MOONEE VALLEY DRIFTERS - BY JAMES BLACK
Produced by JAMES BLACK, Melbourne’s very own classic swing, honkytonk-country and boogie band, MOONEE VALLEY DRIFTERS launched their 6th studio album ‘Hill & Range Music’ at MEMO Music Hall, St Kilda, featuring special guest performers; JAMES BLACK (keys), ED BATES (pedal steel), and special guest vocalist GABBY BECK.
The MOONEE VALLEY DRIFTERS were very excited to return to familiar turf since the 90s when they packed out the Espy on their regular PBS radio live-to-air show “Swingin’ On The Sidewalks” and full-house shows at the Greyhound Hotel. Over the past 32 years the MVDs have also become a favourite in the festival circuit that includes: The Byron Bay Blues Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Gimpy Muster Festival, Tamworth Country Festival & more.
ABOUT THE BAND and THE NEW ALBUM….I clearly remember the first time I met the Moonee Valley Drifters. It was the Terminus Hotel in 1987. I sat at the old piano in the empty bar in the afternoon and we played a bunch of songs that I knew from records but had never actually played. We sat close together without microphones. Just behind me, Tom was singing and thumpin’ his old Martin guitar. To my right, Curly played brushes on his thighs while Rob played a Telecaster with a strange foam ‘comfort’ block on it and ex-US Navyman Peter Linden played Pedal Steel like nothing I had heard before. At the far end of the piano Paul Pyle (complete with his own supply of beer in a personal esky!) played the wildest 2 beat bass. That was a moment. Along with our mutual love of Western Swing Tom introduced me and many others to the joys and sorrows of the Louvin Brothers, Lefty Frizzell, George Jones and Brenda Lee.
Many musicians have passed through the ranks but the Drifters continue the tradition to write, record and play their music. It’s clearly a life sentence. Tom Forsell, an expatriate Michigander of Swedish, Finnish and Croatian heritage (I guess that explains the piano accordion) has lived in Australia for 40 years. He brought the real roots of country to Australia with him. Sure we have our own versions of bush country, Tamworth country, Aboriginal country, even Fitzroy country, but Tom brought the love of the song, a respect for the great feeling that country is capable of and the release created by dancing – all central to the origins of the music. At its heart, this is a people’s music that survives no matter what Nashville, the music industry and Tamworth try to do to it. For their 6th studio album, I was asked to help record it and I will always say yes! We set up a studio in my kitchen and lounge room while my wife was away and over two days we recorded the album live, apart from a few backing vocals and piano overdubs. The current band features John ‘Dude’ Brockton on drums and for the first time on a MVD record, he sings lead on Nick’s ‘Haulin’ Freight’. Thirty years after first joining the band, Rob Grenville returns to play his 1960’s Gibson electric. The steel duties were shared on the record between Nick Summers and Ed Bates and the new boy in town is Steve Temple on beautiful big double bass.
The MOONEE VALLEY DRIFTERS ‘Hill & Range Music’ is a selection of songs from Tom’s musical history (he claims to know 800 songs!), a handful of new tunes written by Tom, and Nick’s ode to his other profession (he actually is a truck driver). Special guest vocalist is Gabby Beck (Tom’s daughter) on “Am I Fool Number One?”
I know you will enjoy their new CD. It is full of life. But I want to encourage you to go out and see them play, have a dance, buy a drink and celebrate the music of Tom Forsell and the Moonee Valley Drifters.
James Black February 2017