‘Hello Beer’ could just be the best song-title ever! And the lyrics aren’t far behind: “Hello Beer, how was your day, mine was OK, can you take me away.”
Bryen Willems is a rare artist in that he can walk the fine line between humour and reverence. He doesn’t take himself too seriously (hence his sobriquet, “The Swamp Duck”), and yet he is an extremely talented musician and writer, in that sense, he reminds me of Willie Nelson. You can always sense the wry smile about to break the weathered facade.
Anyhoo, Willems, who has become a permanent fixture of the Australian country underground since relocating here from Louisiana, has produced another cracking record with No Band Here Till Friday. First up, it sounds fantastic. Willems does a great line in country outlaw vocals – at his best you can close your eyes and you could be listening to Waylon Jennings or Merle Haggard. And the instrumental performances are consistently world class, Hamish Davidson’s fiddle, Jake Lardot’s electric guitar, and Tomi Graso’s pedal steel shining particularly brightly.
Willems also excels in writing the kind of tough guy jocular one minute, heartbroken the next material that the original country outlaws thrived on. Songs like ‘She Let Herself Go’ and ‘Two For One Cocktails’ (both co-written with Allan Caswell) are perfect examples.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to write a lot of them. There are only a few originals among these 12 selections, but the non-original material is well-selected and claimed with authority, particularly Steve Earle’s ‘Nowhere Road’, Dennis Adkins”Ace In The Hole’, Gary Gentry/Johnny Paycheck’s ‘Drinkin and Drivin’ and Hank Williams”You Win Again’. There are very few people making country music this good in this country.
Rhythms Magazine – Australia’s Roots Music Monthly