What does a band do when their debut recording is nominated for Best Blues And Roots Album at the ARIA Awards, Australia's Grammys? The Audreys multi-instrumentalist Tristan Goodall and fiddler Mikey G probably don't give the occasion much thought, maybe try a different hat with their usual retro suits, but for vocalist Taasha Coates it's another deal altogether. "Whatever will I wear?" she purrs, "I don't have a thing."
"Beautiful isn't she?" the girl next to me whispers as Coates' beguiling vocal floats over the captivating shuffle and gypsy fiddle of "Banjo & Violin" "I've gone a bit country since I met you baby, I used to be so rock and roll," she sings, all sass, smoky and teasingly provocative.
Between Last Night And Us and The Audreys are a commodity. The album is beautifully presented, all classic 1950's cinema. The singer is indeed beautiful, with her Hepburn looks and torch singer glam, the music a carefully constructed pastiche of alt-countryish swing and sway. The whole package is all class. In performance the stagecraft is stylish, the playing skilled, a sophisticated amalgam of old-time picking and sumptuous harmonies.
This is a smart recording, weaving diverse strands of acoustic blues, country ballads, classic jazz, torch songs and pop into a vibrant whole that is captivating, charming and thoroughly contemporary, but most importantly the album has depth in abundance. This is no contrived, quaint revivalism. Quite the opposite, it is a mature collection of songs, always engaging, at times breathtaking.
The edgy "You And Steve McQueen" sets the tone of the album and The Audreys maintain the irresistible mix of back porch charm and streetwise observation right through to the closer, a delightful if improbable take on the INXS hit "Don't Change." On "Oh Honey," the tension builds through repeated admonitions of "don't you do that thing to me" from Coates until the song bursts out into a crunching, grinding riff that carries the song to a palpable crescendo. The mood again shifts on "Long Ride" a gentle, lullaby like duet, beautifully sung over somber banjo, plunking resophonic guitar and haunting fiddle. The Tex-Mex feel of "Nothing Wrong With Me" is a perfect counterpoint to the delicacy of "Where Are You Now" and the moody introspection of "Susanne" and "Come On In."
On "Monster" it's just Taasha Coates and her piano, and it's a stunner. Crystal clear, heartbreakingly melancholy, her voice is as moving an instrument as you will hear anywhere. This is a sophisticated, beautifully crafted recording, enthralling from beginning to end. The Audreys have announced their arrival with maturity, assurance and exuberance to spare.
And yes, they won that ARIA Award, and the people were well pleased. • Michael Hansen