It's a rare opportunity in this globalized world we live in to come across music that's largely undiscovered. But that's just what is happening with a new recording by Roger Knox. An Australian aborigine country singer, Knox joined with the Waco Brothers' Jon Langford and a host of guest performers to record obscure native folk tunes written by his peers and predecessors detailing the lore, loves and woes of aborigine life.
Not unlike American folk music pioneers who combed the Appalachians and cotton fields for undiscovered blues and folk songs in the 1930s and '40s, the 12 songs here were rarities - some merely being tunes passed down from generation to generation. And there are striking similarities in theme between the American and aboriginal writers - loneliness, drinking, lost love and hitting the road just some of them - although references to digeridoos, kangaroos and gum trees are exclusively Aussie.
Knox's vocals rumble across this thoroughly entertaining collection of songs like Streets of Tamworth while Ticket to Nowhere gets a vocal assist from late Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Louvin. Knox also gets fine musical backing from the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, a loose collection of Chicago musicians, as well as Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms and Dave Alvin, who guests on several cuts.
While the importance of this album in historical terms goes without saying, the musical spark added by Langford and his colleagues makes it engaging listen as well.