While many would be excused for thinking multi-instrumentalist, composer and songwriter Amanda Brown is defined by her stint with the legendary The Go-Betweens during their absolute peak period (most noticeably the majestic ’16 Lovers Lane’), she has forged a brilliant career in music for film as well as dabbling in a few bands (including Cleopatra Wong, the post GoBs break up band with Lindy Morrison). Brown has also played with a range of artists including R.E.M, silverchair, Youth Group and The Apartments and shared the bill with many others including The Neville Brothers, Alex Chiltern, Marianne Faithful, Deborah Harry and John Cale.
It is somewhat surprising then that ‘Eight Guitars’ is Brown’s first solo album, and what a brilliant debut it is.
The entire album has a quiet ethereal beauty about it that shimmers and sparkles with melody and a delicate web of instrumentation that is crisp and organic.
Brown says of the album, with a wit and self-deprecatory humour:
The songs on Eight Guitars were written over a long period of time – some are from films while
others were composed during periods between screen commissions. In2020, facing the prospect of both the music and film industries shutting down due to the pandemic, the time seemed right to bring Eight Guitars to fruition with producer Tony Buchen, who relocated from Los Angeles to Sydney halfway through production.
Ironically I wouldn’t have had the self confidence to release a solo album back when I first started
writing some of these tracks. But I’m a postmenopausal woman and there’s a certain freedom that
accompanies being metaphorically invisible. That’s allowed me to pursue a conceptual idea and complete it in my own time.
Opening track begins the journey with ‘The Deal’ – a percussive shuffle and lounge room shimmer. ‘Freedom Song’ floats on a piano refrain flowing underneath Brown’s velvet soft vocals with sharply focussed guitars creating a delicate filigree at the edges. It has a layered sonic sounds in the ether that create a cavernous atmosphere:
‘Light Lingers On’ captures the inherent grace of the album perfectly – a golden thread of intricate instrumentation and a heart achingly beautiful melody. Co-written with Steve Kilbey from The Church, it is a stately anthem, poised and regal.
‘Lost In The Wilderness’ is a whiskey-soaked paean to love and loss expressed with a countrified twang as a pedal guitars weeps gently in the distance and hearts break. It is a bittersweet ballad infused with melancholy. ‘Trouble You’re In’ continues the alt country flavour but with a shiver of the reverberated crystalline cut of Chris Isaacs and a slightly bluesy fringe that oozes along with a sensuous shimmer.
Brown covers The Church’s classic ‘Unguarded Moment’, eviscerating the fuzz and muscle of the original and casting it as a lovelorn ballad, contemplative and reflective embedded with regret and loss. It is statuesque and imperial version that breathes a whole different life and light into the song.
‘Where It All Began’ has echoes of Mazzy Star, and is a gentle, aquatic piece of music, pierced by a delicate classic guitar interlude, soft and reflective.
The album ends with the poetic, expressive ‘1973’: a gorgeous folk style tale filled with a restraint and celestial instrumentation. Brown recollects a certain period with a heartbreaking sense of poignancy including events that shaped Australia including the infamous fire at Whiskey Au Go Go in Brisbane – a sobre coming of age.
‘Eight Guitars’ has a who’s who of musical talent including Kirin J Callinan, who featured on the debut track Freedom Song from the album back in February, award winning film composer and multi-
instrumentalist Damien Lane, Brisbane songwriter Danny Widdicombe, Brendan Gallagher
(Karma Country), Bruce Reid (Dragon), Shane O’Mara (Paul Kelly, Tim Rogers) and solo artist Daniel Champagne.
Brown says of the collaboration involved in the album:
I like to collaborate and all these players bring their own unique influences to the album. Unifying the songs through one instrument seemed like a good way to reconnect with and celebrate some of the musicians I’ve worked with over the years. I also had in the back of my mind that this would make a great
theatre or festival show with all the guest guitarists. Admitedly it was a pipe dream but it’s fortuitously now happening at the City Recital Hall in Sydney on June 30 with Rob Snarski and Lindy Morrison also on the bill.
‘Eight Guitars’ is an absolutely beautiful series of vignettes coasting on trembling guitars and indelible melodies that shine and linger on. It has an imperious presence: quiet reflective and poignant. It seems built upon a lifetime of memories, love, regret loss and aching joy.
Out now, you can download and stream at all the usual places or through the link below.
Feature Photograph: Daniel Boud