Gus McKay


(Rollin’ Plains Media)

The musicians featured here include McKay on guitar and harp, Ronan Charles drums sax and keys, Phil Waldron bass banjo cello trumpet fiddle and pedal steel (lazy sod), Paul Andrews on sax – all on a set of McKay-penned numbers. Production is in the hands of Charles, Waldron and McKay. A hack has dubbed this Australicana. Gus’ axe gear embraces Teles, Strats, a 1940’s Dobro and a Galvo resonator made from century-old roof tin. So the vicar can stop wondering what happened… and we can hear some music from Western Australia.

Starter cut Art Of Living confirms the hunch that this album might appeal to fans of Ry Cooder’s arid desert soundscapes for films. It’s dreamy, hazy, reflective and deliberately airy music. The band doesn’t fall in as much as stumble into the song, tumbleweed style. The vocal is dry and unforced. Then a grimy guitar starts riffing, The overall vibe is Portishead dumped in the Badlands, wishing they Crazy Horse. Then the song is gone.

On to Fallen Down, with cruising Hammond and an easy tempo, guitar amp tremelo humming away. Another relaxed vocal using a kind of J J Cale rasp that is equally Willie Nelson. A lonesome trumpet slips slivers into the slow lurching ensemble sound. McKay is no Pavarotti but what he sings fits with this resigned and rickety soundscape. Hundred Acres mines that filmic mood, shuddering electric guitar chords and lazy trumpet floating like a vulture overhead. This sub-Tom Waits stuff gives the drummer complete freedom and traces of Hi label as well as Taj Mahal can be detected. A distorted vocal evokes Jim White and his edge-of-crazy approach. Without warning the whole song toughens up then fades off.

Piawaning Suit employs the banjo over a syncopated beat and a relatively urgent vocal. Heaven knows what it’s about but intensity drives it all forward. The Man hits a winsome groove with string bass and puffs of harp. I am reminded of the old Western Little Big Man, somehow. Muse is stripped back, semi-spoken and centred on inspiration from a female. By far my favourite number here, a lovely tune pokes through the elements. Pedal steel wisps underline the desolation. Next up Bohemian Life pokes through the heathaze to deliver a vinegary ballad of sorts, with sad violin.

Murchison Sequel is odd indeed as it starts with a kind of heartbeat before evolving into the lightest of skipping tempo’s which suddenly sounds much bluesier for a few bars. This is reminding me of a thriller film called The Hot Spot, with Don Johnson starring and Miles Davis on some of the soundtrack. Gingin Morning is gentleness itself with evocative slide guitar and a narrative lyric. Matters conclude with Last Dance and its spidery banjo plucking and wheezing harp whines.

If you are in search of crisply-formed pop songs, neatly produced then this really isn’t your stop. But if you fancy a heady, easy-paced ramble around cinematic moods with roots instruments to the fore maybe this is up your desert…

Pete Sargeant



(Thanks to Tenacity)

Gus McKay's new album 'Talisman' is out now on Rollin’ Plains Media. 

For more information visit his official website here: