forgotten', a touching tale of a parent’s feelings for a child after a marriage break-up. Kim’s vocals are ideally suited to this song; not over emotional, which would have been easy given the subject matter, but sung with the right amount of soul and reassurance in his voice- “I was thirty nine and you were ten, I guess that we’re supposed to act like men, but you were just a kid and I was too”. Currently all bets, however, are on the next track, the bluesy 'All It Took'. It’s a nostalgic tale which starts off with its protagonist wandering around the streets “for hours the day that Jimi died”, before telling how every generation is going to change the world and how we try to hang onto these values even though age brings the realisation that it’s not going to happen. “We made it to the 80’s but the vision lost it’s shine” is another example of Kim’s talent of expressing his feelings so well. But, for me, the simple line in that song, “I was only seventeen and that was all it took”, says it all and sums up the whole point of the song in a few well-chosen words. Throughout the whole album the playing by Kim’s chosen co-musicians is superb. Real instruments played with conviction and a live feeling, coupled with Kim’s outstanding lyrics, make this another outstanding release from Laughing Outlaw Records.

Track Listing:-
1 Back To My Old Ways Again
2 Anger and Tears
3 Ancient History
4 Ship Of Fools
5 Big River
6 That’s Right
7 Gone But Not Forgotten
8 All It Took
9 The Good Life
10 No Place Like Home
11 Looks Like Trouble
12 You Were Gone

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