Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 May-Jun Contents 28 Rhythms
Uncle Archie Roach is a true ‘songman’, his voice
carries spiritual powers and his song writing is the
truth in every single Aboriginal man, woman and
child’s eyes. He speaks and sings for the oppressed,
the downtrodden and the everyday man down on luck
but fighting for survival!
I was first introduced to Uncle Archie’s powerful music in
1991 when I heard his debut album Charcoal Lane (recorded
in 1989) in my early teens. This album won numerous
awards including the 1990 ARIA Indigenous Artist Of The
Year and 1991 ARIA New Artist Of The Year. One of the
most powerful tracks from the album Took The Children
Away won the inaugural Human Rights Songwriting Award
and has become an anthem for the Stolen Generation.
The song is a message from the stolen ones that they have
survived and have succeeded in-spite of the hardships and
injustices they have faced.
2016 is the 25th anniversary of Charcoal Lane and it still
resonates today! The messages are loud and clear, the
vocals are still raw and the songs still mean something
and Uncle Archie? Well, he is still Uncle Archie! He is just
a little older and wiser these days. Unfortunately he no
longer has his strong companion/songwriting partner or
as Archie put it his Soul Partner, Aunty Ruby beside him
anymore as she crossed over into the great “Dreaming”
a few years back. Aunty Ruby was an important person
on Charcoal Lane as she wrote or co-wrote most of the
songs on the album including the title track Charcoal Lane
and Down City Streets. The song is an ode to street kids
fighting to live and breathe in a society that shuns them.
I’m sure Aunty Ruby still follows Uncle Archie wherever
he roams and is a songbird sitting on his shoulder, still
harmonizing with him when he soars on stage.
You can imagine my excitement when I saw Uncle Archie
Roach on the bill at the Byron Bay Bluesfest performing
songs from Charcoal Lane. He is currently on the road
promoting the re-mastered 25th anniversary edition of the
album – a double CD that features other artists doing covers
of the songs: Paul Kelly and Courtney Barnett, Dan Sultan
and Emma Donovan, Ellie Lovegrove and Nancy Bates,
Gurrumul, and many others.
If you are a fan of blues, roots, country and soul music, then
this album is a must for your record collection.
So on Good Friday I found myself dragging my pregnant
wife Amy along to Bluesfest to experience the magic of
Roach. We slowly pushed our way through the crowds of
music lovers from all walks of life. Amy has never seen
Uncle Archie live before and I felt it was important that
she got to experience the energy of his live performances. I
also wanted our little one in her womb to hear the wisdom
of Uncle Archie Roach first-hand. From the moment we sat
down the scene was set for an amazing afternoon. Archie
Roach walked on stage and you could feel the powerful
energy of his wonderful presence in the audience.
Uncle Archie opened his performance with ‘Charcoal
Lane’ to an arousing and adoring audience and I could feel
my heart soar as I reminisced about the first time I heard
his music back on my homelands. Archie took us all on
a journey through the past 25 years of his/our trials and
tribulations, ups and downs, rights and wrongs, hopes and
dreams. After delivering Charcoal Lane, Down City Streets,
and Beautiful Child, there was not a dry eye as he swung
into Took the Children Away. Uncle Archie was sitting on
top of the mountain preaching to us all and I’m thankful
that I was there! Amy cried and our little one kicked in her
tummy. The wisdom, the warmth and the pure love that
he expressed captivated our hearts. Archie finished his set
with a new song It’s Not Too Late, one of hope and coming
together for the greater good of humanity. His job done, he
walked off stage.
Later that evening Amy and I had the pleasure of sitting
with Uncle Archie over a cuppa and Arnott’s biscuits,
listening to him tell stories. That’s what Uncle Archie Roach
is – he is our ‘story teller’, our ‘songman’ and a true living
legend in Aboriginal music.
The Archie Roach Charcoal Lane 25th Anniversary Edition
album is available in all good record stores and online at
Links Archive 2016 Mar-Apr 2016 Jul-Aug Navigation Previous Page Next Page