The story of Prog is as much the story of The Blues, Jazz, Classical and just about every other musical genre that has been captured into the orbit of this wonderful form of sound. That’s not to say that this is a Prog album, per se, (it’s not) but it does lend itself to our well-comforted ears that likes something different, “alternative” as Aussie Bluesman and traveling picker, Gus McKay describes it. He went and recorded a 10 track album (“Talisman” is his 5th Studio recorded album) with a group of talented musicians behind him which by the look of the titles of these songs on there are a reflection in parts on his self and surroundings out there in Freemantle, Western Australia.
You can feel that right from the first track “Art Of Living,” a song of two halves starting off with an almost surreal, out-of-body vibe aided by slide guitar and haunting vocals. The second part has a rocking bluesy upbeat feel but continuing with the same theme with sax and trumpet complimented by organ. Each song travels to the next as if a story is being told from the deepest part of his life’s experiences. In a way it’s not so much Blues as philosophical in a typical rural and stoic way of life. And there is a story to be told. The 2nd track, “Fallen Down” with lyrics such as ‘My heart is in your hands, it’s just stopped beating...’ you just know he’s coming from a hard, familiar place filled in places with “these are the cards I was dealt with” and allowing it to slowly come out through the pours of his songwriting.
Gus McKay, hails from, as stated, Western Australia where he has spent twenty most of his life farming. That’s rural to you and me and includes a great stretch of outback dividing the cities and towns along the way. The land is as much a part of him as he is a part of it and it shows on this album. Just as he likes to confess he’s “a picker,” (an earlybird who hunt swap meets, estate sales, thrift stores, etc and scoops up the good deals – Urban Dictionary), Gus will find abandoned farms and either “pick” up the odd left behind to rust item, or take photos of said items for his collection. Let’s not forget he’s a guitarist as well so the title is apt depending on the occasion. As Gus says, “If you like my music… I would assume you are somewhat of any “Earthy” person/listener. Its gritty and real… Hence my interests other than music, well I guess reflect my tastes and personality.” There’s that Cat Steven’s “On the Road To Find Out” aspect to his recordings, kind of taking you with him as a passenger in a beat up truck traveling the dusty, lonely roads on cloudless warm days with a standing sun towards new stories along the way. He’s also got 20 years as a seasoned recording artist and performer/producer behind him, and as said, this is his fifth album to date recorded over a seven month period mostly in a live setting. As Gus said, “the magic happened, in a converted 1950’s Service ( Gas ) station in the hills of Perth, West Australia. and mastered at the world famous Abbey Rd Studios, London. if that’s not surreal then I don’t know what is.
Memories are also collected and put into these songs which also incorporate aspects of Peter Green and dare I say Led Zeppelin at their rawest in small doses, if you’re looking for comparisons. Raunchy guitars come out of nowhere at an angle and you’re left there trying to latch onto it before some other sound, be it sax or cello grabs your attention. There are elements of Jazz and Psych Rock woven into some of these pieces, but it’s more often than not hard to peg any genre other than this album speaking form the heart and the soil. The album title suggests journeys not only in distance but also experiences, and it is as Gus puts it “your own Talisman to guard you, and bring good things into your life.” There are characters here in the lyrics if you care to sit a while and here them. An overdressed salesman, sharing a beer in the early morning, the rusted skin of cars in the openness…. it’s outback.
To purchase Gus McKay’s latest album and others visit his website to view and order.