By Karen Fletcher
BRISBANE — Local singer/songwriter Ruth Apelt won the National Labour Day Song Award at the Labour Day Concert in Melbourne on March 9.
"Mama's Out Walkin'", a song which celebrates the newly found freedom of a formerly self-sacrificing mother and wife, was selected as the winner by a unanimous vote of the judging panel.
The theme of the award this year was "Women at Work and Play". Ruth's song touches the very heart of this theme by addressing those who take for granted the work performed for them by women ("Do you think she is a reservoir?") and celebrating the act of a woman who frees herself from domestic slavery ("Yeah Mama's pickin' flowers in the springtime sunshine and they're not for you".)
Ruth Apelt is a Brisbane-born and -based singer and songwriter who has just begun to receive recognition for her original songs and accomplished performances, both live and on recordings. She is perhaps best known in folk circles, as she recently featured at the Maleny Folk Festival billed as "the new force in women's vocal energy", a description borne out by her powerful performances at the festival.
"Mama's Out Walkin'" appears on an independently produced and distributed cassette of the same name which contains seven other original songs performed by Ruth, on vocals and guitar, with additional instrumental artists.
The blend of emotional and political energy in her music has been brilliantly captured in this collection of songs. Each song is delicately crafted to communicate a complex message to both the heart and the head of the attentive listener.
"Girls in White Dresses" is an exploration of the outcomes of a Roman Catholic upbringing. The song brings even non-Catholics, such as this reviewer, to some understanding of the depth of pain in disentanglement from the Catholic experience for many women.
Similarly, "Brisbane Town" contains themes and evokes feelings which are instantly recognisable as important, and yet previously unexpressed, as the experience of a young woman in contemporary Australia.
Perhaps most vivid in all Ruth Apelt's music is the expression of a spirit struggling to get free of the constraints, subtle and not so subtle, that prevent women from knowing themselves and acting in accordance with their true selves. In the very act of composition and performance, Ruth has put into practice her commitment to this spirit.
"Mama's Out Walkin'" is a fine collection of songs. It is obviously the distillation of many years as an unrecognised songwriter and performer around the feminist and folk scene in Brisbane.
An attentive listener will appreciate the closely observed and acutely described emotional and political detail. However, even a more be afforded great pleasure by the quality of the singer/guitarist's performance and engaging melodic lines.
Copies of the cassette are available from Rocking Horse and Kent Records or from the Brisbane Resistance Bookshop.