Eric Bogle reflects on images of life

Issue 

Mirrors
Eric Bogle
Larrikin Entertainment

Jigsaw Days and Sunday Dinners
Robert Brock
Larrikin Entertainment
Reviewed by Ian Jamieson

Traditional Western folk has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the labour movement. Songwriters have recorded the triumphs and failures, strengths and weaknesses, and even the mundane realities of everyday life. Many also use their art as a weapon to inspire resistance to injustice.

Eric Bogle has had an unerring ability to create social barbs throughout his long career as a songwriter. Mirrors, his latest CD, has many poignant gems that seethe with rage, despite his congenial voice and accompaniment.

The title track is a terrifying image of ghettos in Rio de Janeiro where around 2000 street kids each year are murdered to "clean up" that city: "On this earth there is a city, in a rich and pleasant country / Where they kill their children, the children of the streets / Free enterprise extermination, no wasteful rehabilitation / A bullet is forever, it's so final, quick and cheap ... / Children are born with trust in their eyes, it's the first thing we betray ... "

Bogle's message is clear: if we betray the children, when will the "profit conscious businessmen" pay death squads to come for us?

This theme is echoed in "Never Again — Remember", written after a visit to a Nazi death camp, a powerful, haunting song not only expressing the anguish of the ghosts of Sachsenhausen but also imploring us not to forget the obscenity of fascism and warning of its rise again.

Mirrors explores other social themes: the plight of refugees, children at risk of physical and sexual abuse, life in the "Lucky Country" trapped in recession, and the bleak, short life of victims of Chernobyl.

Bogle is renowned for his wit and humour. "Plastic Paddy" is one such pearl. There is nothing as distasteful as second-rate imitations of musical culture, and it unfortunately abounds in "Irish" songs. "Plastic Paddies" with their off-key voices and crude bodhran playing ought to be forced to open their repertoire with this number!

Part of Bogle's success lies in the simplicity of his lyrics. Phrases aren't hackneyed or forced to fit the song. He sings with us, not to us, allowing our feelings and expressions voice. His musical form has solid grounding in the Anglo-Celtic tradition and is moulded to emphasise the lyrics.

Larrikin Entertainment has also just released Robert Brock's Jigsaw Days and Sunday Dinners. His CD is a pleasant blend of "countrified rock" and "rockified country", an easy to listen to collection for those who enjoy this genre.

Brock's theme is distinctly Australian, contrasting the joys and simplicities of childhood to the mad pace of city life. An agreeable addition is a slipjig on Irish pipes and didgeridoo, written by Brock.

Eric Bogle is currently in the last stages of an extensive national tour. His remaining tour dates are:
Wednesday July 28, Middleback Theatre, Whyalla, SA.
Thursday July 29, Keith Michelle Theatre, Port Pirie, SA.
Friday July 30, Elizabeth, SA (venue to be confirmed, phone 02 550 3688).
Saturday July 31, Adelaide Arts Theatre.