Inspired by the red dust and lunar landscapes of WA’s Kimberley and Pilbara regions, this 2019 album was recorded with a live band Jennifer Maidman (Boy George, Penguin Cafe Orchestra), Paddy Milner (Tom Jones), Evan Jenkins (Neil Cowley Trio), Karlos Edwards (Robert Palmer, Michael Buble), Ollie Clark, Sani Bolton and Maryen’s son Elvis Kernaghan guesting on electric guitar. and produced by Chris Kimsey. Here we see Maryen stepping away from the world and folky styles from her previous album, although there are still elements of that, but on the title track she allows her vocals to soar and the electric guitar break is quite superb as it transforms the piece.
Overall this is a more varied album than ‘Femina Australis’, yet still manages to retain her roots, so she uses a steel when the time is right, or a violin, and plenty of piano and warm fretless bass. It is again the album of a mature artist who is confident in her ability and songwriting skills. She can put an edge on her vocals, or just lift them up showing her soprano range, or let it come down lower to provide more emotion. Lyrics are incredibly important to Cairns, and each song really is a story in its own right although here we cover subjects such as fairweather friends. It is interesting to compare the two albums as in many ways they are quite similar, yet in others very different indeed. These days Maryen lives in Guernsey, so a long way removed in so many ways from her home country and lands which inspired this. But just listening to this album takes me over the Tasman, and makes me want to discover more of the wonderful country (being a NZ citizen I am now of course duty bound to point out that the country is full of Australians, which is never a good thing. Ex-Prime Minister is famously quoted as saying “New Zealanders who leave for Australia raise the IQ of both countries”).
This is music inspired by the vast Australia which is found outside the cities. I’ve only seen a snippet of it, as my frequent visits tend to be either to Sydney or Melbourne, but listening to this album allows me to see it through Maryen’s eyes, and it is a fine sight indeed.