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MUSIC REVIEWS BY PHIL BENNETT
BOOK REVIEW BY MARGARET EVANS
HEALTH HEALING & BODYWORK
OUT AMONG THE STARS
COUNTRY MUSIC FANS will be pleased
as punch with this “new” release from the
late, great Johnny Cash.
Recorded during the music ally confusing
‘80s, when snare drums the width of a Mack
truck were de rigeur, a n a rtist like Ca sh
found himself in commercial difficulty. So
much so that this album, recorded in 1981,
wa s shelved entirely.
So, for a ll intents and purposes , it rea lly
SUN KIL MOON
SUN KIL MOON’S (Mark Koza lek’s nom
de plume) sixth and latest album is one of
such simple cl arity that you feel like you’re
a lmost intruding by listening to it.
What strikes you initially is the
directness and near banality of the song titles
I Watched The Film The Song Rema ins
The Sa me (which is about watching that
film), I Love My Dad (which is about his
Dad), Ben’s My Friend (which is about his
friend called, you gues sed it, Ben).
This is sheer straightfor wa rd narrative,
MELANIE DE BIASIO
(PLAY IT AGAIN SAM)
THIS IS BELGIAN chanteuse, Melanie De
Biasio’s sec ond album, a nd it’s a n absolute
She approaches her music with an
abstract brush, sketching ideas and leaving
much whiteness, her fellow musicians
coming across a s con summate team players ,
a l lowing the performa nc es to breathe deeply,
AT A TIME when we are ruing the increa sing
disconnect from the natural world in almost
every aspect of our lives – from the time we
wake up to the alarm rather than the rising
sun to the time we go to bed with the eerie
white light from our iPhone confusing our
biorhythms even more – what c ould be more
a larming that the relentless medicalisation of
the most powerful and fulfilling experience
known to a woma n – natural childbirth?
It seems that a staggering 90% of
mothers in Australia no longer experienc e
a totally natura l childbirth. In fact, 37%
of births today a re by caesarean (a thought
provoking increase of 74% in 20 yea rs),
while another third have an epidura l or, if
induced, painkillers and augmentation.
Of course, some women need the
intervention to sa feguard the health of
themselves and their baby, but for so many
others the choice to birth natura lly is
discouraged by their doctor or their own
misgivings as they so ra rely meet a woman
who has gone the natural route!
Into this ma elstrom, Meditation for
Motherhood - Gentle Z en Meditation for
Conception , Pregnancy and Birth by Yogi
Brahmasamhara (Brahm) is an offering of
peace a nd stillness and quiet empowerment
for any woman planning pregnancy or
a lready expe cting. Even for those of us well
past our childbearing years, and for men too,
it is a gem of meditation wisdom drawing on
Brahm’s 37 years’ e xperience practising and
Brahm tells us that the idea that
meditation may have profound benefits for
e xpectant mothers dawned on him after
c omments made to him by students. One
told him her baby had become c ompletely
still in the womb after one particularly
peaceful session. Alarmed after three days of
u nac customed stillness, she saw her doctor
who reassured her the baby was fine and “just
meditating, too”. Another even managed to
fall asleep between contractions a nd was
blessed with a contentedly ca lm baby.
It look s like the benefits of meditation
a re b eing increasingly recognised around
the world to reduce stress levels in IVF, with
rising infertility rates another manifestation
of our world gone awry. The good news is
that success rates are a lso rising, bringing
hope to millions of young couples.
Meditation for Motherhood is divided
into t wo sections ; the first Zen Meditation :
Preparing and Practices has a wealth of advice
for u s all, e ven experienc ed meditators, with
its emphasis on ma stering the Three E ssence s
letting go tension, n atura l breathing
for calmness and wellbeing and calming
the unquiet mind. I found the section on
Hara breathing – drawing breath into the
area below the belly button, the tan t’ien –
particularly helpful for my own meditation
practice. In this context, Brahm has some
interesting comments on the effectivenes s of
panting during labour so often e xtolled in
The second section is de voted to
Putting Your Meditation into Practice for
Motherhood, with a month by month guide
to meditation practices most suitable a nd
effective for each stage of pregnancy. Each
month in turn is broken into Mother watch
a nd Babywatch with helpful advice and,
from time to time, persona l anecdotes from
new mothers who’ve followed the approach
a nd experienced deeply fulfilling births.
