It’s easy to mock anything purporting to be the blues that doesn’t – accurately – reach back to embrace tradition or doesn’t – adequately – reveal its own voice. That’s no issue for Sydney-siders, Backsliders. Here, with the band’s 13th album, you have the kick-ass Midnight Oil rhythm section – one of the many very good things about that band – and you have bottleneck guitarist Dom Turner. His version of the blues manages to interpolate Australian bush band philosophy and feel and with the twin harmonica attack of Ian Collard and Brod Smith you have this cutting pub-rock attack too.
A distinctly Australian voice is on offer here but these are certainly blues songs – hints of New Orleans and a bit of a Cajun stomp here, some rattle-your-dags drum fills and duel-riffing/rivalling harmonicas kick off the opening Dark Side of Newtown. From there it’s to the purposeful swagger of Kill The Emotion, a little lurching Bad Seeds vibe.
This is the blues as knocked up over a tinny out in the garden shed, a bit of backyard cricket might have interrupted the recording of 99 Years and One Dark Day or Sixties Girl. Paul Kelly could have written Prayer Flags.
Turner gets to play up his beach-bronzed version of Ry Cooder on a version of I’ll Fly Away, before the sultry slide and glide of House on the Corner.
There are just enough nods to the blues as guiding genre/force (Hard Times Killing Floor Blues) and plenty of campfire frivolity too (Phone Cap Blues).
Dark Side is an intriguing mix of pub-rock with grit, of Aussie-vernacular blues – with just the right amount of soul. It works. It really works!