After more than a decade without an album from the Aussie supergroup, Tex Perkins (The Cruel Sea), Don Walker (Cold Chisel) and Charlie Owen(Beasts of Bourbon) the trio have returned with You Don’t Know Lonely.
Filled with bluesy, Americana songs with lyrics that carry you away with their deep narrative, You Don’t Know Lonely was worth the wait.
And now the guys are coming to play it for us in Adelaide at The Gov on Thursday September 14 with special guests, The Ahern Brothers.
We had a chat with legendary musician and songwriter Don Walker about the album, the band and how he finds his stories to tell through song.
With the last album, All is Forgiven having been released in 2005 and the two before that in the early ‘90s, Don says the group keep coming back together whenever they can.
“As Tex pointed out the other day, we’re on a twelve-year cycle. Most of the time in between, we don’t play with each other. When we do an album and a tour, of course, this is not our main thing. We don’t spend enough time with each other to get sick of each other,” he laughs.
“And we did this when we were relatively young men, and we did this when we’re a lot older, and now we’ve done it when we’re a lot older again. So it’s good. For this project, it kicked off with Tex, Charlie and I getting into Charlie’s lounge room one night 18 months ago and Charlie’s got an old piano and a set of acoustic instruments. We started playing some new songs together and it instantly sounded good. And that’s always been the thing with Tex, Don, and Charlie. It’s an unlikely combination, the three of us. But what surprised us in the beginning and continues to surprise us is that, when the three of us get in a room, it sounds good.”
But despite many years between jams and albums, Don says the ensemble’s chemistry is never affected.
“You know, we haven’t changed much,” he says. “We’re using the same instrumentation. The only thing that’s changed is that, each time we do an album, we’re at a considerably different stage in life and we have a different set of songs. We’ve always been soulmates, the main thing going on with us is songs. And those songs come from life and now you’ve got three albums from three very different stages in life.”
Famous for legendary hits like Cold Chisel’s ‘Flame Trees’, ‘Khe Sahn’ and ‘Cheap Wine’, Don Walker’s songs are always a stunning narrative inspired by his life and travels.
“Sometimes you make stuff up and sometimes you might, use people you know or use people you have known as a carefully disguised character or events, or something like that. But it’s always informed by where you are or what you’ve been through in real life. So it’s from real life in that sense.”
His favourite track from You Don’t Know Lonely however, is one of Tex’s called ‘I’ve Been in Conflict with Nature’ which reminds him of his youth, with ‘Here’s as Good as Anywhere’ and ‘Plan B’ being my favourites.
“That song begins with the line, “I went down to the dogs on a Saturday night” and I spent my teenage years in a house across from the racetrack in Grafton, and the dog track was around the back of the racetrack. So we had the guys walking up and down outside our house exercising their dogs. And, in fact, there’s a quiet corner of the racetrack across the road where late at night or, just on dusk, if they though nobody was looking, they’d occasionally exercise their dogs with some bunny rabbits, which is very frowned upon now. But it was only a little bit frowned upon, then,” he says.
“It’s about somebody who’s had a win on the dogs and what he does with the money. So, I just love that whole setting. And the other two songs you mentioned [‘Here’s as Good as Anywhere’ and ‘Plan B’]… you know, I used to do a lot of hitchhiking when I was young. Not so much when I got into my 30s and could afford a car. So that’s definitely informed by life, getting down off a truck in a place you’ve never been.
You Don’t Know Lonely has a strong Americana feel, which Don says he’s been influenced by his whole life.
“From when I was two years old I was listening to my father’s favourite big band albums. Everything. Gospel, jazz. I’ve always been a big jazz fan, and rock and roll. But I’m also aware that, because I’m non-American and I’m not American culturally, when I do something with my mates who are non-American, we don’t sound American. And you only have to play what we do to Americans and they can hear it straight away. This isn’t American. It’s better,” he laughs.
“I spent 20 years of my life, you know, going to church every Sunday and singing hymns. And I didn’t when I was much older. But, you know, that music gets into your marrow a bit, if you spend 20 years of your life listening to it and singing it every Sunday morning. The old Irish hymns in particular, the ancient Irish hymns are hair raising, their spectacular chord changes and words.”
Don is no stranger to Adelaide and is looking forward to coming back here to play in September at The Gov.
“I like Adelaide because I’ve got friends there. Dave Blight lives there, a harmonica player who’s been a friend since the first years before Cold Chisel. I like it because I spent, you know, nearly two and a half years of my youth living and working there. And so I like it for those reasons. It’s changed a lot since then and I like walking around and just clocking the changes,” he says.
“South Australia hasn’t had an easy time in recent years economically. And I’m not going to go into the politics of that, but I noticed that in the last ten years when I was visiting Adelaide to do a gig, just walking around. It’s a place that’s in my heart because I spent a very enjoyable few years there when I was young and free.”
You can catch Tex, Don and Charlie being young and free in Adelaide on September 13 at The Gov with tickets HERE and You Don’t Know Lonely is available now through EMI/Universal Music.
By Libby Parker