Roger Knox (Australia)
with Jon Langford and Jean Cook
A shining light on the Australian country music scene. Roger Knox is a force. A formidable one indeed. (Mess + Noise)
Roger Knox, also known as the Koori King of Country, is an Aboriginal country star with a honeyed bear-hug of a voice. He masterfully carries forward the vast tradition of down-under country music that has been forged by a struggling people in the dustbowl of the outback.
Country music crossed hemispheres in the kitbags of WWII US servicemen, and struck a chord with the voiceless and near-invisible Aboriginal population in Australia. Soon, American cowboy songs and honkytonk classics were retooled to describe rugged outback lifestyles and the migration from country to city. As it turns out, you can’t beat country music as a vehicle for telling tough tales and the Aboriginal Country & Western Songbook is peppered with drinking songs and prison songs; songs that yearn for justice and for home; songs of alienation and the loneliness of the outsider. Humor, resignation and outrage stalk a superficially familiar musical landscape that’s been re-populated with stockmen, bandicoots, wallabies, porcupines, grog-drinkers, pelicans and policemen.
Roger has been singing country music since the 1980s, and when Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers) met him on a visit to Australia several years ago, and heard about this potentially-soon-to-be-lost subculture of the utterly unique collision that is Koori country, he wanted to get involved. Stranger In My Land is a collection of songs originally written by Aborigine artists who were Knox’s peers and predecessors; some tunes previously recorded but difficult to find, as well as several unrecorded, handed-down folk songs (which without this recording, could have been lost forever).
It is powerful and moving material, heartbreaking and hilarious, downtrodden and uplifting, suffused with longing, alienation, resilience and hope. It possesses the urgency of an Alan Lomax field recording, yet with a spirit that truly relevant in today’s world.
Today you’re likely to find Knox out of cell phone range in some far flung bush community singing his heart out, counseling the youth and leading by example. But for our special weekend, he brings this music to us, accompanied by Jon Langford and fiddler Jean Cook.