Sunday, November 07, 2010

Art is Music, Music is Art – Just ask Big Joe.

If there’s anything that can distract me from creating art it is good music.
Listening to it, creating it, being surrounded by it.. it’s something that was constantly around me growing up and I am seldom far from listening to the music I love whether I am at home, in my studio or driving my car.
All my family are musicians, I have two brothers and two sisters, all of them sing and play guitar exceptionally well. In and out of bands and also recording their originals.
My dad “Mike O’Malley” was in fact a pioneer of Australian Country Music and has been honoured more than once for his years of contribution to that genre of music and the early recording industry in this country (Rodeo Records).
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he still has some of the cement under his finger nails from his Tamworth Hands of Fame induction a few years ago now.
Dads old guitar has taken some mighty plectrum use around the barbecues and kitchen tables of my youth and onwards. My brothers and sisiters and I would take our turn on his knee early on, but there was also a beautiful 1950’s Gibson guitar to compete with. To this day I am yet to hear a guitar with a warmer tone than that piece of family history.
So anyway I am really fortunate to have experienced a rich musical upbringing and it’s something I’m not only proud of, but also feel (like art) has enriched my life in many ways. Being open to and discovering so many incredible forms of music and ways of making music is a kind of wonderment that continues to be a fascinating and addictive pastime.
Which brings me to the reason for this particular blog posting. You knew I’d eventually get there right?!
Occasionally I get an opportunity where I can mix these two together.. art and music.
Some of you will already know about the artwork and design I provided for the Mercedes Garcia release “Cross My Heart”, but another recent and just as interesting design based project involved providing the cover art for something closer to home.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you how much I really enjoy roots, blues and jazz music so this opportunity was an easy one to say “yes, let me at it”.
Apart from the fact I occasionally play in some local blues outfits (amplified blues harmonica and saxophone), I also enjoy creating much of the promotional material (logo, posters and ticket designs) for a popular live blues night in my neck of the woods known as “Live @ Lefties”.
My involvement in creating the cover art for a new CD compilation I am about to speak of came about after Jacob of the studio label Stobie Sounds saw some of the work I was doing promoting these Lefties blues nights.
After some detail and discussion on what Jacob had in mind, I submitted a few alternate images and the result is the cover art we see below for the album.. a composite image of photo reference and hand drawn line art that has been given the simple “mono print” look that has become so indicative of the Stobie Sounds branding.
At that stage I had heard a little about the label from it’s growing reputation for creating quality glass bottle-neck guitar slides, as well as recording home grown (Adelaide) musicians. I was pleased to learn that my work would be contributing to an eclectic, brooding and earthy recording of blues that would feature reinterpretations of the songs of the American stalwart blues musician “Big Joe Williams”.
I was also anxious to not only see how my image of Big Joe turned out in print, but also hear what lay within the CD package itself.
I couldn’t have been more pleased when the postman arrived with copies of the CD. The record label has done a remarkable job with the production throughout, both in a visual and aural sense. The labels branding entails hand printed covers onto recycled cardboard sleeves and includes everything people love about buying records.. interesting liner notes, good artwork (yeah I can blow trumpet too) and good design.
The album is made up of sixteen tracks and features both Australian and US based musicians giving their own take on the Big Joe Williams originals. The liner notes have been generously provided by recording artist and ABC announcer “Lucky Oceans” (who I read actually spent time with Big Joe in his youth), and includes a 12 page booklet with everything you’ll ever need to know about the big man.
For music connoisseurs, Stobie Sounds is a roots record label from Thebarton in South Australia and they specialise in putting out small releases of 50-500 albums which are marketed and promoted to a small selection of independent media and record stores in Australia and the US. Real collector items just quietly.
Anyone interested in purchasing the Big Joe Williams album or learning more about Stobie sounds should head to