Personal exploration of politics

Issue 

Time Will Tell

Shane Howard

BMG Records

Reviewed by Ignatius Kim

For an artist of his abilities, Shane Howard is strangely unnoticed here. As special guest on Mary Black's recent Irish tour, he played with Black at the Fleadh festival in London's Finsbury Park, which also hosted Bob Dylan, the Pogues, Van Morrison and the Hothouse Flowers.

Ranging from the serene to the soulful, Howard has infused the tracks on Time Will Tell with insight and emotional clarity. If ever it is possible to bring to life a landscape with song, Howard succeeds here — not that it's unusual, but he achieves it without pretence or self-consciousness.

The opening "Moonrise Over Djabugai" is a soothing instrumental that verges on the mystical and is reprised later on. A version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" has a rich chorus of guest vocals from the Mills Sisters, Tiddas, Jo Geia and fellow ex-Goannas, Rose Bygrave and Marcia Howard. "Murri Time" is a sparsely accompanied eulogy to the original occupiers of the land on which Brisbane now stands, when it was Tjagera country.

Time Will Tell also includes "Flesh and Blood", which was written for Mary Black for her recent number one Irish album. "Touch the Sun" is dedicated to Sioux leader Sitting Bull, while "Hunger" is an acoustic hymn to oppressed and exploited people. Other songs celebrate friendship and love, and exorcise moments of melancholy and pain.

Howard's songs are a personal exploration of politics — he doesn't set out to deliver a message. This occasionally leans towards abstraction and mysticism, but it's not self-indulgent.