Monday, December 7, 2009


Monday, February 25, 2008 
Northcote Social Club

The influence of American music on Australian music, though ever-present, seems to be a growing force of late. It's there in the voices of almost everyone on Australian Idol and it's infiltration in the vocalstylings of any singers go almost unnoticed now. Tonight's opening act, hand-picked by the fascinating headliner Lisa Mitchell is, at least, acknowledging of her obvious influences. There is no reason why Ashleigh Mannix shouldn't be kicking arse on national TV right now. Yes she is talented, has a charming rapport, lovely voice and photogenic good looks but yet another girl thrumming ablonde Maton really has to be doing something a little different to make an impression these days. Mannix comes across as Kat Frankie with milk teeth, especially on her better numbers like Torn, Pieces Of You, and White. It's early days and you can't help for feeling that someone finding their feet in such well-worn shoes may do better barefoot.

Someone who doesn't use the audience as therapist, diary or soundtrack to a Byron Bay summer as so many guitarist/songwriters do, is Leeroy Lee, a name you can safely invest in right now such is his talent, originality, songwriting skills and comfortable nature on the mic. As easy cracking jokes about recycled riffs for an environmentally-themed song as he would be trouncing Xavier Rudd in a slide showdown, Lee is clearly not going to be unknown for long. Never altering the sound of his guitar, he creates atmospheres efficiently with e-bow, reverb and delay then places his brittle guitar lines and warm voice on to great effect. Songs like Them Bad Apples, Sweetly Sugarcane and Draw in Smoke would be equally at home on a MOJO compilation CD, in an American indie flick or played at Port Fairy - it is rare for such a talented guitarist to write so well. Lee possesses a voice as warm as Nick Drake's but with greater intimacy and is maybe even more engaging as a result. It's when the loop station/delay is brought in that it feels as though a wall has gone up - gone is the organic connection he constructs so well, though it must be said, this seemed to bother no one else and is not likely to be noticed on record, the first of which will be coming out shortly and will only serve to broaden Lee's profile.

Lisa Mitchell must be the most curious guitar-wielder to have turned up in an aeon let alone to have made the final six of Australian Idol. Barely 17, at first you could mistake her Joanna Newsom/Hope Sandoval-mannered voice as a cheap cop-off, but when she talks - stiltedly but openly - it becomes apparent, this is her voice. And what an instrument it is. Somehow taking lyrics that a 17-year old would burn in embarrassment and making them into gorgeously captivating paeans to her sister (Hey Now), growing up (Sometimes I Feel Like Alice) and a good night's sleep (Incomplete Lullaby) she is disarmingly honest and, though undeniably quirky, it's refreshingly genuine quirk. Transfixing the largely seated audience (many of whom seemed to have traveled down from Mitchell's hometown of Albury) seems second nature to her already and though there were a few bum chords, a lot of repeated lyrics and the underwhelming new song See You When You Get Here, Mitchell is an undeniably compelling figure who clearly has been blessed by good sense and a keen eye for detail. Expect great things to become greater.

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