Country to go, Justine Clarke’s road trip to a 1959 FC Holden to the heart of Australian country music, premieres on ABC TV and ABC iView tomorrow at 8:30 p.m.
In two parts, Clarke travels to places that have inspired the songs and the lives of artists.
Directed by Kriv Stenders (Slim and I, Red Dog, The Go-Betweens: right here), the series has appearances by Paul Kelly, Kasey Chambers, Briggs, Troy Cassar-Daley, and Fanny Lumsden, among others.
“There is a personal side to this story,” Clarke revealed. “My family is musical. My mother was a dancer, my father was a singer. They met on a show. I have been singing for as long as I can remember.
“I love all kinds of music. I even sang American country in my first band, but Australian country… that feels like uncharted territory.
Although best known for jazz and children’s music, the first singer who stood out for her was American country singer Loretta Lynn.
It was how Lynn honestly sang about her childhood in poverty as a miner’s daughter and how she escaped that cycle.
In the 1990s, Clarke performed in country and western groups including The Honky Tonk Angels.
There was also punk band The White Trash Mamas and avant-garde Cardboard Box Man and a stint as backing vocalist in Sydney’s band Automatic Cherry, which also included The Cruel Sea guitarist James Cruickshank.
In 2014, she and Tex Perkins did shows paying homage to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra.
In 2016, she and Josh Pyke created “Words Make The World Go Around” to raise funds for the work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
At Country to go it travels to Broken Hill, Silverton, Capertee Valley, Tooma, the Colo River, Blackheath, the Central Coast, Kempsey, Tamworth, Little River, Melbourne and Sydney.
She learns not only why country music was a forerunner of punk in its rebellion and appeal to young people, but also why its major role in reflecting the resilience and spirit of Australians.
It also shows why it is as much of a voice for early Australians as it is hip hop.
A highlight of Country to go is Troy Cassar-Daley and Briggs reworking the first “Shadows On The Hill” about a massacre on a river in the land of Gumbaynggirr.
Emily Wurramara takes on the stolen generation anthem “My Brown Skin Baby They Take Him Away” written in 1964 by Bob Randall of the Yankunytjatjara people.
He wrote as he flew over a remote part of the Northern Territory. He was taken from his mother at the age of seven and she died of grief.