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Buried Country

By Clinton Walker

Verse Chorus Press, 368 pages, $29.95 (reissue, expanded version)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver, May 2015

Find it on Amazon
Fifteen years ago Australian music critic and historian Clinton Walker published the original version of "Buried Country," which at the time also included a documentary film and accompanying soundtrack album. Those latter two pieces are not present with this expanded and reissued update to the book, which makes a simple reading - only pass at it an exercise in imagination and running back and forth from page to YouTube in search of the music to go with the written words. It's worth the effort, as the songs and performances you'll find are eye opening and enjoyable offshoots of more well-worn classic country.

The book concerns a little-known segment of Australian music, the country music performed and sometimes recorded by the aboriginal population of the continent. As such, it is as much a history of the marginalization and disenfranchisement of the aboriginal people as it is a musical chronology; Walker spends time in each section focusing on not just the musical careers, but also the oppressed origins of most of the performers spotlighted.

Even a decade and a half after the original publication date, most who do not live down under will not recognize more than a handful of the artists covered here. Credit Walker with the ability, then, to make the unknown and obscure interesting and relevant, placing them in parallel context with their more well-known American country music counterparts and generally making a case for their own importance.

Jimmy Little, Herb Laughton, Bobby McLeod; the chapters that cover these and other aboriginal country musicians are thoroughly engrossing even without hearing the artists' recordings. Walker is an observer and chronicler, certainly, but his technique has a little of the 'you gotta hear this' attitude of a true enthusiast and fan of the music, a contagious point of view that will have one Googling Slim Dusty and Isaac Yamma videos to listen along while reading.

The new additions to the book bring it up to the present day acts such as Troy Cassar-Daley, a modern mainstream country singer whose newest album came out in March of this year, but its heart is still in the vintage sounds of the late Jimmy Little (who Walker eulogizes briefly in the afterword) and those who endured discrimination and more en route to making their own country music, which, thanks to documentation such as this tome, is no longer buried.