Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Despite a cover and title better suited to a sleepy-eyed return to roots (Bull Creek being Bob Evans’ aka Kevin Mitchell’s home suburb of Perth), and a god-awful and thankfully misleading promotional picture in which he looks like an electrocuted Skyhook, this album is a revelation. Goodnight Bull Creek! feels as if it were built to document the final years of Evans’ Saturn Return so enmeshed in reflection is it, yet somehow the album finds him being the guy you’re glad pulled over when you’re hitchhiking; capable, friendly but not pushy and familiar with the land.
Mitchell’s songwriting is of the Tim Rogers / Neil Finn / Elliot Smith variety. While nothing new, it finds its authenticity in slack rhythms, homespun lyrics and a warm and easy production courtesy of Australian indie-country songwriters’ go-to guy in Tennessee, Brad Jones. Crack local session musicians have been used incredibly well (particularly singer Melissa Mathers) and sweet vocal and string arrangements accentuate the fragility of the album’s ballads Your Love and Wintersong, while the oddly beguiling twee bossa nova of Power Of Speech doesn’t sound out of place. Several songs sound readymade for radio (no bad thing when they’re this well-crafted) particularly the affecting pop of It’s A Beginning and album high point and final song, the springing, poignant Everything Goes.
That the album sounds very American is no bad thing. The songs are clearly still his and I’m sure Mitchell is thrilled with the result as he must have been with Suburban Songbook to come back to the same producer and musicians, but this record sounds inescapably more Nashville than Perth, though there isn’t the sense of treading water as often happens with these unexpected successes.
Intended to be the final chapter in a ‘suburban trilogy’, Mitchell balances the idea of turning your back on childhood while mining it for inspiration in the way only someone in their late twenties finally embracing adulthood can. Mellencamp-throwaway Hand Me Downs, the Creedence-lite Nuthin’s Gonna Tear Me Away From You and the inescapably Finn-esque rocker We’re A Mess are great examples. It’s a tight walk but he comes out smiling; good songwriting, top-notch playing and warm sounds equals happy punters. ‘We made it once we’ll make it twice / I’ll jump my car we’ll roll the dice / And who’s to say that we couldn’t start again?’
Goodnight Bull Creek, Good Mornin’ America?