Kaurna Cronin – Harsh Beauty
A creative 11-cut collection of primarily folk-pop-rock confections with some basis in Americana music as opposed to traditional roots music. But what Australian singer Kaurna Cronin has done is crafted a set of tunes that are more easily accessible to ears not finely tuned to the more traditional route. His “Our Way,” & “Sideways,” which lead off his new album is smartly infectious songs that cruise by an Al Stewart, Gerry Rafferty realm. There’s nothing challenging but the material is enjoyable.
Some songs introduced in the 30-minute Harsh Beauty (Drops June 24–Independent) are interesting simply because Australian writers tend to sing about things many American-English artists ignore. There’s a close-to-nature song that doesn’t get sappy & environmental as domestic songwriters get. His “Keep Me By The Rocks,” is quite expressive, impressionistic & well-tailored. Cronin keeps everything simple, but the magic is in the arrangements that are tight.
Kaurna Cronin (vocals/guitars/harmonica/percussion) is not as heavy as other Australian artists such as Cold Chisel (Jimmy Barnes-Don Walker), Dragon with the late Marc Hunter, or as quirky as Midnight Oil. He’s closer to the more traditional Paul Kelly & definitely not as folky as the novelty-oriented Rolf Harris. He indeed tries to push his take on folk music in his own unique way as the UK’s folky Billy Bragg though not as controversial.
The award-winning Mr. Cronin has a loyal following in Europe & Australia. His melodies are more contemporary than traditional. But that’s fine. He’s played alongside name acts such as Colin Hay & Keith Urban. Lyrically, he likes tricky words. I admire him for it – he sings of justifications, speculation, indecision, wisteria, parliament, deleted, magpies, dissect – all quite cleverly applied words but hardly what lyricists would consider – except for maybe Oscar Hammerstein. It’s beyond the cliches of typical domestic singer-songwriters. That’s a challenge. Kaurna succeeds.
There are times he performs his songs closer to the tradition of the late Gary Shearston as well as, Paul Brady, Paul Hyde & Colin Hay. Great artists all. “I Write Love Songs,” “One Day Away From You,” — wonderful stuff.
In an Americana vein is “Why Do You Love Lizzie,” a sweet melody-heavy song. This sounds like it could’ve been a 70s song by the late Clifford T Ward. He wrote of obscure places & names with bittersweet, unforgettable melodies. On this one Kaurna sings in a mature Gilbert O’Sullivan tone. Works wonderfully.
Nothing on this LP is a novelty, silly, or filler. “The Hardest Part,” is a remarkable song. Beautiful. I found the majority of songs enjoyable.
Players – Tom Kneebone (electric guitars/mandolin), Kiah Gossner (bass), Frank Giles (violin), Kyrie Anderson (drums/percussion), Matt Morison (piano/organ), Stuart Patterson (sax) with Lauren Henderson, Alana Jagt & Ryan Martin-John (backing vocals).
Handsome stitched lyric insert included. Photo courtesy of Hemifran. CD @ https://www.kaurnacronin.com/