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Phil Garland
Under the Southern Cross
Kiwi Pacific Records International

Phil Garland has been singing the history of New Zealand and Australia for 35 years. He has a folklorist's concern, expressing the experiences of those who can no longer speak for themselves. And after 17 albums, he has become something of an historical fixture himself. On Under the Southern Cross Garland sings of sailors, whalers, shearers, swaggers, miners, flash stockmen and dying bushmen. He sings and plays guitar, and is joined by friends on instruments including the accordion, mandolin, concertina, fiddle, banjo, bush spoons and lagerphone. The material is ably presented, with a pleasant folk backing (except for the first track which is rendered less palatable by a synthesized keyboard).

The 19 songs include traditional pieces such as "Davy Lowston," "Lime Juice Tub," "Old Station Days" and "Concertina Joe." But it is also a showcase for the work of other important New Zealand writers. Garland includes Dennis Hogan's "Mason's Pub," Joe Fleming's "Farewell to Geraldine" and Joe Charles' "Boys of the Track." Several of Garland's standout original pieces of historical reflection appear, such as "Kawerau Gold" and "Wind in the Tussock," and there are several recitations of bush poetry, such as "Five Miles from Gundagai."

The package is entertaining and educational. The liner notes include information on the songs, along with some interesting historical photos and engravings. Garland has been celebrated at home for his contributions to New Zealand cultural promotion, and now the rest of us can hear what the fuss was about. - Ivan Emke

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