Spike Flynn – It’s Alright
I met Spike Flynn just over a year ago at one of his rare gigs in Sydney. I’d seen him around roots venues and we’d nodded to each other and we started to have some conversations about music and other players around town, and then through the music and we shared a few things about our lives and found we had some things in common. I bumped him again recently and he gave me a copy of his recently completed CD, It’s Alright. He was pretty excited and relieved as this was his first and the road to it’s completion was a twisted and torturous one. He’s been plugging it around town and on the internet, so I thought I’d write a review, based on my liking of the record and also what I know of Spike through those conversations. I can relate to where he’s been both emotionally and physically – he’s from Western New South Wales, the dry country where the river run slow and unreliable.
Spike Flynn has been writing and singing his songs for a long time. All the while Spike has been on the move, restlessly working at perfecting these songs, and realigning his life to these efforts, towards some acceptable resolution to his musical and life pursuits.
There is a sense of movement and journey across the emotional and psychological terrains in It’s Alright, and this matches the cadence of Spike’s personal journeys, retracing his steps with reverential nods to country blues, balladeers, enduring friendships, the drama of wide blue skies and black eternal nights, and the poets that flourish and die underneath.
At times Spike moves across the vast dry plains and small western towns of New South Wales, Australia, with confident lengthy strides; at others he falters, slowed with a load and trudging through the sludge. In more generous times Spike can be found promenading and pirouetting on a lucky drunk, or pausing for centredness on a parade for reverential prayer. It’s Alright is a journey from the Big Dry to cool harbours, from parching dust to smothering humidity; from alienation and separation from values, to a hard fought return to honesty, kindness and the freedom brought through acceptance.
Flynn says on his liner notes that sorrow and joy can lead to acceptance and strength. And that’s how this journey kicks off with It’s Alright, the title track in which Spike lets us know the blues are our constant companion, and our saviour. They come from the same place as love, and love is hope. From the cradle to the grave, from sunrise to sunset they shadow us. Walking tall, with a cast of easily recognisable characters who get a raw deal in life and love, Spike cajoles and walks us with his band into an easy acceptance of this truth and leaves us with hope – it’s all right.
A Bluesy take on the drought follows and with Fallin Rain Blues Spike frog-marches us down the road of lost love with moody guitar, organ and piano. It’s a good blues standard with Spike’s vocals matching the prevailing climatic conditions. And of course there’s a getaway train, express to the next lesson in life and love. Silver Nitrate Serenade with its slow walking beat is that lesson, complete with photo albums of memories, ruminations and possessiveness of obsessions. Attempts at goodwill to this particular love are questioned seriously with a sax siren that highlights the bipolar nature of Flynn’s reminiscences.
Breaking out of the trudge with a jaunty two stepping turn comes a revival of sorts; of love, rescue and reward, at the risk of further damage with Falling into Love – Out of Self Defence. Pushed along by some polished flat picking and country rhythm comes the equation “if you don’t choose love, what’ve you got?” You may have to burn to get warm is the message of this clever weighin up of the odds.
Hard times , it seems is from another time and place – with Henry Lawson, the legendary bard from the bush, centre stage in the parlour, telling a story with the station owner’s wife accompanying him on piano. This song evokes the unsettling sad beauty of Henry leaving, again to return to the city alone, leaving a silence heavy with a sad secret intact.
Penny Whistle Lament – a story for us all. Dreams, songs, altruism, values, and goodness, turned to dust by our own reckless indulgences and destructiveness, and carried away on any passing breeze. The song sings of soft defeat but its musical accompaniment is anything but soft; it is relentless and unsettling and Flynn sings with the horror of those nights alone with nothing but the night wind calling.
Like a Runaway Train, & That’s the Way it Goes – are upbeat and positive. No matter where we’ve been or what’s happened, the kernel of who we are at birth remains close and within reach through all our dark days. Spike begs us to look for that safe place to retreat to when despair sets in. Keep it close, keep it simple and keep moving, with a tut in your strut, and a little glide in your stride.
The closing track Hold On, is a beautifully paced goodnight prayer; a prayer to you and me to keep the faith in ourselves, in all our changing states along the way. We have come full circle with Spike and the album finishes where it began – with hope and acceptance, delivered with integrity and strength.
Spike demonstrates that whatever he has been through he has been served well by holding close the values and truths he was given. Along with these gifts, the wisdom gathered and the tears sprung and from life’s joys and sorrows, have hydrated and nourished the arid landscapes of Spike’s past, and the paddocks are now well prepared for the next planting, and I look forward to that harvest with great impatience.
Have a little look at him and a little listen on Spike’s My Space site: