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REVIEW: Big country tribute to little-known tracks (The Australian)

[ 6 ] January 22, 2012 |

Cortney Tidwell, left, and Kurt Wagner are the basis of country music-inspired KORT. Source: Supplied

MUSIC – KORT, The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, January 19

KURT Wagner has three guises at Sydney Festival, including under his own name and fronting the Nashville band Lambchop, for which he has become most recognised in the past 20 years.

KORT, then, is a slight diversion from his usual track, but one that still falls within the embrace of country-soul, his genre of choice.

Essentially KORT is a country duo, made up of Wagner and fellow Nashville singer-songwriter Cortney Tidwell. Wagner has more of a recording pedigree, but it’s Tidwell’s family history that forms the backbone of this show.

The project is mainly a tribute to a long-lost Nashville record label, Chart Records, which was owned by Tidwell’s grandfather in the 1960s and 70s.

It was hardly a hit factory, but the songs it produced with a variety of obscure artists have the same hallmarks of country songwriting – lost love, the wide open road, doing it tough – that put everyone from Hank Williams to Dolly Parton on the world map.

Wagner and Tidwell are a slightly odd pairing. His deep baritone lends an ironic tint to his interpretations of songs such as Let’s Think About Where We’re Going and Incredibly Lonely, but somehow it works as a foil to Tidwell’s purer and at times powerful country twang.

Even so, it’s the tracks on which Tidwell sings solo or close to it that stick out here, most successfully the aching He’s Only a Memory Away and the slightly mischievous I Can’t Sleep With You ( . . . “on my mind”).

Most of the songs from the KORT album, Invariable Heartache, get an airing and even the least memorable of them are given a rewarding sheen by the performance of the four-piece ensemble made up of Lambchop members on drums, stand-up bass, guitar and keyboards. There is also a diversion into more rock ‘n ‘roll territory, with a sexy, swampy delivery of the old Johnny Kidd and the Pirates song Please Don’t Touch, although Wagner takes delight in pointing out that they are paying homage to the Motorhead-Girlschool version.

The joy of arts festival music programming is seeing something that you would be unlikely to see anywhere else.

KORT is a good example of that and an absorbing dip into a largely forgotten catalogue.

Tidwell, as well as Lambchop, has a new album coming out this year.

Hopefully that will allow her to come back to Australia with her own catalogue in tow.

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Category: Press & Reviews

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