What stands out for me in this rather
lovely book is Bra hm’s compassion for
today’s young women who he so often finds
e xperience an xiety, confusion a nd even deep
distress over conflicting “e xpert” opinion s
on childbirth. Set against this prevailing
noise, Meditation for Motherhood s ets out to
restore a woman’s c onfidence in herself that
she ca n experienc e the miracle of childbirth
just as her mother and grandmothers a nd
great gra ndmothers experienc ed before her.
MEDITATION FOR MOTHERHOOD
GENTLE ZEN MEDITATION FOR CONCEPTION,
PREGNANCY AND BIRTH
u nc oated by your usual song writer
trick s. There are no gra nd statements, no
delineated and dissected emotions , just
direct statements of conversation al detail.
And it’s this clinical matter of factness
that makes these little stories so powerful
it’s up to the listener to react based on
their own connection with similar details
in their own lives, without the assistance of
heart tugging rhymes and emotion tweaking
c hord pattern s.
Similar to the impact of a documentary,
which is able to elicit the required respon se
no matter how “u nbiased ” the reportage.
Everything about this album is re strained
the vocal delivery, the sparse musical
a cc ompaniments, a nd the uns wer ving
with the spaces in between, like sentences
that reveal more by what is left unsaid.
This is a magic al, quirky, mysterious
album of unusual elegance.
The kind of music that ha s the power
to hypnotise and draw you into its charms
It inhabits a dangerously attractive
universe where le ss is more and onc e you’re
in its gracef ul hold, you won’t wa nt to leave.
is a new Johnny Cash album and, let’s face
it, there’s something pretty special about
the way he wraps his rusty pipes around a
melody, addressing the tunes with the aura l
e quivalent of John Wayne’s s wa gger, a l l
laconic charm and worldly wise nonchalance.
But it’s when he switches on the he artache
button, suc h a s on the sombre, introspective
She Used To Love Me A Lot, that he totally
displays his ma stery. With deft, u nderstated
genius, he infuses the song with such tightly
contained emotion and just a hint of a vocal
quiver evoking the true spirit of a man
suppressing the tear that’s dying to fall.
Backed by a crack group of musicians,
the performa nc es throughout are top notch
a ll round, whether the songs are playful
or painful and the album is of such a high
quality that you scratch your head a nd
wonder why it’s taken so long to see the light
A couple of feisty guest spots round out
proceedings with June Ca rter offering gale
force gusto with her duet Baby Ride Easy
a nd Waylon Jennings shuffling energetically
alongside on Hank Snow’s classic I’m
Out Among The Sta rs is yet another
fabulous recording to enhance Ca sh’s
enduring lega cy.
Extremely satisfying and very welc ome.
straight white line lyrics.
The subjects are small town Ohio
relatives a nd friends, many of whom have
died (some by bizarre mea ns – Carissa
from the song Carissa and Kozalek’s uncle
from the song Truck Driver both died from
aerosol explosions!) or are about to (I Can’t
Live Without My Mother’s L ove), a nd by
the end of each diary entry style song you
feel like you’ve s haken their hands.
Quite extraordinary really.
Sometimes quite une a sy listening,
Benji, like some of its characters, can take
a bit of getting used to, but is an album so
innovatively unpretentious that you can’t
help but warm to it.
An outstanding slow burner.
s hallowly, a nd with a touch of emphysema .
The sounds explore the underside
of melancholy – a thrilling blend of
smouldering insight and wonder e voked
by clu sters of bunched piano voicings ,
s himmering swirls of cymbal and Di Biasio’s
own gossamer vocal and flute lines.
The sound of cigarette butts crushing on
wet cobblestone, of sultry ga zes through the
night’s shadows , of the intertwined extreme s
of possibility and regret.
The notes played and sung are so select,
so beautifully restrained, they fill the room
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