Orphans: Kath Buckell at The Living Room
Before the second song of her showcase at The Living Room on August 14, Kath Buckell took the time to give the packed lounge an Australian history lesson.
“I don’t know if many of you are familiar with a term in Australia called ‘The Stolen Generation,’” Kath reflected to the audience. “It’s about the indigenous children in Australia that were stolen from their homes by the government, and this song is inspired by one woman’s account of it.
Kath and her four-piece band then soared into “Orphaned by the Color of My Skin,” the standout track from her soon-to-be-released debut album Faces Do Not Change. Featuring Hadar Noiberg on flute, the song filled the lounge with an epic sweep that is particularly rare for the Lower East Side club.
“I’m not so connected to (the music of Australia) but I’m connected to the country’s poetry and literature,” Kath said prior to her 45-minute set.
She cited the work of Mary Terzak, whose autobiography Orphaned By the Colour of My Skin: A Stolen Generation Story inspired the track of the same name, which absorbs the listener with a tapestry of acoustic rhythms, pounding drums beats and fluttering melodies that, when partnered with Kath’s deep vocals, transported the claustrophobic Living Room from the Empire State to the Australian Outback.
From that thrilling opener, Kath kept up the theme of internationalism with “Weary Drover” and “Things We Dare Not Tell,” a traveling song with a Gaelic lilt and a haunting ballad that takes its lyrics from a poem by Australian poet Henry Lawson.
“There’s a cruel lie that we suffer for, that the public must not know,” Kath cried out while staring out into space.
Throughout the show, Kath was joined on harmonies by Ula Hedwig, her friend and mentor as well as a Broadway veteran who has performed with the likes of Bette Midler and Paul Simon. They closed the set with the slow jam “Bird of Mine,” a song written years ago by Ula to her son. For this songs, the two singers traded roles; Ula took the lead and Kath harmonized. It was a downbeat way to end an often profound and wide-ranging set, but it didn’t matter. Faces had already changed.
Watch the video for “Orphaned by the Color of my Skin below