As an Aussie growing up in the 80s, it was kind of a prerequisite to like Cold Chisel. Only, I never did. Maybe I would have if I was ever given the opportunity to listen to them by my own accord. But songs like Khe Sanh, Flame Trees and Bow River were forced down my throat so often that I resented them long before I ever had a chance to listen to them subjectively. When I was at the NRL Grand Final a couple of months ago and a reunited Cold Chisel was the opening entertainment, I was happy to stay at the bar while they played. But then a mate told me that I needed to listen to a solo record by Chisel’s keyboard player, Don Walker. And because I’m apparently easily lead, I did, with Hully Gully.
The dirty blues and country grit of the title track is a great sign that I’m at no risk of hearing anything Chisel like here. If I had any trepidations about listening to Don Walker, he abated them straight away. When it gives way to the steady chug of Young Girls, Don Walker is proving to be exactly what I want from an aging song writer. Everything just sounds so genuine and aged to perfection.
The country feel hinted at in the previous two tracks is twanged up to the max on the anachronistically titled Lucky. It’s the kind of song that just begs for lyrics about dying dogs, broken down pickup trucks and recently departed lovers. His melancholy sound gets a Latin, samba twist on Mongrelwise that somehow perfectly matches his unapologetic Australian drawl.
Country gets a wall of sound, turned up to 11 vibe with the epic The Perfect Crime, while things are a little more simple and to the point with the bar room blues of Everybody. The country vibe gives way to a more adult contemporary feel with On the Beach, but that does nothing to take any of the genuine feel from Don Walker or Hully Gully.
Here’s the great news about Don Walker’s Hully Gully, Cold Chisel it ‘aint. This is some genuine country, blues, bluegrass sincerity, delivered by a bloke who’s been there and seen it all. So if I was to ever be happy about Cold Chisel’s existence, the rock and roll life that band gave Don Walker would be the reason. If his time with them had anything to do with making a record like Hully Gully, then I guess I can handle hearing Khe Sanh, Flame Trees and Bow River a few hundred more times in my lifetime.