Brendon Walmsley
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Bottle Tree Lane Review

Posted on 07-01-2005

brendonawards Brendon Walmsley's always been an acute observer of the world around him. But he admits that, until now, he's been wary of opening himself up to scrutiny.

"I suppose you could say I've written songs from the sidelines - looking into other people's lives and hearts. That's changed dramatically with the release of Brendon's exquisite new album, Bottle Tree Lane.

Brendon's trademark songs are still there - the delicately crafted tales about the small things of life that make it worth living. But there's far more insight into what makes this perceptive young songwriter tick - and why.

The reason might be a new-found sense of contentment. After all, Brendon's a newly-wed, who married his sweetheart Carmen in his home town of Toowoomba last Easter.

In fact, the album's first single, "Still Falling", was performed at the couple's wedding. Brendon says "Still Falling" is the first love song he has ever written.

"I'd never felt compelled to write such a personal love song before, but I wrote 'Still Falling' because the feelings behind it were so real and powerful," Brendon said.

But Brendon's new emotional accessibility is also due to a growing sense of who he is and where he belongs musically.

After his highly successful last album, Never Say Never - which earnt him six finals spots at the 2001 Golden Guitar Awards, one of which led to him collecting the Heritage Song Golden Guitar - Bottle Tree Lane marks a shift to a more stripped-back, acoustic sound for Brendon.

"I think Bottle Tree Lane reflects who I am as a songwriter. For me, the lyrics are paramount, and I don't want the message of the songs swamped by complex musical arrangements - it's the story that matters, not the bells and whistles," Brendon said.

He enlisted the talents of acclaimed award-winning producer Rod McCormack, who's done a superb job of producing Bottle Tree Lane, with a delicate touch, plenty of space and arrangements that bring out the very best in these wonderful songs.

"In a way it's harder to produce an acoustic album, because you have to be very careful about what instruments and arrangements to use to really capture the essence of the song. That's why Rod's been invaluable, because acoustic music is really where his heart is," Brendon said.

"Still Falling" isn't the only love song on Bottle Tree Lane. Brendon's also included "Who'd Have Thought It" - which expresses that sense of wonder at how good life can be.

"When it comes to falling in love, I reckon it's better just to accept and enjoy the moments and memories together than to over-analyse the hows and whys," Brendon said.

"This album has a lot of songs about being contented, and appreciating the good things in life. I really like to write positive songs, because people take something away from your music - which is a responsibility I take very seriously. Besides, music needs to reflect who you are and what you're about. After all, it remains when you're gone - it's like having something chiselled on your gravestone."

The sense of contentment and positive energy that permeate the album come together delightfully in "Right at Home", which in some ways follows on from "Stay Where You Are", the song Brendon cowrote with Graeme Connors for his last album.

Speaking of songs connecting with other songs, those wonderful characters who launched Brendon's career - Rose and Rodeo - make another appearance on Bottle Tree Lane, in a brand new song, "Bed of Rose's".

"I thought long and hard about doing this song, because I wasn't sure I should go back there. The 'Rose and Rodeo' story ended so nicely, so I decided to write a prequel - to take a look at what happened before they got together. And this time, I've written the song from Rodeo's perspective. 'Bed of Rose's' stands alone on its own terms, but the story really doesn't resolve until you listen to 'Rose and Rodeo' - so I always do the two songs back to back in my live shows," Brendon said.

But the real strength of Brendon Walmsley's music is its ability to get to the core of an emotion, to reach the true heart of things. And the first two songs on Bottle Tree Lane capture this rare talent perfectly.

The album's title track was inspired by Heroes Avenue in the western Queensland town of Roma, where Brendon grew up. It's lined with bottle trees, each of which is dedicated to a local fallen soldier. It tells the story of a young girl whose true love never returned from the battlefield, and why she'll never forget him.

"This is a song of hope, pride and gratitude to those who appreciate our wonderful way of life here in Australia - especially those willing to risk their lives defending it," Brendon said.

Like some of the other songs on Bottle Tree Lane, this song continues a thread that began on Never Say Never, with "Aussie Jack".

But it is the gentle, poignant "Patches" that really captures what Brendon - the quiet achiever of Australian songwriting - is truly about.

"'Patches' is based closely on a poem written by bush poet Grahame Watt, and my mum convinced me to turn it into a song - I'm so glad I did. 'Patches' has a lot to say about today's throwaway society. Things may be easier these days, but it doesn't mean they're better," Brendon said.

Other superb songs featured on Bottle Tree Lane illustrate the diversity of this talented young singer/songwriter. They include a revealing exploration of the Aussie bloke, "Rolling Up His Sleeve", as well as a version of the Bob Dylan classic "Forever Young", Brendon's luminous Christmas song, "One Candle", a country gospel number titled "Count Me In" and an old family favourite, "Family Bible".

Bottle Tree Lane will be launched by Compass Bros during this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival.