Jordie Lane‘s release Glassellland has been around Australian traps for a while, having been released there in September 2016. The album has received significant acclaim from this warmly-regarded ex-pat Australian roots artist and now, with its world-wide release in late 2018, I thought it timely to reflect on the virtues contained within.
First up, the album title refers to the Glassellland sign in Glassell Park in suburban Los Angeles where Lane has spent some time (he now lives in Nashville). The sign is likely an ironic and working-class nod to the famed Hollywood sign (originally ‘Hollywoodland’).
It is Lane’s first studio album in five years. In many ways the record owes a lot to Clare Reynolds who has had her own busy career as a singer/songwriter. The pair struck up a friendship at a songwriting night in Australia, commenced writing and singing together, eventually coming to perform in the locally well-received theatrical production Grievous Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons as Emmylou Harris and Parsons – this was a terrific collaboration which they pulled off despite the ambitious nature of the project.
Glassellland was produced by Reynolds (she has worked with Timbaland) and somehow the pair created this seamless collage in a series of transitory studios, which they built and deconstructed in varying spaces in northeast Los Angeles, with studios doubling as kitchens and confined spaces from which there was no escape from the music. To add to this highly personal touch, the pair also engineered and played every sound on the album With Reynolds training as an opera singer and Lane’s background as child to a circus troupe couple and nomadic ways, the duo’s perspectives were vastly different which greatly freshened the process thereby enhancing the finished product.
Glasselland has many observations from Lane’s time in America and his well-known, dry humour seeps through much of its content. He is an outsider who is happily immersing himself in another world. There is a special closeness we have with Americans in music and culture more broadly, but there are stark differences where we are polls apart – levels of outspokenness, respect for our leaders, awareness of the rest of the world, gun culture. This dichotomy gives Australians a unique perspective and, in this respect, Lane is ahead of the game. Case in point, “America, Won’t You Make My Dreams Come True?” with its Americanisms and pop culture references. If you listen hard you will uncover some gems and a clear landscape as to the craziness going on in his adopted country (I wonder what the hell Lane would make of happenings in the USA since he wrote the song!).
Another gem is “Black Diamond”, a catchy track documenting an old Australian miner’s tale of paying money to sleep with a ghost. See the clip where Lane performs the song at Folk Alley Sessions helped out by The (Former) Stray Birds.
There’s the tender “Time Just Flew” and “Act Like This”, full of resigned regret about missed opportunities, love lost and fatigue associated with mundane life. The finger picking lights up “Dreamin’ The Life” an alternate take on ‘living the dream’ and the closing, touching love story of “Rambling Mind”. “In Dreams Of War” a Beatle-esque piece overflowing with insights of everyday self-interest.
The total clincher though is the totally vivid and disturbing narrative of Lane’s great-grandfather and his war-time experiences – “Frederick Steele McNeil Ferguson”. With a resonating, sparse riff and steady, front-of-house percussion, this is reminiscent of the great Neil Young brooding arrangements. Buy the album just for this song – harrowing.
Why it has taken Glassellland so long to get a wide release, I know not. It matters not. The time to enjoy this personal, discerning, exemplary assemblage is now.