Review by Bridget Fahey
The Wheatsheaf Hotel, a pub that has always felt comfortable and cosy, like being with an old friend, was host to the end of Tara Carragher's Wicked World EP launch last Friday night (4.6.16). Accompanying the gifted and well-travelled musician was talented locals Doctor DeSoto and Kelly Menhennett.
Doctor DeSoto had solid blues and rock foundations, with southern folk traces, and sometimes even a little bit of a Paul Kelly influence. The drums were subtle, mainly using brushes, yet did not detract from its powerful rhythms. The songs were well crafted and the blend of sounds complimented each other superbly.
Second up was Kelly Menhennette, who has a voice that is equal parts force, fury and vibrato. Menhennett’s music, a setup of just a guitar and piano, had an exceptional blend of soul and blues, which conjured up thoughts of Sharon Jones and Ella Fitzgerald. She was accompanied by Richard Coates, also keyboardist for Tara Carragher’s band. The pair of vocals made for a powerful amalgamation, with Coates subtleness complimenting Mehennett’s power. She ended her set by inviting Carragher and Mikey Green, front man for Doctor DeSoto, to sing 'Midnight Special'. This cover was a accolade to Emily Trott, the founder of the Wheatsheaf hotel, who lost her battle with cancer only a few weeks ago.
Following this beautiful tribute, Carragher and her band took to the stage to blow the crowd away, starting with 'I’m lost' from Wicked World. Tara’s husky tones carried over her Gibson Dove acoustic to make the overall music sound both heart-breaking and commanding. The songs varied from quiet, finger-picking ballads to loud, rocky numbers, peppered with guest musicians including Sam Brittain and a mysterious harmonica player I only got to know as "Spooks". As Tara ended her final song, a loud chant went up, begging for an encore, which was well delivered.
Overall, the musicians complimented each other’s sound superbly, the music itself was a wonderful weave of folk, rock, country, blues and soul and Carraghers album Wicked World is one that you need in your collection.
Q&A WITH TARA CARRRAGHER AHEAD OF PLAYING AMERICANA MUSIC FESTIVAL IN NASHVILLE LATER THIS YEAR
From having her first gig at a house party in a tribute band called The Lady Beatles (with Kylie from The Villenettes and Sally from Submerge), Tara Carragher has grown into an immensely talented musician, touring around Australia and the US for many years now. She will played her last gig of her Wicked World Australian tour on June 3rd at The Wheatsheaf, and will soon be flying off to the Americana Music Festival in Nashville Tennessee later in the year.
When did you start playing music?
I was 18 when I started, I came to it late, really shy. I was a keen Beatles fan and a friend of mine had the idea to start an all-girl Beatles tribute band, and my love of John Lennon out-weighed my complete terror of playing live. And learning those Beatles songs are great for teaching you how to write songs yourself.
What about the gear you use? I know your stuff is mainly acoustic but there’s an electric guitar in there somewhere too.
My favourite acoustic guitar is the Gibson Dove, I love it so much. My electric is a custom shop 1966 reissue Telecaster with a champagne sparkle. I have a Fender deluxe amp which my dad assembled for me, lacquered it up and covered in tweed.
Any good tour stories?
One of the first gigs we played was the Mt Barker school fate, they had a game called the Pony Poo raffle, where they’d feed a pony, have a number grid drawn up on the oval, and whoever had the number the pony pooped on won a prize. We were playing and the pony suddenly did its business and the MC announced over us playing 'THE PONY HAS DONE IT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...’ Let’s just say I’ve done my dues at Pony Poo Raffle.
You’ve toured around the US as well as Australia, are there any differences between Aussie and American audiences?
I think that the style that I play and the fact that I’m a foreigner you don’t have to try as hard.
Something about the accent?
Yeah, well, my first full length album I recorded in Mexico, some things were lost in translation. Where ever I play, I love meeting people and finding out what makes them tick. It’s all different where ever I play, it’s different between Adelaide and Melbourne, and Melbourne to Canberra. I like that though, you need a bit of psychology to assess each audience and see what they’re going to like.
Wicked World also seems like a journey record, like the listeners are joining you on all these small tales to create one big journey. As well as folk, I love hearing the hints of country and blues though out Wicked World, what have your influences been for the record?
All the songs on there are snapshots of the last year or so where my dad got diagnosed with a brain tumour and it changed everything, so Wicked World is about him. I’ve always been drawn to song-writers who are honest and unafraid to explore things that aren’t that nice, but present a different view to people. When I wrote 'Rebuild this heart' I didn’t quite know how to express what was happening with dad.
The record has that honesty their but I think it also seems to say ‘it’s ok not to be ok sometimes’ which music has that freedom to let you express that.
Yes, and a song like 'Wicked World', I can never express to my dad what he means to me, but I can sing him that song and it just makes it alright. I think if you do it in a way that is not really depressing, there has to be some hope behind it too. It can’t just be wallowing, you have to pick yourself up and keep moving.
You can follow Tara Carragher on her Wicked World Tour here.